The journey of a thousand miles may begin with a single step, but not all first steps are created equal. Whether you’re taking your first step toward a richer, more active life or looking to add something new to your fitness journey, the steps below will help you lace up your running shoes and hit the ground with a stride.
Set Realistic, Achievable Goals
Instead of striving to be an Olympic athlete right off the bat, set a goal of running a certain length of time per day or a certain distance. Start big and work your way up as your original goal becomes easier. Doing this will help you stay motivated and make the process much more fulfilling.
And while you’re doing your twenty-minute run or one-mile hustle, consider rewarding yourself at predetermined milestones. For example, set a goal to run three times a week for three weeks. Once that goal is met, reward yourself with a running-based treat like new running socks or a new water bottle. If you’re able to see the benefits of your hard work, you’re more likely to continue on the path you’ve set for yourself.
Set the Tone
While you’re thinking of what motivates you and setting up achievable running goals, remember to make your newfound hobby a fun one. After all, we’re likelier to stick to things that bring us joy. With that in mind, make running a joyous event.
For some people, having a designated running wardrobe and running kit serves as the perfect motivation to achieve their running goals. For others, music helps get them in a running mood. Set the tone how you see fit.
Share in Your Success
While many runners enjoy the contemplative solitude of the sport, others enjoy running with friends. Consider joining a local running group, asking a friend or spouse to join you, or making running friends at your nearest trail.
Even if you’re a person who runs alone, consider sharing the results of your run. This provides accountability as the right friend can keep you on track and humbled to better meet your goals.
Move Your Mile Marker
As your skills improve and your body strengthens, it’s important to continue challenging yourself. Stagnation is the death of progress, and it’s easy to find yourself stuck in a running rut once you’ve achieved your initial milestones. To prevent this, remember to give yourself check-ins. If your initial goal was to run twenty minutes daily during month one, your goal for month two might be to double this amount.
Run Without Running
While it’s healthy to stay active and give your legs a workout, overdoing repetitive motions can put a serious strain on your muscles and dampen your chances of success. Consider cross-training to prevent a runner’s strain on your back and legs. A day of walking, cycling or rollerblading could be just the thing.
In addition to cross-training, don’t forget to incorporate days of genuine rest. If staying motivated on your off days is essential to your goals, consider reading books or listening to songs that are on theme. Your rest days are also good days to update your running playlist, set aside your running attire, and take inventory of any supplies you might need when you resume your routine.
Sound Body, Sound Run
To truly get the most out of your run, be mindful of what you put into your body. Loading up on sugary snacks pre-run may give you an initial energy boost, but it will be soon that sluggishness sets in. Instead, power your body with fruits (which have naturally occurring sugars), proteins, and good carbohydrates.
Many a good run has gone sour due to dehydration. When we move at speed, our body responds with sweat, nature’s natural cooling agent. But all the sweating in the world can’t keep you cool if you haven’t drank enough water in the first place. Stay hydrated to prevent injury and to keep your body in tip-top form.
Know When Enough Is Enough
Stagnation can be frustrating, especially when you’ve put your all into your runs. But if you do not see the results you want and if running begins to truly lose its luster, consider taking a break. Trying other forms of fitness or studying up on the craft can be the perfect motivators to get back into things once the timing is right.
When you’re running, run. Use your running time to power your body and give your mind the mental break it deserves. Focus on your breathing, focus on your body, and focus on your movements. If you show up for yourself, there’s no reason you can’t achieve what you set out to do.