Developing a Running Habit - Finding Joy and Consistency

Alyssa Atkinson

Use these tips to enjoy the sport.
Photo of the author's watch taken after a summer long run.Alyssa Atkinson

Many people will tell you that running is tough at first, but if you stick with it long enough, it gets easier. I disagree.

Running will always be difficult. Even when your fitness improves dramatically, you can still find a way to dig deeper. No matter how fit you become, running will still feel hard sometimes.

However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. With time and patience, you will get to experience some truly magical moments, like the famous “runner’s high”. Yes, it’s real, but not nearly as common as it’s made out to be.

The only issue is, many people who start running never continue long enough to experience the magic. Trust me, I get it. When I first started running, I hated it.

In fact, the only reason I joined cross-country in eighth grade was because my parents wanted me to do a fall sport and I had no interest in soccer. Cross-country seemed like my only option at the time.

Now looking back, choosing to run cross-country was one of the best decisions I ever made. Flash forward to over ten years later, and I am still running consistently. Only now, I don’t hate it. I genuinely love it. The following are a few tricks that almost anyone can use to find joy in running and make it a consistent habit.

Start off with this.

Whether you decide to run in the morning or the evening, prepping your body with a dynamic warm up before you get going can help you feel immensely better in that first mile or two.

In college, my teammates and I did our dynamic warm-up before every run. It only takes about 5–10 minutes, but it truly does make a noticeable difference.

Dress for success.

While some may argue that the attire you wear isn’t all that important, I think it’s crucial.

I’m not saying you need to go out and purchase $75 leggings and thermal tops. I just mean that you should dress in clothing that makes you feel comfortable and confident. Plus, a fun outfit can get you excited about exercising.

You also want to make sure and dress for the weather. It’s ok to feel a little bit cold at the start of your run because your body will warm up quickly. Keep this in mind when you’re getting ready, as it will help you avoid feeling too hot after you’ve been running for a mile or two.

Don’t ignore these signs.

Whether you are a new or experienced runner, it’s quite common to ignore your body’s signals that you might need to slow down or take a day off. I’ve been there many times.

You get so excited about the idea of running that you begin to pile on the miles and push the pace, even on easy days. Within a few weeks, you start to feel fatigued or even burnt out. This is exactly what you don’t want.

Focus on recovery between hard efforts. If your body is screaming for a break, don’t be afraid to listen. In case you weren’t aware, rest days can actually be very beneficial. When it comes to endurance training, slow and steady truly does win the race.

Find your why.

This point is incredibly important. If you don’t have a strong reasoning behind why you want to start running, it’s easier to give up.

Running is a sport that feels very difficult, especially at first. If you hate it to begin with, you aren’t alone. It took a while for running to grow on me. Finding a number of reasons as to why I run has helped me work through the tough patches.

A few of the reasons why I run include:

  • It makes me feel strong and confident
  • It helps me stay productive
  • It adds structure to my day and relieves stress
  • It boosts my mood

These are just a few of the many benefits of running, but I think you get the idea. Find your reasons for running and write them down. On days when it’s tough to head out the door, read through them and make them your source of motivation.

Practice this.

Although it might be hard at first, it is so important to practice gratitude and develop a positive mindset around running.

When I first joined the track team back in seventh grade, I was very negative about it. I thought about how difficult each workout would be and how nervous my races made me feel. This solidified an early hatred towards the sport.

However, once I started running cross-country in eighth grade, my mindset shifted. I realized how much fun I was having grinding through tough workouts and chatting with my friends on easy runs.

When you practice gratitude towards running, you begin to realize how much of a blessing the sport truly is. Shift your mindset, and you just might start to enjoy running each and every day.

My running career has never been smooth sailing. Even when I was competing at a high level in college, I had to deal with poor workouts and races that were mentally and physically draining.

Whether you are a casual jogger or training for your next 5k, 10k, or marathon, remember that not every day will feel incredible. Some days, it will take all your strength to have the discipline to get out the door.

In the end, it will all be worth it. Slowly but surely, running will transform from something you dread into an act that brings you consistent joy.

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Ohio U XC/Track alum. I love to run. I blog about food, health, fitness, lifestyle, etc. Personal Blog - | Electrical and Computer Engineering Grad.

Raleigh, NC

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