Three years ago, I finally got off the couch and I haven’t been back on since. That’s not to say I haven’t had a few stumbles and momentary lapses, but for the most part I’ve managed to stick to a good running routine. Before this, I tried several exercise programs, and all failed miserably in a matter of weeks. A question I’m frequently asked is how I did it – my usual response is “Just START and STAY CONSISTENT!” But in today’s post I look at HOW you can do it especially if you’ve been on this bumpy road for a while or if you’ve fallen off the wagon a few times.
This Is What Worked For Me
1/ Find Your Why: For the first half of my thirties, I vowed to get fit but it was always something I said with no real intention of following through. And looking back, I think this was because I never really had a real connection with this supposed desire to get fit or my “why” for doing it. But something changed when I turned 36. I’d reached a point where I was feeling overwhelmed, really unhappy with my lack of fitness and energy, and as a working mum of two, I was tired of not having enough time for myself. So I dusted off my old treadmill and soon found the power of running. Running gave me balance and time to reflect. It gave me such joy and a connection to myself that I had lost. Some run to lose weight or get fitter, some to compete and get faster, and others to get through loss such as divorce or bereavement. In the last 3 years my why has transformed. Yours probably will too. But whatever your why is, it must always be there because when you start slipping, it’s the first thing you have to go back to.
2/ Sign Up For a Race: There are so many people I speak to who are terrified to sign up for a race! But I’ve put this here because for me it’s never enough to set a goal to run X many times a week or X km a month. There’s nothing wrong with that of course, BUT I find I cheat too often. There are no big repercussions for not sticking to these self-made rules. I need a crazy EXTERNAL goal to get me off the couch. Something that is so big it forces me to train even in my more rebellious moments. And I find races are just that. When a race is looming, there is no escape! You are forced to get some training done. After 3 years, this is still my secret formula.
3/ Use A Simple Training Plan: One mistake I made over and over again was being overly ambitious in my training, ultimately sabotaging myself. I would go from zero exercise to “I’m going to run every morning of the week, gym every evening and throw in skipping at lunch time”. Of course after the first week, I would be exhausted, declare exercise was for fools, and quit! So start out simple. Even if it seems too simple, something like 20 minutes of walking, 3 times a week. If you move onto running, walk-run intervals are fantastic. I use a coach on and off throughout the year, but if that’s not an option for you, there are many resources online and running magazines are great. But when assessing any plan, ask yourself: Is it realistic? Is there a slow, steady progression? Will it keep me at it for the long haul?
4/ Record Everything: There is nothing more satisfying than recording your progress. Initially, it acts as an accountability tool but with time, it also transitions into a progress tool. You get to see where you started and how far you’ve come and it’s really fun to look back on. Every time I’m faced with a new goal that seems too big, I remember that at the start, running a 5K seemed impossible until I did it. A sports watch is really useful as it gives you accurate distances and times, and even personal bests. But you don’t need a watch. There are so many apps on phones these days and if you don’t have that, a simple pen and paper work just as well!
5/ Run With A Friend: I started out by running alone because I was embarrassed at how slow I was. But about a month into it, my cousin asked to join me and I quickly discovered how fun it was to run with someone. But more than that, knowing I had to meet her for a run meant there was no escape! So eventually I started asking more and more people to join especially for longer runs. Sometimes you find someone who is exactly your pace but even when you don’t, just knowing you have to meet people at a certain time is motivation enough to get you out.
6/ Wear Something Fabulous: This may seem silly to my husband who long believed in his trusty cotton shirts and still prides himself on having very few running tees. 🙂 When I started running, I felt so uncomfortable and self-conscious but I found that the more dreary my clothes were, the more unworthy I felt of the road I ran on. As soon as I started wearing some colour, I felt like I owned the road even as I shuffled along. Now when I’m having a bad day, I throw on something really fun or colourful and it makes me feel good. It always works.
7/ Play Your Jam: I didn’t run with music for my first two years . But last year I discovered the power of a song on the run. There are times when particular songs will help me dig deep to get through a bad patch on the run! There have been times when I’ve dreaded a run beforehand but then remembered certain songs on my playlist and that alone was motivation for me to head out for my run. It doesn’t have to be music. Some people prefer audio books or podcasts. But whatever it is, sometimes having something to get your mind off the actual act of running helps.
8/ Follow Runners On Social Media: Do you know how many times I have cancelled a run but changed my mind when I saw someone’s workout on Facebook or Instagram? The runners I follow are ordinary people at all levels – some just starting out and others more experienced. I also follow some of the elites but I find following runners I can relate to really makes a difference. If they can do it, it’s easier for me to believe I can too.
9/ Change Your Running Routes: I started out by running the same routes but I quickly lost interest so I ventured further afield. In the end, I looked forward to designing different routes and exploring the city. My current favourite routes are the CBD area and the Main Mall. Changing routes is not everyone’s cup of tea but it certainly works for me and keeps me going!
10/ Critically Analyse Every Excuse: My last point has probably contributed the most to keeping me off the couch. It takes practice though. And brutal honesty. When I have an excuse not to run, I force myself to ask why. More often than not, this first excuse falls through. But then I usually have a second excuse lined up, and again I start poking holes in it. By the time I get to my third or fourth excuse, I begrudgingly put on my shoes. There are so many excuses and I know because I’ve used most of them! But one by one, question their validity and usually the run wins! And funnily enough, once you are done with the run, you wonder why it took so long to just get going! But if the excuses keep coming, try to remember why you started this journey.
Hope this helps to get you running (or exercising) this year! If it does, let me know 🙂 If you have a good running or exercise routine, what are some of the ways you stay consistent?