5 Surefire Strategies to Get Back into Running

How to get back into running after a layoff

I have run 8 marathons, and countless races of shorter distances. My marathon PR is 3:45.52, while certainly not Kenyan, I can hold my head high when hanging out with most serious weekend warriors. But I turned 50 and decided to get my MBA, neither of which has been a positive influence on my running. As a result, my runs have become more infrequent and much slower. And, along with the combination of studying and slothfulness, has come the inevitable extra pounds.

So basically, this fat, lazy mammal has become incredibly out of shape. The good news is I graduate in a couple of weeks and will have no reasonable excuse not to get back out on the road. So like many of you, I need some solid strategies to lace up the New Balances and head out into the dark at 5:00 in the morning again. So here are 5 surefire strategies to get you running again after a break.

1. Grab a friend

Committing to running with a friend is much more effective than joining a running group. While joining a group is not a horrible plan, you don’t have the same level of commitment to a bunch of people that you have just met as you do with your BFF. Who wants to be that person who doesn’t show up, leaving your friend waiting alone in the park at some ungodly early hour? It is much easier when it is a gaggle of runners waiting and you rationalize you won’t be missed as your turn off the alarm and roll over and doze back asleep. So number one step: commit to a friend and you will greatly increase your chances to get out of the house and get your run on.


Boston 5K before Boston Marathon

2. Circle a race

Don’t get off the couch, knock out 3 slow miles then sign up for a marathon in 3 months, but find a fun 5K or 10K in a month or two and sign-up. Get some cash on the line and post it on your social channels. There is a psychologic power of making a public commitment that helps you stay focused. You don’t want to have to explain to everyone that you bailed on the race when they ask you how you did.  Figure out what motivates you and find a race that matches up. If you like medals, find one that has a cool one to add to your collection. Like the booze? There are brunch runs that have mimosas waiting for you at the finish. If you are socially active, find a race that supports a cause you believe in. Better yet, raise some donations. Regardless of the race you pick, the key is committing to one and announcing it to all that will listen.

3. Put it in writing

We already discussed the power of social proof in the last time, but here is some more psychology. Study after study has proven that developing a goal is rarely enough to affect change. However, when you put it in writing you increase your chance of achieving it by 42%. Without getting too much into the psychobabble of why this works, basically you engage both hemispheres of your brain when you make and goal AND write it down. And using two hemispheres is better than just one. The best way to set goals is using the SMART technique:

  • Specific: I will run 4 times a week for at least 2 miles.
  • Measurable:  I ran 3 miles on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Yup, that is four times and 3 is more than 2.
  • Achievable:  Running 6 miles 7 days a week? Not so much. But most of us can commit to a half hour 4 times a week.
  • Relevant: I want to run again so a goal to run seems pretty spot on.
  • Time-bound: By tethering your goal to time creates an accountability to actually do it, versus simply making a goal. You only have 7 days to get in your runs in so you have some urgency, unless you want to do 4-a-days on Sunday!

4. Buy that Apple Watch

But only after you ran your 5K. Having a reward tied to achieving running consistently is a pretty good way to stay motivated. Make your reward something that is meaningful and really want but probably wouldn’t buy normally. Make it big enough that it gets you out of bed on those mornings you don’t feel like it. You know your budget, stretch just enough but don’t go digging into your kid’s college savings. Maybe there is a hip new expensive restaurant you have wanted to try. Or pamper yourself at a day spa with the works, massage, facial and mani-pedi. Or of course, tech – who doesn’t like getting the latest cool gadget? And of course there is the old standby of buying a new outfit or some nice shoes. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it is desirable enough to get your shoes laced and your butt out the door.

run with GPS watch like an Apple Watch

5. Plug in

A lot of people listen to music when they run and I am one of them. I have a playlist on Spotify that is as fantastic as it is eclectic. I have some Bob Dylan and Icona Pop. OMD and Meat Loaf. Tiffany and Sofi Tukker. And of course The Clash. Lots and lots of The Clash. But as much as I enjoy listening to music and decompressing on a run, I can’t say it is a motivation to head out on a run. One micro-reward I have attached to running is listening to podcasts or audiobooks. I love listening to Freakonomics and the only time I allow myself to listen is when I run. Most of them range from 35 to 55 minutes, perfect lengths for a good run. If you love to read pick out an audiobook for a New York Times best seller you have been wanting to read and download it. Or better yet, go for a trashy novel! By pairing your run with a pleasurable stimulus you will recondition yourself to get back to looking forward to your runs.

There are a myriad of other ways to get yourself back out on the road or trail. Find out what motivates you and then go for it. The first few weeks are the hardest, but once you are back in the groove you will be glad you made the effort. Pick one or all of these surefire strategies and you will one again be looking forward to your runs before you know it.

Classic running clip from the movie Forrest Gump