People who take up running (and stick to it) and people who lose pounds (and keep them off) have habits in common. Here they are:
Make friends to meet for workouts, share victories with, and comfort through setbacks and bad races. A like-minded peer group is a powerful motivating force. Get your spouse, your children, and your friends on board with your running and weight-loss efforts. They’ll give you kudos for your efforts, and they’ll be less likely to sabotage your healthy eating efforts. Surround yourself with people pursuing similar goals. If possible, recruit a training partner. You’ll never skip a workout if you know you’re leaving a friend waiting for you at the park.
2. Set goals.
Get specific about your goals—the races you want to run, the times you want to hit, the miles you want to cover by the end of the year. Set goals that are measurable and establish a time frame for accomplishing them. For example, set a goal to lose eight pounds in three months, or to finish your first 5-K in October.
3. Keep track.
Keep detailed logs of what you eat and what you run. Run Your Butt Off! provides detailed food and exercise logs that are easy to use, but any system you’re comfortable with—on a computer, phone, or in a notebook—will do. Record all your purposeful activity, not just running. (After a while, the empty spaces that denote sedentary days will drive you nuts—and motivate you to keep moving.) With food logging, you don’t have to do it for your whole life. But doing it for a week at a time at different times during the year can help keep you committed to healthy eating.
4. Plan ahead.
Schedule your runs as unmovable appointments. Plan your meals well ahead of time, because if you’re left wondering at the last minute what’s for dinner, you can end up eating fatty, high-calorie takeout. Pull out your calendar once a week and write in your workout times. Also, make meal plans for lunch and dinner, write a shopping list, buy the ingredients, and set aside time for cooking.
5. Have reasonable expectations.
Experienced runners know that not every workout is going to be an A+. There will be some weeks when you get sick, get stuck at work late, or simply don’t feel like running. During those times, do whatever running you have time to squeeze in (or find another activity that appeals to you that week). So you set out to run four days this week and only got to it twice? Fine. Resolve to try harder the following week, but don’t give up entirely. Same thing with eating. If you eat a food that was more caloric than you wanted, it doesn’t mean you should fall off the wagon completely. Just try to control your intake the rest of the day and do better tomorrow.
6. Stay consistent.
To improve at running, you’ve got to put the miles in, week in and week out. Going through periods of high intensity, followed by periods of injury and time off, won’t make you fitter or faster. Come up with a training and eating plan that you can stick to. Radical exercise plans and restrictive diets won’t last. Look for small changes you can make that will be sustainable for the long haul.
7. See the value.
Running regularly and eating right shouldn’t feel like suffering and deprivation; they’re about taking good care of yourself. You deserve the time to exercise and eat well. Make taking care of yourself, by allowing yourself time for running and eating right, a priority.