I am a runner. Haven’t always been, but I am now.
And there is something about running, far more than aerobic breathing and oxygenated muscles, that I find freeing. There is an almost mediative dimension to it: the uninterrupted quiet, the metronomic repetitiveness, the sensual immersion in the environment, the zen-like emptying of the mind – not having to do or say anything. Just running.
And yet despite my love for running, I still find it incredibly difficult to motivate myself to do it. When that alarm begins to beep on the outskirts of my warm duvet, I immediately commence a wrestling match with myself…
“I’m tired. I went to bed late last night. I’ll run tomorrow. I deserve a break. I’m sure it’s raining outside.”
All the excuses I can muster come marching through my mind in defiant procession. And then when I do give in, I always regret it later. “I should have run this morning!”
So now I have a system that works every time. A little trick I play on my brain.
I tell myself, when the beeping and the wrestling begins, “I won’t go for a run. All I’ll do is get out of bed and put on my running shoes. That’s easy. I can do that. Then after that I can take them off and get back into bed and go back to sleep. Simple.”
Except it’s never happened. I’ve never gotten back into bed.
Because the reality is once I have my shoes on, I automatically put my running clothes on, and then once I’m dressed it’s like, “Well, I’m already up now, I might as well go running.”
And then I run. And I love it.
There is actually brain research that proves why this works. And the fundamental principle is that when we decide to make one small change, it can actually make a huge difference. Neuroscientists call it a “keystone habit” – a habit that has the potential and capacity to change many other habits in its wake.
When you change one thing, it changes everything.
I think sometimes we get so overwhelmed by all the things we want to do and change and improve that we become paralysed. It’s all too much. And we don’t always know where or how to start. So whether you’re trying to eat better, read more or connect with your kids – instead of striving to overhaul your whole life and change everything you eat/do/think, rather focus on one small next step – like drinking an extra glass of water a day, or having one family meal a week. You’ll be amazed at where it might lead.
It doesn’t even have to be a great next step, just a doable one. Like putting on your running shoes.
And my guess is, if you put on your shoes, you may just find yourself running.
And you’ll love it.