Several people I’ve spoken to since publishing my essay on running and sobriety have expressed a desire to start themselves. Either they lack courage as a complete beginner, or can’t find the motivation to make a comeback. Even if you don’t use a bullet journal, these tips can help.
There is a reason that self-monitoring is a fundamental tool in cognitive-behavioural therapy. It informs our goals, holds us accountable and facilitates change, increasing our awareness, determination and agency. By tracking our efforts, we are more likely to succeed – and enjoy the process.
Here are some ideas to get you started, help you stay motivated and maintain your momentum.
1. Set goals.
These can be daily, weekly, or monthly goals. They can be small, such as a five minute run around the block 3 times a week, or big, like running a half marathon. Be specific. When setting monthly goals, think about breaking them down in to more manageable targets to hit along the way. Just making the effort to achieve our goals can lead to a sense of satisfaction. We feel a sense of pride and fulfillment when we finally achieve them, so it is important to make them realistic. Starting small is the key to success.
2. Start small.
This is about creating small steps along the way to achieving our longer-term goals. A complete beginner would not normally run a 5K straightaway (check out the Couch to 5K plan as an example of this). Don’t run before you can walk! My strategy has been to set myself much smaller goals than I think I could manage. That way, I always exceed my target. Go easy on yourself – especially at first – with lots of encouragement and positive self-talk. You will get there. Slow and steady wins the race. (OK, I wonder how many more running-related proverbs I can sneak in to this..?)
3. Keep an exercise log.
This can take a variety of forms. For example, you can focus on specific types of workouts (mine are usually boxing, running and yoga), or you could track your activity on a month-by-month basis. I choose to log my exercise in an annual calendar spread using four different colours – one for each exercise type – because I find that creating an overall visual gives me motivation. You might choose to log your strength training or running activity on separate pages instead – or do both! Personally I like having an annual overview, plus a detailed running record so I can see my progress.
4. Time yourself.
I would say that this one has helped me the most with motivation. I use an App with GPS while I run, which tracks my distance, pace and time. I get feedback about my progress, which is helpful for motivation – especially if I’ve taken a few days off. I then record this in my bullet journal. I listen to the App mid-run too (it reports my time and pace at each kilometre); but this might add undue pressure. Either way, I recommend timing yourself if you can – even if it’s done the old fashioned way with a watch and a map.
5. Get your groove on.
Create a running playlist you can associate with energy and positivity. Generate a good rhythm for yourself and maybe try running mindfully, paying attention to what happens in the mind and body in response to each track. Put your playlist on shuffle to mix it up and keep updating it to keep it interesting. Maybe choose a ‘track of the week’ and keep a note of it in your bullet journal. Some might prefer podcasts or audio books, which you can list in your bullet journal too. Whichever you choose, the idea is to associate running with good feelings. This leads me on to…
6. Celebrate your wins.
It is so important to congratulate ourselves and celebrate our achievements, no matter how small. Running releases endorphins – nature’s natural pain-relief – and dopamine, the neurotransmitter (or ‘chemical messenger’) affecting motivation, mood, attention, learning, sleep and pain processing. There is much enjoyment to be had from accomplishing things that challenges us. As we strive towards our goals it is important to focus on the sense of pride and fulfilment we feel when we achieve them. The benefit of emphasising these positive emotions is twofold: it helps us to remain constructive and optimistic; and it pushes us to thrive and flourish (this refers to the ‘P’ and ‘A’ in the PERMA model of wellbeing, developed by positive psychologist Martin Seligman). Focusing on feeling good and cultivating a sense of accomplishment will encourage you to stay on track with your running. Savouring the moment can increase positive emotion. If you use a bullet journal, try noting down one achievement each day – even if they aren’t all related to running. Here are some of mine:
- Left the house to go for a run, even though I was feeling terrible.
- Exchanged smiles with everyone I passed on my morning run.
- Ran a personal best on my 5K.
- Completed a half marathon!
Finally, talk about running! Share your reservations, your fears and your challenges. Exchange tips with one another and allow people to support and encourage you as you pursue your exercise goals. Remember, the surest way to build a lasting habit and become a runner is to enjoy it.