How to start a new running habit – and stick to it

Starting anything new is daunting. More than 2 million people run in the UK – from coach-to-5k-ers and weekend pavement warriors, to trail and endurance runners (like me). It’s fast becoming the UK’s favourite form of exercise.

My last post covered how to get into ultra-running. This one’s for anyone who wants to simply get their trainers on and get into running on the regular – whatever that looks like…

The nature of the beast

Running involves so many new habits, new clothing, new routines, a new way of thinking, and accepting that you need to carve out some time and space to do it well. All of these can combine to create an impenetrable wall of impossibility.

But stop. Take a look at each one of these potential blocks one by one. You soon realise that each hurdle is quite doable, providing you adopt a can do, will do, and to some degree, so what? attitude. The so-what?bit is important. Yes, it’s important to try and get your nearest and dearest on-side to be your supporters. However, your partner might not be as brave as you, or share your imagination. By the same measure, if you’re going to successfully incorporate running into your everyday life, you may well have to work out how you can invest more in your relationships to balance it. Be aware of making it an excuse to escape from relationships.

Pin down why you really want to do it

As with any big goal, think about what you want to achieve from running, and commit it to paper somewhere you’ll be able to see it often. There are loads of potential reasons – getting fit, losing weight, feeling more self-confident, gaining a sense of achievement, bonding with friends who run, or simply wanting to do something new. Whatever it is, write it down, and read it every time you’re putting your running shoes on. I am a firm believer in the power of positive affirmations. Check out this short article by Jo Emerson on the power of positive thinking.

Get organised

Making your new habit stick long-term involves some planning. For running, you’ll want a training schedule – something you can get from a coach, a running club, or from plenty of online programmes. It should help you plan your running time and make regular commitments to doing it. Stick it all on your calendar or in your diary – whatever you use to keep track of your time, and include when and where you plan to run – and for how long. XNRG’s head coach Andy Mouncey puts it like this: ‘a good plan is one that sticks’. If you’re serious about achieving your goals, make it a real, firm commitment on your time and it’ll become second nature.

You’ve already lapped everyone on the couch

Starting out might feel uncomfortable. Few of us look great in Lycra! Spend some time choosing some kit you like – and always remember ‘so what?’ So what if you look a bit heavy or feel a bit cumbersome as you pound the streets? The vast majority of people who might spot you as they’re sat in traffic are probably wondering if they should do the same thing. You’re amazing for doing something so positive – so keep going!

As you work through your schedule, the post-run aches and pains should start to die down – and hopefully, you will soon start to feel the physical and mental benefits of regular exercise. Keep running consistently and progressively (gradually doing a bit more, or a bit faster, or varying the pace) and after a couple of months you should start to reap the benefits enjoyed by millions of runners. There will be ups and downs – that’s part of life and your sine curve- but I am sure you’ll enjoy the journey.

Get out there, stay focused, and enjoy every step. I’d love to hear how you get on. Leave a comment below or drop me a line on I also offer coaching if you’d like someone to work with you to set a running schedule.

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