There is an ancient Zen saying that has been passed down from person to person over the centuries. Roughly translated, this saying goes: “You should meditate for twenty minutes every day unless you are too busy; then you should meditate for an hour.” The idea behind this proverb is that meditation should be made a priority in one’s life, as it has the ability to solve many of life’s problems through self-enrichment.
The same can be said for running. It’s likely that you’ve heard about the numerous health benefits that can come from running. Even engaging in running sessions as short as ten or twenty minutes a day can have significant positive benefits on your physical health and mental outlook.
However, just like with meditation, some people just can’t figure out how to work running into their daily routine, no matter how badly they want to. For these individuals, here are some handy tips on painlessly developing a consistent running schedule.
Get the Right Shoes
One of the first steps to beginning a rewarding running routine is to ensure that you have the proper equipment to make the most of it. The most obvious part of an active runner’s apparel that needs to be prioritized is their footwear, so the first step is finding the right pair of shoes.
Start by getting an accurate measurement of your feet in order to determine your most comfortable shoe size. There are many charts online that can be used to assist you in measuring your size from home. However, it might be easier and more accurate to visit a retail store for shoes or sporting goods and have an associate measure your feet for you.
Once you’ve found your perfect shoe size, pick a brand and model of running shoe that is most ideal for a beginner. Your first impulse may be to pick something flashy from Nike or Adidas; while these brands offer very impressive looking footwear, they aren’t always the best choice for new runners. Instead, look for products that offer generous cushioning and foot protection like those from New Balance or Asics.
This next step isn’t mandatory but it can be extremely helpful for some runners. When measuring your shoe size, try and figure out your ideal insoles. This can also be done in most sporting goods or shoe stores if they have a dedicated section for orthotic support. Replacing the stock insoles with more supportive ones can ward off painful and annoying injuries such as shin splints or plantar fasciitis, which can severely affect both your enjoyment of running and your chances of keeping a consistent running routine.
Start off Slow
Once you’ve acquired the right set of running shoes, the next step is to start running! Your first impulse might be to start running as fast as possible as soon as possible: maybe even as soon as you put on your new pair of running shoes and leave the store. However, this isn’t a very good idea if you want to make a habit out of running regularly for your health.
Instead, the best way to start a successful running routine is to ease into it. Start off by jogging or even walking if you’re transitioning from a long-term sedentary lifestyle. Your legs and feet are going to be the most sensitive to pains and potential injuries during the first week or so and it only takes one mishap to completely throw off a promising running schedule.
Something that’s also important is where you choose to run. For example, running indoors on a treadmill can be great for cardiovascular training and leg muscle conditioning but it will be much harder to transition into other running environments that introduce greater resistance and inclement weather. On the other hand, running on a track can be miserable and grueling at first, causing you to lose interest in running altogether. The best form of terrain to start with is a sidewalk in a relatively flat area since it serves as an effective middle ground between tame and tormenting.
After a few weeks of running regularly in this form and setting, you can start mixing things up a bit. Try increasing the speed and distance of your runs or attempt to run on different inclines and terrains. Depending on what you’re trying to get out of a running routine, these factors can play a major role in running’s effectiveness for you.
Systems Over Goals
Once you’ve found the right shoes and conditioned your body to start running seriously, how do you ensure that you stick to your running schedule? This is the hardest part of establishing any routine for beginners: actually ensuring that you stick with it for as long as possible.
One common way that people attempt to stick with routines involving considerable effort or resistance is to set goals for themselves to strive for. This can start with something as simple as completing a full mile in 12 minutes. Once this goal is accomplished, a new goal may be to complete a mile in 10 minutes, then attempt to complete 2 miles in 20 minutes, and so on and so on.
The problem with this method of motivation is that it offers diminishing returns. As different goals are met and replaced with newer, more difficult ones, the feeling of achievement and satisfaction that comes with them will start to fade over time. Without this constant dopamine hit, you might start questioning the point of running in the first place and lose interest.
In order to avoid this from happening, a better way to ensure consistency with your running routine is to try and develop a functional system. Cartoonist and entrepreneur Scott Adams has a fantastic blog post discussing this concept in great detail, but here’s the gist: developing a habit that can be performed easily and thoughtlessly will provide far greater rewards than constantly meeting and creating goals to accomplish.
So how does this fit into planning a running schedule? It’s all about having the right frame of mind. Don’t think about it as a daily homework assignment to run for twenty minutes after dinner; instead, try and live your life in a way where running comes naturally. You may find yourself gravitating towards certain times of the day where running is the most desirable course of action. Before you know it, you’ll have made your way into a regular running routine!
These tips are all geared towards newcomers who are just starting out. Once you’ve hit the point where you naturally find yourself scheduling regular running sessions, you can start progressing in your newfound pastime. I recommend attempting some longer running challenges like a 5K or dipping your toes into high-intensity interval training. Regardless of what you do, remember to be consistent and have fun!