The couch to 5k app is proving more popular than ever as people look to keep fit and get some fresh air despite the colder temperatures this year. The NHS’s ‘running app for beginners’ was downloaded over a million times last year, and with the boom in wearables expected to continue in 2021, the popularity of running is at an all-time high.
Whilst the Couch to 5K app is a great start to getting into running, the real difficulty comes with trying to make the exercise a habit that you will continue for months or years to come, no matter if you have had a rough day at work or the kids have kept you up screaming all night? Here are some tips to turn running from a hobby into a habit.
Pick time and schedule that works for you
Whether you are a morning person or someone that comes alive in the evening, try to find a time that you will be able to commit to for the weeks and months ahead. Could you fit in two short 30 minute runs before work Monday to Friday and one longer hour-long run on Sunday afternoons? Or maybe you prefer to run as a wind-down after work is finished? It does not really matter so much what your structure is so long as you can commit to doing it consistently no matter the weather or what else is going on in your life.
If you have been slowly building up to 5K over the last three months, your body will not be prepared to just get up one morning and hit 10K. It is far better for your body and more manageable to slowly build up the distances or times you are running, with many trainers recommending that you should not add more than ten per cent to your distance or times per week. So to get from running 5Ks to 10Ks, if that is your aim, should be slowly built up over two or three months.
Get the right kit
Running is great for beginners in that as long as you have a pair of trainers and some shorts you can get started immediately without any extra outlay. However, in these winter months when it is dark before and after work, if you are running on the roads it is important to wear a hi-vis shirt or jacket to make sure you can be seen.
Once you have started to make running a habit, you may also want to start investing in better running shoes so you stay comfortable whilst on your feet for 60+ minute sessions, or a better sports bra, or maybe a Fitbit or smartwatch to better monitor your heart-rate and other vital signs. If you’re just starting out, putting money aside for these bits of kit as a reward for keeping to your regimen can keep you on the right path.
Make achievable goals
When you are just starting out it may feel positive to setting goal of running five times per week, but if you fail to reach these goals for a few weeks that is a sure fire way to drop out of the habit. Instead, it is better to set yourself achievable goals that you can always meet and surpass on good weeks but never miss on bad ones. So if know you can always fit in three 30 minutes runs per week but would like to aim for more, set those three runs as a goal and then if you are feeling up to it add another one into the mix or add a fourth run. Once you have worked up to this habit that is the time to shift your goals forward.
Everyone is different in finding what motivates themselves best, but it is never a bad thing to set rewards for yourself for meeting your targets. This does not mean tucking into a donut every time you go for a run, but instead maybe try putting aside £1 into a ‘fun fund’ which you will find soon adds up and you can splurge on something you really want after a month or two – maybe a new pair of shoes or a dinner out somewhere. Modern app-based banks like Starling and Monzo will let you create a “space” to put aside your reward money manually, or with a bit of digital trickery with Strava, IFTTT, and Monzo you can even reward yourself by automatically putting aside a penny per metre run.
Remember that everyone has good and bad days. Sometimes your legs will feel like lead and others will feel like you’re jogging on clouds, and there is nothing you can do about this, so don’t beat yourself up for not always setting personal bests. The important part is that you make yourself go for a run and get out there – if you end up being a bit slower one day that is fine, and not pushing yourself too hard will mean that the next day you might just hit that PB anyway.