I would say 9 out of every 10 people who start running fail to form a running habit long-term.
It’s not because they don’t go in with the best intentions for success.
It’s simply because they don’t know right from wrong.
There is a huge amount of ways you can unnecessarily fail to form a running habit.
While the sport offers benefits that can’t be matched, it also presents some obstacles that, if not properly prepared for, can cause you to fail.
Luckily for you, I’m going to fill you in on the super-secret knowledge I wish I had starting out. ?
Here, I’ll uncover the 22 do’s and don’ts to forming a successful running habit.
By following this advice, you’ll be leagues ahead of other beginners who attempt the sport.
This way, your path to running success will be clear of any unnecessary obstacles.
These are the common mistakes to avoid when you embark on your running journey.
I made all these mistakes, and more, in the beginning.
So, go easy on yourself if you’re committing one (or all 11) of these rookie no-nos. ?
This is, without exception, the most common mistake I witness in running.
If you start running with no strategy or plan, you’re basically screwing yourself from the beginning.
For some, even when I recommend following a training plan, they’ll say, “Well, I’m just not the planning-type.”
Needless to say, I knew how that was going to turn out.
Don’t be like those people.
Be smart. Have a strategy going in. If your original strategy doesn’t work out perfectly, that’s okay!
At least you now have a foundation to build upon.
Many who start running let their ego take over and start sprinting from the get-go.
This is a super common rookie mistake.
The reason for this is that running on the surface seems super simple, right?
All we do is run for a certain amount of time to achieve results.
We’ll think…”What’s so hard about that?”
Because of this way of thinking, many starting out think they should be able to run at a much faster pace than they’re actually capable of.
This lack of respect for the difficulty of the sport is how newbie runners end up dry-heaving on the grass wondering why “they’re not cut out for it.”
It’s one of the most foolproof forms of self-sabotage when it comes to running.
It’s always upsetting to see a new runner compare themselves to others.
Mostly because they’re missing the true beauty of the sport.
I’m non-competitive by nature, so running ended up being perfect for me.
Your only competition is with the runner you were yesterday.
Which is why running can transform you so immensely from the inside out.
It’s a fast-track to insane personal growth!
So, take no time paying attention to other runner’s stats or progress.
It’ll do nothing for you and will severely slow your progress.
What I mean by running intuitively is not running with any tracking device and only basing the length and pace of the run by how you feel.
While at one point in time I thought this was beneficial as a newbie runner, I now know better.
Every time I attempted this approach, I would end up overshooting my pace or quitting before I hit my distance goal.
My running progress suffered.
When I had no concept of pace, I thought I could maintain a faster running speed which caused me to quit early.
Having no concept of distance left me thinking I’d already run 2 miles when I’d only completed 0.2 miles.
In the beginning, having an awareness of your running stats throughout the run is necessary to pace yourself both physically and mentally.
Gain more running experience before you ditch the watch and run intuitively.
And for full disclosure, running intuitively may work for some! If you really feel you’d be better off not knowing your distance or pace, then do you.
Just know that this can be a slippery slope when starting out.
Overexcited beginners (like my previous self) tend to do too much, too quickly.
Once they see themselves start to progress, they’ll think it’s beneficial to run as much as possible – in other words, they’ll start skipping rest days.
Take it from me.
This is the quickest and easiest way to put you out of running commission.
It’s by this approach that I developed a running injury within my first few months of running.
Which then put me out of running for two solid months.
Meaning I had to start my running progress over when I was healed.
Some of you may be thinking, “A rest day? Sure! What’s so hard about that?”
Trust me, once you start seeing the killer benefits you get from forming a running habit, you’ll understand why taking a rest day can become difficult.
If this sounds a tad insane, you’d be surprised.
Many decide to start running BECAUSE they sign up for a half-marathon.
Before even starting a running habit.
What’s crazy is this happens ridiculously often.
I know a few personally who have done this with full marathons!
The reason for this is these people often see half-marathons as a bucket-list item they only complete once and that’s it. Which is their prerogative.
However, even if that’s the intention, they’re still at risk for a myriad of injuries by not having a running background beforehand.
They’ll have no concept of how long it takes to build a running base, the pace they should train at, what running style feels natural to them, their racing strategy, etc.
Take it from my running journey.
Running may seem simple, but there are a number of lessons you only learn through experience.
And many of these lessons should be learned before running your first half.
If you have goals as a beginner to run a half or full marathon in the future, more power to you!
Just don’t forget to plan those shorter distance races first. Have patience!
Newbie runners often forget (or think they can live without) proper recovery techniques.
These include post-run stretching, foam rolling, yoga, etc.
Anything that promotes blood circulation and flexibility to the muscles after running.
I was one of those beginners who thought I could get away with never recovering properly.
I always saw it as an “extra precaution”.
Don’t be like me. ?
Be a responsible runner from the start and take care of your body!
Many quit before they even glimpse their full running potential due to frustration.
This usually stems from us wanting instant gratification…because let’s face it…we live in a quick-fix society!
What’s amazing and humbling about running is it reaffirms that we need to work hard to achieve greatness.
It gives you serious lessons in commitment, hard work, and dedication.
Many decide to skip these lessons and quit.
When it doesn’t feel easy as a beginner, don’t get frustrated.
Instead focus on the fact that these are the most crucial, character-building running lessons you’ll learn as a beginner.
One of the many reasons I hear from people failing to start running is that they “don’t have the time.”
Most of the time this is a cop-out.
When I offer ways they could fit running into their schedule, they make up another excuse.
This is yet another form of self-sabotage.
If you want to form a running habit and gain the benefits it offers, you make the time.
If you stop taking failure personally, not only will you be able to form a running habit, but you’ll be able to accomplish any goal you set for yourself in life.
It’s insanely powerful.
Stop seeing your running setbacks as failures and start seeing them as opportunities to improve.
I like to think of my “failures” as a challenge or game.
My goal is to always be better than I was yesterday.
Hence why I’m such a fan of personal development and running. ?
There’s nothing scary about failure.
Failures are just the series of lessons we need to make us better.
What you really fear is the way failure makes you feel.
And you don’t have to make it mean anything.
Now, I know my take on running is a bit unique.
And that personal development and running aren’t routinely mixed in the fitness community.
But this is why what I teach WORKS.
You need to have a plan for your mindset when running gets hard.
Without the mindset for success, you’ll never stick with running when the doubts kick in.
This is because running at its heart is completely mental.
Trust me, you’ll understand this around Mile 1 when you want to throw in the towel.
So, pay attention to your thoughts when it comes to running.
Train your mind alongside your body when it comes to this sport.
Now, let’s get to the key elements that will lead you to successfully form a running habit!
If you commit to these little actions, you’ll get there much faster than I did. ?
If you’re doing it right in the beginning, you’ll be going so slow that it feels like turtle-speed.
Ultimately, your running speed should pass the talk-test within the first couple weeks to ensure you’re acclimating your body to the movements of running.
This gives your body time to adjust, while also allowing you to mentally work your way up to a faster pace.
So, have patience and slow down!
You’ll be going faster in no time – or if you want to stay slow that’s okay too. ?
Be sure to have some type of plan before you hit the road.
Even if your only plan is for that run, just know how long, how fast, and where you’ll be running before you start.
You’d be surprised at the number of people who fail to do this!
You’ll be happy you took the time to prepare beforehand.
It’ll be one less thing to worry about.
This is something I swear by, and it’s a huge reason I was able to finally succeed at forming a running habit.
Determine the length of your runs on time spent, not mileage.
Don’t even pay attention to mileage during your runs in the beginning.
The reason is this: running 1 Mile will seem way more intimidating than running for 10 minutes.
It’s purely mental. But remember, most of running success is mental.
So, just give this a try.
To this day I still prefer following this method.
This may seem obvious, but most newbie runners fail to actually stay consistent.
Which is basically setting yourself up for running failure.
While all sports favor consistency – running success is especially built on methods of consistency.
You can’t progress running-wise without it.
If you think back to the times you’ve tried to form a running habit and failed, I guarantee all of those times you weren’t consistent in your efforts.
So, proceed with your running goals through small, consistent runs.
One day at a time.
Before you know it, you’ll be crushing longer distances in no time!
While I don’t recommend signing up for a race before you start, within a few weeks or so, don’t be afraid to sign up for your first race.
This can be a 5K race or even something smaller like a 1-Mile race (they do exist!).
It’s good for morale to get around other runners and to use them as inspiration.
And don’t be nervous!
Racing and the running community are super welcoming.
There are people of all spectrums of ages, race, and background looking to achieve the same goals you are.
To ensure you’re preventing unnecessary injury, incorporate proper running safety techniques into your running routine.
The most discouraging thing that can happen is developing an injury in your first month running.
You can prevent this by warming up pre-run, investing in the right running gear, and sticking to a post-run recovery routine.
To most newbie runners these extra acts seems tedious and over the top.
Do them anyway.
A number of runners in the beginning stages will complain about how hard the sport is, but they rarely brainstorm ways they can make the runs more enjoyable!
Take the time to really investigate ways you can make those first, less-than-spectacular runs more enjoyable for yourself.
If you do, you’ll be more likely to stick with it.
Some examples include listening to an audiobook, running in a pretty location, or downloading a new podcast.
Whatever works for you!
When you start, you’ll be eager to get to the end result of your running journey.
You’ll want running to immediately feel enjoyable and effortless.
That’s unfortunately not how it works.
Running when you start isn’t glamorous.
It’s a combination of heavy breathing, sweaty foreheads, and frustrated expletives (at times).
This isn’t to deter you from the sport, because the benefits are well beyond worth it.
And you’re 120% capable of achieving them.
However, you need to have a grasp on reality when starting.
It’s often that our expectations of running are too high in the beginning that causes us to fail.
Before hitting the road, be sure to acquire some basic running knowledge first.
You’d be surprised at the number of runners in the beginning who have zero knowledge of the sport.
Not only is this unsafe, since you won’t know the proper safety and training techniques, but it’ll make you sound pretty silly to your running comrades. ?
So, take a bit of time to research basic topics such as running form, running fuel, and proper running gear.
As I routinely mention, running for beginners is hard.
The quicker you accept this, the more successful you’ll be.
Because of this, it’s necessary to focus on your brain during this process.
This is because your primitive brain will constantly be trying to convince you that running’s a horrible idea.
Our brains have a nasty way of digging us into a self-sabotage circle.
Even when we’re fully capable of completing the task at hand.
So, develop a mindset approach that you can use to combat those negative thoughts when necessary.
This will truly make or break your success.
Not having a strategy as a new runner is like having the tools without the manual.
It’ll only leave you feeling unprepared and frustrated.
Which usually means you’ll quit before you even start seeing results.
I struggled with this for a long time before I successfully formed a running habit.
Over years, I would find myself picking up the sport and putting it down.
Nothing stuck, and I couldn’t make it work. I assumed that meant I wasn’t capable.
It was all because I didn’t have a strategy or plan to start running efficiently.
This is the most common reason I see for someone not forming a running habit successfully.
I truly hope this article gave you some insight as to what it really takes to start running successfully.
There’s a ton of misguided information out there concerning running.
Most resources give you the actions to take, but not how you’ll bring yourself to commit to the actions given.
And this is what’s really important when you’re half a mile in and want to throw in the towel.
What do you think the hardest part of forming a running habit is?
Hey there! I'm Kat Rentas. I’m a certified eating psychology coach for women who believes that eating healthy should feel simple and sustainable. I teach hundreds of high-performing women to change their eating habits without the overwhelm. Want to change your eating habits in a way that is aligned with your needs, preferences, and goals? You’re in the right place. You can read my full story here.