I have to write that e-mail. And then check to see if I have coffee. And then I should clean out the garage. After that I’ll go for a run. But first, I need to eradicate world hunger. And find a cure for cancer. Wait. Is that a sore throat I feel…”
Have you had a similar conversation in your head before a run? An avalanche of excuses comes cascading down and that run just doesn’t seem to happen? Well, I don’t know about you, but it happens to me all the time. And after coaching new runners for over a decade, I have heard all of their excuses too—but for each little excuse I have a sack of solutions that will help your brain and your body to get out there and get your running groove on.
The trick is to gently let your head know that you are going to do this “fun” thing called running and it’s going to be awesome. Think of it as pre-flight preparation. A plane doesn’t just shoot up in the air magically, it needs to get the captain on board, and the crew, and all those little bottles of booze.
Here are 5 steps to help enlist your head as the co-pilot in your new running lifestyle. Welcome aboard, we’re so happy you have chosen to fly with us.
Step 1. Treat Yourself Like a 5-Year-Old. Set yourself up for success by planning out your run in advance so you have no time to throw a tantrum. Do simple things like laying out your running attire the night before and prepping a post-run snack (you know your 5-year-old self wants some fishy crackers). Pick a time to head out, set a million reminders on your phone, tell everyone on social media, and then do it! This will hold you accountable and maybe inspire others to join you.
Step 2. Break the Door Down. Before a run, your front door may feel like it’s made out of impenetrable steel and surrounded by booby traps. But you have to help your brain find a way to get past that door and get outside. It will seem impossible, but once you pass that threshold you are golden. Just tell yourself you are going on a 5-minute jog, and see how you feel after that. (I bet you’ll want to keep going!) This works like magic.
Step 3. Accept the Crappy First Mile. Remind your brain that the first 10 minutes of a run are always hard, so stick it out. Your body is getting used to moving and your head is not on board yet. Think of your body as a cold car in the morning. When you turn the key and start that engine running, it’s trying to warm up, get all the fluids moving, and propel that hunk of steel across the road. But once you’re warmed up you’ll be cruising like one of those lean Italian numbers with the leather seats.
Step 4. Keep Your Head Busy. Download your favorite book to listen to on your run. Pick out a playlist that will pump you up and get you moving. Or, listen to one of the bazillion podcasts out there about everything you ever wanted to know. (I even have one, about…you guessed it, running). If your head is engaged it’s less likely to pipe up and constantly remind you how tired you are. It will be too busy enjoying pop songs or solving a mystery.
Step 5. Habit Dammit! Put your runs on your calendar just like you do for important work meetings and drinks with friends. Schedule them next to something you already do, like waking up (hopefully you wake up every day) or dropping the kids off at school. The more your head knows what’s happening the easier it will be to get out the door on autopilot. You’ll put your shoes on without thinking about it, and suddenly you’re on a run. You’ve started a new habit, and that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.
How have you squashed your biggest running excuses?
Beth Baker is the Founder & Chief Running Officer of Running Evolution. She has personally coached over 2,500 non-runners to run distances from 5ks to marathons and has recently launched a running coach certification program. Beth is a certified running coach through Road Runners Club of America (RRCA), and a certified personal trainer. She has run 6 marathons and 15 half marathons and she cries every time she watches finishers complete their first 5k. Give her a high-five on Twitter and Instagram.