Is this going to be your year for achieving all of your running goals?
If so, consistency is going to be crucial in helping you succeed. And as I’m fond of saying, consistency is the “secret sauce” to successful running. If you want to run faster, you must run more consistently.
But it’s not always so easy. We all have commitments and demands on our time: family, work, errands and a social life are just a few of the many areas in our life that compete with running.
So how do we find the time to run? And more importantly, how do we become the type of runner that almost always gets in their workout—no matter what?
The secret lies in understanding how to overcome the many obstacles to consistency—and building systems that make running regularly a lot easier.
Step 1: Recognize the Obstacles to Consistent Running
The biggest mistake most runners make is relying on willpower to build new habits or build upon existing habits. The truth is that willpower is not enough. Like motivation, it’s fleeting and unreliable.
In fact, one interesting study showed that willpower is a finite resource that gets depleted the more decisions you make. So if you’re planning to run after a hectic day at work, that decision doesn’t stand a chance! The allure of a home-cooked meal, warm bed or a glass of wine might be too much for you to resist.
Know your personal energy levels and don’t set yourself up for failure by relying on willpower when you know you’re likely to skip a run.
Additionally, runners often try to jumpstart a consistent running streak by attempting a “hail mary”or trying to make huge gains in a relatively short period of time.
You’ll recognize these types of runners. They’re the ones who jump from 10 miles per week to 30 miles. Or they register for 5 races in a single month thinking that races looming on the horizon will somehow convince them to run more consistently.
And for a time, it works! Drastically changing any routine is exciting and makes you feel like you’re progressing quickly.
But soon, these runners will suffer a running injury. Or they simply can’t sustain that level of training. Motivation fades along with their hopes of consistency.
Simply recognizing these barriers to running consistently for long periods of time will help you avoid them. But that’s only half the puzzle.
Step 2: Use These 3 Strategies for Building Consistency
Not only do you need to know what not to do, but it’s critical to build the small habits that make consistency far easier to attain.
First, start small. Running improvements occur gradually as our bodies adjust and adapt to higher workloads. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
- Increase mileage strategically, rather than jumping up in volume too quickly.
- If you’re attempting a running streak, don’t try to run a significant mileage every day. Take some easy days where you only cover 1-3 miles.
- New to running? Start by running what’s comfortable for you and then running just a minute or two more the next time you run.
The simplicity of starting small is that momentum breeds more momentum. By doing something relatively easy today, and something only slightly harder tomorrow, you’re building motivation into your training.
Next, track your progress. Keep a running log where you record daily runs, weekly mileage, key workouts, pace, and other data that you find valuable.
Recording your training creates awareness of what you’re doing on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. If you’re starting to lose motivation to run consistently, take a look at your training log.
Are you tired because you suddenly increased your mileage by 25 percent? Maybe you’re burned out because you haven’t taken a day off in a month? Whatever the reason, you’ll see patterns in your training log that can then inform your current training.
Finally, focus on process rather than outcomes. As runners, we tend to always fixate on our splits, finish times, and mileage. But these are byproducts of successful training. They come naturally when we put in consistent work.
So instead of being goal-oriented, it’s also helpful to be process-oriented. Runners focused on process are good at executing workouts and training programs—they put in the work and let the results come to them.
For example, a results-oriented goal might be to run a sub-4:00 marathon. That’s a great goal! But it should also be accompanied by a process-oriented goal like running an 18-week training program with more consistent long runs than you’ve ever done before.
If you accomplish the process-oriented goal, you’re far more likely to accomplish the results-oriented goal.
No runner is perfect and we all suffer spells of low motivation and inconsistency. But by understanding the obstacles in front of us and building systems that encourage consistency, we’ll be able to run more.
And with more consistency—the “secret sauce” to successful training—you’ll be a much faster runner!
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About the Author:
Jason Fitzgerald is the head coach at Strength Running, one of the web’s largest coaching sites for runners. He is a 2:39 marathoner, USATF-certified coach and his passion is helping runners set monster personal bests. Follow him on Twitter @JasonFitz1 and Facebook.