3 of the Worst Habits Runners Have (And How to Break Them)
We runners are creatures of habit. Sure, cementing that initial habit of consistent running into place can be arduous. But, once that’s done, there’s just no stopping us. From pre-run rituals to post-race celebration methods and beyond, we tend to pick up new habits fast. And they stick. But are they all good for us…?
Here are three of the worst runner habits, and how to break them.
1. Neglecting strength and balance training
While most runners can see the value of regular strength and balance training, many still neglect to do it. Why? Is it our hectic lifestyles? Or the fact that we prefer running above all other forms of exercise? Or perhaps we somehow believe that a quick, focused strength session won’t make any difference?
That’s exactly where we’re wrong. Because as little as five to ten minutes of focused, quality strength and balance training twice a week can not only improve our running efficiency, but also decrease our chances of injury in the long run. The trick is to just do it and get it over with. So, without thinking or reasoning about it too much, simply get into the habit of getting it done directly after two of your easier weekly runs.
Yes, it’s a pain. And yes, we know you’d rather be running. But boy, will it pay off in the end. Just do it.
2. Being a one-speed (and one-route) wonder
While slow, steady running is sure to benefit you in terms of general fitness and basic endurance, never varying your running speed or -route is sure to lead to a physical and mental plateau. Sure, doing the same run at the same speed over and over still beats sitting on the couch, but why not add some fun, new elements to challenge both body and mind? Something as simple as a weekly interval-, hill repeat- or stair running session will break up the monotony of a running routine gone stale, and challenge you in new ways while building strength at the same time. Try it!
3. Trying to outrun a bad diet
Yes, anyone can run on a bad diet. And yes, some even succeed in performing relatively well on such a diet. (For a limited time, anyway.) But a diet consisting of mostly junk food will not help you perform optimally. Or make you feel as good as you can feel. So why not experiment with just how good a runner you actually can be by switching to a more nutritious, wholesome diet? (Note that we’re not advocating fad diets. We’re referring to getting rid of the junk (read: soda, sweets and overly processed stuff) and replacing it with good old wholefoods (read: unprocessed veggies, fruits, nuts, legumes, grains and the like).
And while eating junk must be one of the hardest habits to kick, there are ways in which you can help set yourself up for success. Such as the following:
- Rid your house of junk. If you stash bags of crisps and boxes of candy in your pantry, chances are good that you’re going to reach for them when time and energy levels run low. Instead, stock your shelves with healthier, more nourishing on-the-go options, like fruit, nuts, chopped veggies and hummus. Make reaching for something healthy a no-brainer.
- Be prepared. There’s nothing like arriving home ravenously after a hectic day to make you grab and devour whatever’s in sight. Even if it’s junk. So make sure you’re prepared by pre-prepping some nutritious dishes or snacks over the weekend and stashing some away for crazy days.
- Always bring your own snacks. Whether it’s for a vacation, back-to-back meetings or full day of being mom-on-the-move, pack your own snacks. Having nutritious options on hand will help prevent impulsive junk food purchases when the hunger strikes.
- Subscribe to a healthy meal-delivery service. Short on time? Why not subscribe to a healthy meal delivery service? Having a box full of ready-cut veggies and pre-measured ingredients waiting at your front door when you get home will help you get in the habit of preparing a healthy family meal instead of reaching for convenient junk food options when time is limited.
So how long does it take to make a new habit stick?
So how long will it take to kick these bad habits and replace them with better ones? Contrary to popular belief, it does not, in general, take a mere 21 days to form a new habit. A 2009 study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology found that, on average, it takes closer to 66 days. Yep, it can take more than two months for new behavior to become automatic. Also keep in mind that that was just the average calculated for this specific study – we’re obviously all different and won’t magically fit into a single cookie mold. Building a new, positive habit may therefore take even longer than two months.
If you need a little help to get going
But don’t let the fact that it may take long discourage you from trying to build good habits. We live in a day and age where technology can assist with almost anything; yes, even forming new habits and breaking old ones. Here’s a tip to help you get it done: Use an app. “Streaks”, an iPhone app that sells for US$4.99, tracks your progress in forming a new habit, or breaking an old one, through numbers, charts and graphs. So if you’re a numbers geek, physically seeing your streak numbers grow is sure to motivate you to keep going.
And don’t worry, if you don’t have iOS, there’s an option for you too. HabitHub is similar to Streaks and allows you to track up to five habits for free. Unlimited habit tracking will set you back US$4.99.
Don’t be discouraged if you fail
But perhaps the most important lesson from the 2009 habit study is this: Don’t be discouraged when you fail. Kicking a bad habit (or forming a good one) is hard work, and we all fall off the wagon sometimes. And perhaps it is then that we tend to get tripped up by the worst habit of all: Quitting after a small setback. The good news is that the study found that “missing one opportunity to perform the behavior did not materially affect the habit formation process”. So, in other words, messing up every now and again does not mean that you won’t be successful in kicking a bad habit. Or replacing it with a good one. Just get back up, dust yourself off, and try again.
- 5 Runners Get Real About How They Broke Their Bad Habits, Online publication ,
- How Long Does It Actually Take to Form a New Habit? (Backed by Science), Online publication ,
- How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world, Scientific journal ,
- 7 Habits Of Highly Effective Runners, Online publication ,