Creating The Running Habit - Why The Struggle Is Worth It

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When starting to run for the very first time, it’s rarely easy or enjoyable. So why bother?

There are some clichéd answers like nothing comes easy, or the greatest reward comes from the greatest trial – both of which apply here – but there’s also a little more to it than that.

Starting out

I believe that very few of us know our own true limits. It’s what makes the human body and mind so amazing. Running is one such way to test – and expand – our limits, and this starts from the very first time you step out the front door for a run.

You need motivation and discipline not just to get through the first run, but to get through the first few weeks of running. And this doesn’t tend to come easily.

Forming a habit

It takes around three months to build the running habit, maybe less. This is true of all new actions, that repetition and discipline lead to this habit formation where less drive and effort is required to do the action the next time.

It’s at this point that the action, in this case running, becomes ingrained in your subconscious – just like when learning to ride a bike. Here’s the great news, too: that should you decide to take a break from running – no matter how long you leave it – once you’ve formed the running habit, it will never be as hard again as it was when you first started.

What lies beneath the surface

Part of the reason for the initial difficulty is that your subconscious doesn’t know your own capabilities. It’s all too easy to take part in daily life without majorly testing yourself, certainly physically.

This causes a whole range of warning signals to fire when you first start to run. Things might hurt, your muscles might ache, your breathing might become laboured, you might even simply get bored.

In time, your subconscious begins to discover your body’s capabilities, and here lies they key to creating the running habit.

You start to realise that – hey, you can do this. Not only that, but you can do more, and continue to improve.

Give it time

As this early process takes a little time, it’s why many new runners stop before they’ve discovered their own potential and the real gains that are there to be enjoyed from running.

If you’ve had previous success in sport, or are used to persevering with activities you take part in, you may find you pick up the habit faster. But don’t be disheartened if it’s not a quick process – the enjoyment and satisfaction will come. It might initially be a simple switch from “that was so difficult” to “hang on, that wasn’t so bad today”.

There’s a runner in everyone

This is something I really believe. It's at the heart of Run with Ben. Anyone can learn to run and can therefore form the running habit – with a little time, effort, motivation and dedication.

The magic of running lies in the discovery of your own potential.

This magic then grows when you discover that you can push your potential and continually reach new goals. This can then translate into all other areas of your life, creating a snowball effect that can become almost addictive.

Running gives you control, and helps you to accept responsibility for determining your own fate. If you’re the sort of person who does this already, then again you may find the running habit comes more easily. If not, you may discover that running helps you to learn this skill – and in turn, to boost confidence and self-esteem.

Getting started

The first step is often the hardest. Choosing to take it is an amazing thing. With running, start slowly but make it regular. Set incremental goals – for example simply getting out three times a week.

You can build in new goals as you go along, but smaller, shorter-term goals are important for retaining motivation. Believe in yourself, and stay determined and positive.

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of really enjoying a run – and I believe everyone can find this feeling. For those new to running, it may take a little time and effort – but it’s so worth it, for so many reasons.

Some of this material was inspired or paraphrased from Tim Noakes’ Lore of Running (fourth edition).

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