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How to Form a Running Habit that Sticks

Consider this Your Starter’s Pistol

The doctor peered over his glasses at my MRI results. This nagging ankle injury of mine flares up every time my training is going a little too well. 

After scowling at the image, he finally looked up at me with his professional medical opinion. I braced myself for impact. 

“Well,” He said slowly. “You’re not as young as you used to be.” 

I’ve heard a lot of bad news from doctors, but this was the first time a medical professional assumed that I didn’t understand how time works.

So here we are facing the New Year. We are all a bit poorer, probably chubbier, and feeling older (or being so kindly reminded that our age is bearing down on us like a Looney Tunes anvil).

It doesn’t feel like a great time to set fitness goals for the new year. When I scroll through my feed and see all the hype about a “New Year, New You” and “Setting New Year’s Resolutions that Stick!” it sounds about as tone-deaf as my aunt trying to sing Auld Lang Syne.

Didn’t we all just survive 2 years in a pandemic? Is anyone else feeling tired, overwhelmed, and immediately annoyed every time the internet says anything? It seems like our culture is teetering on the edge of a major meltdown and I’m right there with it.

And so, I just don’t feel like training for another marathon. I feel like we all could benefit from taking a deep breath and chilling out. 

Here’s the thing though: running creates the necessary space for deep breathing and relaxation to happen. Anyone who has had a running habit before knows this intuitively. Running makes us calm, elevates our mood, and puts everything in perspective (why stay up worrying about the state of our democracy when you’ve got a 6 am run?).

Enable to see a runner enjoying the views
Moving outdoors promotes mental wellness

The physical, emotional, and psychological benefits of running are undeniable. And overall, I like myself better when I’m consistently running, and I’m guessing you feel the same way about yourself. 

But where do we find the motivation to start a running habit when we are coming off of a month-long holiday binge that’s left us feeling like a steaming pile of reindeer poo?

Here are a few tips that have gotten me through years (decades!) of surviving the post-holiday fitness slump. 

Change your mind

You can’t force yourself to want to run, but you can surround yourself with positive influences that may be the inspiration you need to get out there again. Head over to Amazon Prime for a quick shot of motivation. A few of my go-to movies when I’m feeling low on mojo are Brittany Runs a Marathon and The Barkley Marathons. Here is a list of 30 inspirational movies that Runner’s World put together. If that’s not your style, here are 5 primo running podcasts (though my favorite, Some Work, All Play, didn’t make the cut).

“Only 10 runners have finished the race in 25 years.”

Start slow, then go slower . . . then go even slower than that

Yes, I know you got new shoes and want to sprint around like a cracked-out squirrel. BUT starting slow lets you build a healthy foundation for your running habit. It gives your body time to adjust to the fact that you are moving again. Your muscles, joints, and tendons have been enjoying a long hiatus and need extra time to adapt to the change. So go slow, stop and stretch, and let your body warm into running again. For inspiration, check out marathon world record holder Eliud Kipchoge’s Kenyan Shuffle below. Still lost? Here’s an 8-week beginners plan from Runner’s Blueprint. 

The GOAT takes it nice and easy on his recovery days

You are who you run with

Everyone knows that tag-teaming a fitness goal is way easier than going it alone. Because even if you are superhuman, you have a finite amount of willpower. It’s ok to lean on your running buddy some days for a pick-me-up. And if you made a commitment with someone else, you’re less likely to bail. Here you can find running clubs in your area. Or, if you want to connect online with thousands of other incredible runners around the world, check out Noxgear Nation on Facebook. 

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Rachel Cheney is a writer, runner, and mushroom enthusiast. She ran competitively before realizing that it’s way more fun to jog around in the woods and take pictures. She, her partner, and their Australian Shepherd, enjoy discovering new trails and climbing on rocks.


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