5 Lessons from a month of running

For the last two years I’ve joined in with Runuary – a virtual running event by Girls Run the World. The challenge is to run every day for the month, sharing details each day via social media for accountability. There is no pressure on pace (as long as it’s more than a walk it counts) or distance (the minimum is only 100m each day), the challenge is simply to get out there each day and run. For a challenge which is so simple, I was struck by how much I got from it and by how the reminders it gave me apply to so many areas of life and business. Here are my top 5. 

A small shift in mindset gives a big shift in results

My typical approach to thinking about going for a run is probably pretty common. I ask myself ‘shall I go for a run?’ or ‘do I feel like going for a run’. And very often the answer to that is ‘No’. I can excuse myself with the best of them; it’s too cold / hot / rainy / dark. Or I played netball / went to the gym yesterday, so I deserve a day off today.

But a small change to the question makes a big change to the outcome. Instead asking myself questions that gave me an option to bail out, I was asking myself ‘when shall I run?’ or ‘how am I going to fit in a run today?’ A subtle shift in mindset was enough to banish the excuses and make me focus on problem solving instead.

Commitment matters more than motivation

Did I feel motivated to run each day? Absolutely not. Some days I was furious with myself for being daft enough to sign up again this year! But there was a T shirt at stake (I’ve never been as excited about a T shirt as I was about last year’s when it arrived) and there was also a sense of pride and dogged determination. On the tough days I reminded myself why I had signed up again; last year I lost weight and felt so much more energetic by the end of the month. Then I had a word with myself and laced up my trainers.

Motivation is a fleeting emotion. It is nice when it is there, but when it isn’t that doesn’t mean you can’t take action. Reminding yourself why something matters can help with feeling motivated, but equally if you want to make progress then sometimes you just have to do stuff because you are committed to it rather than motivated by it.

Getting the right support is invaluable

There’s a real sense of community created around the event – there are women from around the world who get involved, and using hashtags makes it easy to interact with each other as the month progresses. Within the Facebook group, people shared their challenges and got support and advice; there were also some celebrations of PBs and pictures of some amazing snowy runs. When I was bemoaning heading out in the dark and cold, it reminded me that at least I wasn’t contending with snow! I also ran with other people several times for moral support.  

The point is, support can come in all kinds of forms and it can make a big difference. If you’re as independent as I am, then you might not naturally seek it out. Next time you’re facing a challenge, try asking yourself the question of who or what could help you or make it easier.  

Consistency is king

I didn’t enter Runuary because I am a runner; netball is my thing and I wanted to improve my fitness again after the Christmas break.  Most of my runs were pretty short; less than 15 minutes. But every day, I went out and it made a real difference. By the end of the month my regular 1 mile route was easier and quicker, and I was adding a bit extra onto it.

Small but consistent actions can be incredibly powerful in making big progress. Bold action can seem more aspirational and exciting, but regular commitment to something smaller holds a different power. It inches you forward bit by bit and it helps you create great habits that serve as a platform to build on.

Start easy

One of the secrets to getting started is finding the smallest step possible. When something is easy then excuses to get out of it are harder to find. If I only have to run 100m per day as a minimum, then not signing up for the challenge means saying I can’t find 30 seconds in my day. Life might be busy, but not that busy!

Lots of the advice on goal setting is to dream big and challenge yourself. That is all well and good, but sometimes if you’re trying to create a new habit then it helps to give yourself the chance to get some wins under your belt. So instead of setting your sights high from the very off, just commit to a minimum and then exceed it. I only used the minimum distance on one day when I got home after 10pm and remembered I hadn’t already been out, but knowing it was there and that I had permission to ease back to it if I needed meant I had the confidence to approach the challenge in the first place believing it was possible.

Picture of Jacqui

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