Perhaps you, like me, find yourself now and again guiltily averting your eyes from your running shoes. There they sit, unassumingly in the closet, or perhaps expectantly by the door. And there they will continue to sit, if you, like me, cannot muster the get-up-and-go to get off the couch and go for a run (despite having read another article about how aerobic exercise prevents the onset of dementia).
But I have a few tried-and-true tricks to get myself out the door for a run—and to complete my run—even when I don't feel like it. Fair warning: some of them are idiosyncratic (read: kind of nuts), because I’ve found the key to consistently running is tying it to my daily routine. And while my daily routine might not look like yours, hopefully these tips will provide some inspiration for how you might hack your routine so you can start pounding the pavement.
Take out the trash
. . . In your running shoes. Instead of buying trash bags, I use one—and only one—grocery bag per day for the trash. If I don’t take the trash out, not only does the view of unsealed coffee grounds remind me of my lethargy, it also reminds me of the odorous ramifications I will face if I don’t go outside. If “eighty percent of success is showing up,” then showing up outside, laces tied, is eighty percent of a successful run.
Make a shake
Prior to taking out the trash, I ensure that all potential trash for the day—all produce and vegetables—has been discarded (because I use only that one trash bag per day). I put bananas, kefir, and chocolate milk in the blender, and then I toss the peels, place the bottles in the recycling, and take it all out during my daily trash run. Not only does it save time, I have a delicious shake waiting for me when I return from my run.
Turn on the dishwasher
The key to consistency is to build your running into your everyday responsibilities. I do one load of dishes per day. Like Pavlov’s dog, the white noise of the dishwasher is my cue to leave the house. If you don’t have a dishwasher, soak your dishes in hot water in the sink or throw your clothes in the washer or dryer—whatever you do regularly enough (and at your preferred frequency, whether it’s every day or twice a week) to be your cue.
Don’t wear a watch
My uncle, who runs at least eight miles a day, and his buddy compare times and steps using their Apple watches. The friendly competition keeps them motivated. When I first started running again after a hiatus due to injury, this would not have helped me. “You don’t run with a watch?” he said. “That’d drive me crazy!”
In the age of smartwatches, not using some form of technology while running sounds ludicrous. But hear me out: when you are returning to the sport or just starting, the goal is to maintain consistency in getting out there, not to agonize over your speed and distance. Completion and consistency matter most, at least when you are building a routine and forming a habit, and they allow you to enjoy rather than stress about an activity that is supposed to build you up, not break you down.
“How will I know how far I have gone without a watch?” you may ask. That brings me to my next point . . .
Run the same route every day
Yes, really. It sounds boring, but hear me out. Pick a landmark or destination that’s a reasonable distance away. Don’t map it yet—just make sure it’s comfortable to do for at least one month. See how it goes the first run, and if you can realistically maintain it for a few weeks or more.
I ran the same route for two months, which enabled me to focus on my surroundings and my body. I felt at peace knowing that I would not re-injure my back and grateful that I could run at all. I also felt a sense of pride when I finished. I never thought, “I could’ve or should’ve done more.” The lack of pressure made me enjoy it more—plus, it eliminated one more decision standing between me and my workout.
When I was ready to know, I figured out how far I’d been running (and was pleasantly surprised to find it was longer than I’d guessed).
Call a friend
Some people do this while they walk. I do this on the days I feel like I’m crawling, not running. These are the days I feel mentally drained and physically stiff from sitting in front of my computer crunching numbers for twelve hours at a time.
“Are you . . . running?” my friends ask. I downplay it, “Oh, yeah, I’m going really slow . . . Really present for this phone call.” When you’re out of breath, which you inevitably will be, this is your chance to be a good listener. Ask how your friend or family member is doing. It takes the focus off yourself. It’s also polite.
Buy cute workout clothes
Cute workout clothes will make you want to run. Having at least three pairs of shorts, shirts, sports bras, and cushy socks will minimize the headache of looking for lost items when you want to go outside. Minimizing discomfort and the frustration of looking for lost items will also make your days smoother and make the act of running—or taking out the trash—easier.
Take weekend trips
When you feel set enough in your routine that a little variety won’t knock you off course, take the time to explore a new area. Drive to a national park or forest preserve that has trails that will restore and renew your spirit for the moment you are living in.
But if I could offer you only one word of advice, it’s that success may be found by unexpected (and unexpectedly specific!) means. Only you can hack your personal routines to fit in that long-procrastinated run—good luck!