I know the title suggests that this is another link-baity piece of fluff about my personal bad running habits. Well, what may have started off like that was quickly scrapped in light of a little straw poll research I conducted among a group of a dozenish or so runners with whom I keep company.
My question was simple: What is your worst running habit ...and what do you do to combat it?
And you know what the number one answer was (cue Family Feud scoreboard good answer *ding* if you get it right.)
Number 1: Being Lazy
Now, my results yielded plenty of other bad habit hurdles, “I swing my arms too much/not enough”, “I run like an elephant through a river and don’t pick up my feet” and “I don’t have enough time to properly fuel before (after) a run” seemed to be the most popular.
But over and over, even from the best, most consistent runners I know, the “Lazy Factor” came up.
So, I kind of re-thought the subject a little bit and changed it to ...5 ways to get yourself out of your lazy habits.
There, that’s better link bait now isn’t it?
Hold yourself accountable and when that fails — outsource the accountability.
My partner is training for her first ever trail marathon to be held the second weekend in September in our literal California Central Coast backyard near Montaña de Oro. The excitement that a full marathon (and 50k) is set to take place on the very trails we run on every week was all the motivation we needed. There was a euphoria around the house for a couple days as we started dusting off old training schedules that had been shelved on our hard drives since our 2.5-year-old son was born. Races have thus far been limited to 10ks where we can convince my niece to babysit while the rest of us (including her parents and younger brother) run. And that’s fine. But nothing beats setting goals and knocking them down like carnival shooting gallery rabbits. Soon though, it occurred to us that in order to really pull this off — it would have to be one person to train and one to support. Since I was the last to run a significant race (during her pregnancy) it was obviously her turn. At first she thought us training together would be the better motivator, but I can say thus far we made the right call to rotate. She has come to mostly appreciate my daily check-ins and affirmation about her training schedule. She also knows she’s got an extra set of hands whenever needed. For me, the benefit has been not only spending more quality time in the backyard with my son digging holes and watching the clouds rush by, but it’s been satisfying to hear her thoughts on training and how her body, so much not ‘hers’ for the last couple years, is finally coming back in line. For her, she gets to see the look in my eyes some days when she takes off on long runs and realizes that even through the pain, it is always, always a privilege.
Get the run out of the way.
I know this is not a one-size-fits-all piece of advice, but it seems to work for the majority of folks. The more we get into our daily routine of work, kids, grocery shopping, appointments, the less likely it is we’ll be able to make time at the end of it for a run. Not everyone is a morning person, and — back to my partner for a moment — it has basically taken a new coffee shop in town (with a drive-thru) to kick her into high gear in the early hours. “I’m so sad I got up and got that run out of the way this morning,” said nobody ever. Now, I know not all of us have the luxury to schedule a morning run and not all of us want to get up at 4 a.m. to make it happen, but those lucky few enough to find the motivation and the time to get up with the sun are rewarded. Running in the morning helps get the blood moving, the metabolism kicked in and puts the runner on pace for an earlier dinner and bedtime which can engender a more healthy and productive night’s sleep. If all that’s not reason enough, morning runners also usually get to work early. So, your boss will be loving you too.
Grab a run instead of that burrito
If an early rise is a nonstarter, the lunch run also can do the trick. For many, a midday lunch break is the only time they have for “you” and so a precious few moments with that Barbacoa burrito bowl is about the only thing that gets ‘em through the week. These small guilty pleasures are hard to give up, but if that’s your only down time, it’s also your only run time. A few years ago, I took three months and packed a sack lunch and ran during my lunch hour instead of stuffing my face with 3,000 delicious calories. I not only lost a dozen pounds, but I put the equivalent of my lunch budget into a separate savings account which led to the down payment on a new car. Of course, I give this advice as one who was unable to sustain it for more than 90 days at a time. Even so, old good habits die hard and I haven’t been back the burrito place since.
Make it an event at least one day a week.
One of my favorite coworkers and lunch running companions left the company six months ago. As he settled into his new job and routine our runs went away, but then a recent text from him that we should make a permanent Friday morning running date really helped both of us. Not only do I have a weekly commitment on the books (which also keeps me from having that second (third?) Thursday night beer) but we both get to catch up on work/family. Since we’re about the same pace, we also get a weekly look at who’s been making the most progress. I’m not a big group runner, but having a 1:1 appointment to get out there and get after it to kick off the weekend has now become an eagerly awaited event. But until recently, I didn’t fully ‘get’ why. Since my partner and I don’t have daycare drop-off on Friday mornings, I would often sleep in a little (see: night-before beers) so it was something of a minor sacrifice to rally out of bed at first. But now, I’m that much more thankful for that time I get to spend on trail with a buddy as well as have a sounding board to bounce off the re: the events of the week that was. I can tell some mornings both of us had to do a little bargaining with ourselves or our respective families to get out of the house, but once we’re there, it’s the highlight of the week. Which leads me to my last point…
Give yourself a reward
You put in the early mornings, sacrificed the lunches, supported your spouse or significant other and made yourself accountable to others, now it’s time to treat yourself. For me, nothing tastes as good as that first sip of IPA after a full week of well-executed work/run/life balance. If on Friday evening I’ve honored all of the above commitments, I crack that beer with impunity. However, on the weeks that I slack off, the beer stays in the fridge. It’s gotten to the Pavlovian point where my mouth will start to water on the Friday afternoon drive home. Admittedly, it’s a great feeling knowing I’ve done my best to overcome the worst runner’s habit of all and placed my lazy self on the shelf for a few more days…
...Of course, I also take that first sip knowing that tomorrow is a new day and a new set of challenges that lure so many of us to have feet up on the couch instead of feet hitting the ground.