A blog by runners. For runners.

From hobby to habit: how I made running stick

From hobby to habit: how to make running stickIt wasn’t long too long ago I ran only to stay fit. I turned to running as a mode of exercise because I could do it anytime, anywhere. Well, in theory.

The truth is that back then I had all of these excuses in the world not to run. If it was raining, too hot, too cold, or too windy, I wouldn’t run. If I didn’t feel like waking up when my alarm went off, I wouldn’t run. If it was a weekend, if I was on vacation, if I had a slight case of the sniffles, I wouldn’t run.

But over the past few years things have drastically changed.  I’ve run four or five days per week almost every week for the past six years, save for a few times when I was recovering from a marathon or childbirth. I couldn’t imagine skipping a run “just because”. When the weather doesn’t cooperate, I feel tired, or have other commitments, I plan ahead so that I can still get in my runs every week.

I run because I want to.

So what happened? How did I go from the girl who ran because she felt like she “had” to the girl who can’t live without it? Running used to just be a hobby, but now it’s a habit.

I didn’t set out for that change to happen. I ran my first marathon in January 2009, but I didn’t train much for it. As you can imagine, it was a miserable experience. Everyone told me that I’d feel on top of the world after finishing  a marathon, but I actually just felt like a fraud. Like I didn’t really deserve the “marathoner”  status because I didn’t put the hard work in like all of the other runners did.

I made a promise to myself. If I was ever going to race again, I was going to train for real. I had a half marathon planned 4 months later, and I stuck to my vow. Instead of just doing a few “easy” 3-4 milers on the weekdays and a long run/walk on the weekend, I followed a more specific training plan. I tried tempo runs and interval runs for the first time, and I couldn’t believe how amazingly challenging they were. I always doubted myself going into those runs, but then I’d actually hit my target paces and finish the workout. It was the best feeling ever.

I ran that half marathon, in the pouring rain no less, and PR’d by over 5 minutes. I was so proud – I finally had that on top of the world feeling that I’d heard about. I truly earned that finisher’s medal. I couldn’t wait to do it again.

Before I knew it, I was addicted. Even when I wasn’t in training mode, I’d push the tempo on runs because I craved that feeling. I love the burning feeling in my lungs, that jello feeling in my legs, and that feeling of exhaustion and exhilaration once the run is over. Speed work is what made me truly fall in love with running.

But all runners are different. I’ve asked several of my running buddies how they turned running from a hobby into a habit and each person has a different story. A lot of people hate speed work. Instead, they have found their passion for the sport through group runs, trail running, or marathon training.

That’s what’s so incredible about running. The thing you become addicted to may be just one workout away. You just have to be willing to try new things.

Written by Jen Matz.