One of the leading thinkers of the late nineteenth century, William James, was a firm believer in the power of habit. James once said: “There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision, and for whom the lighting of every cigar, the drinking of every cup, the time of rising and going to bed every day, and the beginning of every bit of work, are subjects of express volitional deliberation. Full half the time of such a man goes to the deciding, or regretting, of matters which ought to be so ingrained in him as practically not to exist for his consciousness at all.”
When it comes to sustaining a running practice, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to adopt a steady roster of habits and rituals that will ultimately free you from the weariness of constantly having to make the decision to take that first step. As an elite athlete, one of the most challenging things I face is carving out time in my day for training, proper nutrition, and adequate rest—To be perfectly honest, when it comes to rest, it’s something I continually struggle with because there are so many more things demanding my time and pulling my attention.
As is the case with most things in life, moderation and flexibility are essential when it comes to maintaining a rewarding running practice. My alarm is set for 4:15am each day so that I can get my training run in first thing; and before going to bed each night, I always check the weather forecast for the next morning so that I can mentally prepare myself for what lies ahead as I crawl out of my cozy bed and into the, at times, inhospitable conditions, be it extreme humidity in the summer, or a polar vortex in the winter. Whatever time you decide to get your runs in, I suggest that you maintain consistency week to week so that you don’t have to face that internal monologue each day about if or when you will head out for your run.
Over the years, I’ve found that by prioritizing my running practice, I inadvertently give a gift to myself of time and space that allows me to approach the rest of my day with not only commitment but also a renewed sense of optimism. And when life gets in the way—and it inevitably does—don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get out for your run… Start again tomorrow, but always keep your compass set on finding yourself on your run.
Jean-Paul Bédard is our Expert Runner of the Month for August. To read more, visit his blog at www.breathethroughthis.com or check out his latest book Running Into Yourself: Unlock Your Strength, Heal Your Wounds, and Find New Life Through Running.