Success in running, like most things in life comes from commitment and mastering the basic workouts that fill a running schedule.
Here are 5 truths to running that are not glamorous but are essential in making running a lifelong pursuit.
If you follow these simple truths you’ll benefit greatly in making running a successful habit in your life for the long term. The commitment and benefits you receive from running will flow through all aspects of your life.
Commit for the long term
If you know anyone that has started learning a martial arts discipline ask them how they felt at their first lesson. They were likely not in the correct uniform and it felt very intimidating. Everyone else in the room can be distinguished by the colour of their belt and you knew exactly where they were in their martial arts journey. In martial arts the belt colour indicates ability but if you have committed for the long term it more so indicates experience. Commit to the process for the long term and you’ll progress through the different coloured belts.
Running is very similar except we don’t have coloured belts to indicate how long we’ve committed to the sport for. Our progress is mostly measured in times on race day, but even that is deceiving.
Running is a sport that requires a long term commitment. Make it part of your daily habits and you’ll reap the benefits. Running isn’t an obligation or a sacrifice. It’s a part of the process of living a healthy life. It’s part of your identity, ‘I am a runner’ therefore running is part of my life.
Set a daily schedule for your running
Just as running requires a long-term commitment to succeed. Equally it requires scheduling to make sure you complete the training and improve. Setting a daily schedule does not mean you have to run every day. You should plan your running by the week and schedule each days training through the week. Having a daily schedule for the week will help you hold yourself accountable, and also be able to change the days of your workouts if life throws in a curveball.
Plan your weeks training around your life. If you have a late work function on Tuesday evening you’d avoid scheduling your interval session on the Wednesday morning if possible. Having a daily schedule allows you to think about what’s happening in life and plan your running to give you the best chance at success in running as well as life.
Each run should have a purpose; there is little benefit to waking up tomorrow and then making up your run as you go. With this approach you’ll likely wake up and do the workouts you enjoy most. Have a purpose; schedule your week with the help of a coach if necessary.
Start where you are
Just like the earlier martial arts analogy, start where you are. If you were a beginner martial arts student you wouldn’t challenge a black belt and expect to win. In running everyone’s journey is different, everyone’s life pressures are different. When you see elite runners posting their runs on social media and logging upwards of 100-mile weeks it doesn’t mean us everyday runners should follow suit. Most elite runners don’t have high pressure work lives, are younger and haven’t started a family. And most importantly have put in the training for their body to adapt to running very high mileage weeks.
Remember where you are in your journey and aim to improve yourself. You use the power of measuring backwards to motivate you (we will cover this further in a future article). This is when we motivate ourselves for future performances by looking backwards at the improvement in our journey so far. For example if 1 year ago you could run a 50 min 10km and now you can run a 45 min 10km. You have improved by 5 min in a year. Sounds simple but we often look at our goals and think, ‘I can only run a 45 min 10km, I’m still 5 min off my goal.’ If we frame our mindset differently and think ‘I’m 5 min off my 10km in the past year, maybe in 12 months longer I can run 40 min’ we get a more positive and motivating outcome.
Comparing yourself to better runners and trying to mimic their training is not a strategy for success. Firstly, they run more miles because they are faster. If average runners try and run these miles they will take much longer, putting more stress on the body then even the elites do and increasing the chance of injury. By all means take advice and use training from better runners to adapt to yourself. But remember everyone is on his or her own journey and if you start today, start where you are with the aim of getting better.
Make progress slowly over time
We’ve already mentioned that running is a long-term pursuit. Its also a pursuit where you’ll see success and improvement if you are committed and patient. If you start your running journey today you shouldn’t expect to reach your goals tomorrow. They will take time as you adapt and develop your running.
The training that you find hard today will feel easy down the track. The workouts that today you feel nervous about attempting may become your favourite workouts. The hills that scare you may soon be your best friends.
Your progress will develop slowly over time, however it won’t be linear. There will be peaks and valleys along the way. Injury is an obvious set back but more simply there will be days when you feel great and there will be days when you feel poor. Through the good and bad times celebrate the small wins along the way and you’ll be well versed when the tough times arrive.
Measure your success
If running is a long-term pursuit and progress will happen slowly then measuring your success is vital. Measuring how far you’ve come and what you’ve achieved is the antidote to future motivation. Have goals, big and small and challenge yourself to be able to achieve them.
Measuring the success of your training is easy with most people logging their runs online. You can look at your training over weeks and months and measure how your running develops. Encourage yourself to increase your mileage slowly over time. If 12 months ago you could manage 35km per week and now you routinely log weeks over 50km a week this is success. You are running further and for more time and adapting to the load. You’ll get great satisfaction from seeing this type measured improvement.
Measure you training volume in miles or kilometres per week and how many runs per week. Measure your aerobic fitness by your easy run pace and its improvement. Us a heart rate monitor for increased accuracy. And loom back over time and see how you’ve improved. What seemed hard 6 months ago may be easy today.
Part of measuring your success is racing often enough to test yourself and your training. Enter a race, it’ll give you a goal, keep you committed and challenge yourself to do everything we’ve spoken about in this article.
What do I do next?
- Set your identity. ‘I am a runner’
- Set yourself a weeks running schedule by day
- Use an online platform to log your training and measure your progress
- Enter a race to complete in the next 90 days
- Plan a race for 12 months time.