How small changes can help us get out the door…

Even though we love the feeling that running (or walking) give us, we often find it hard to get going. In The Irish Times this week, I discuss exactly this – how to procrastinate less and actually get ourselves out for that walk or run… Read on….

How small changes can help you get out the door

It’s a commonly cited quote that the hardest step for a runner is the first step out the front door. I completely believe it and I know I’m not alone. Many of us spend more time thinking about going for a run than actually being out there in the fresh air enjoying running. We love the feeling that running gives us, yet despite all our great intentions, we often procrastinate so much that we end up not running at all. So why is it that we avoid doing something that makes us feel so good?

Feeling guilty?

Firstly, if you are berating yourself about your lack of willpower, please stop. We are all leading very busy lives and by the time you have looked after your work, home and other commitments, it can be hard to find the energy to make time for yourself. Motivation is still pretty low in general this month. The spring has been slow to appear, the international news is heartbreaking and covid remains very much in our minds. If you are feeling a little guilty for not being motivated, try not to blame yourself.

It is not your fault

Our environment plays a huge factor on the decisions we make. We may think our motivation to run comes from within, but often it is the setup in our environment that really makes it happen (or not). Our home, workplace, neighbourhood, friends and even the weather all play their part in dictating what we choose to do in our spare time. We all have different schedules,  responsibilities and people in our lives, all of which can place barriers or opportunities in our running path.

Nudging us out the door

In a nutshell, we need to work out how we make going outdoors more tempting than staying inside.  After a long winter, many of us are used to cosy evenings on the couch and it would be very easy to keep that routine going. We must accept our body will always want to choose the easiest path, especially after a long busy day. Decision fatigue is real in our fast paced world where we have used up much of our willpower resources long before we arrive home in the evening. So we need to make it easy on ourselves to move and go outside. We need to reduce the amount of decisions that need to be made so there are less barriers in our environment to running. Here are my 4 approaches to make that happen :

  1. What will I wear

Always have your running clothing ready to go. From underwear to hi vis, set them out in a pile the night before you plan to run or have them all together in one drawer for easy access. Include your running technology and gadgets here too. Searching for clean socks or waiting for a watch to charge might only seem a minor inconvenience, but these little annoyances are the ones that delay and distract you from getting out the door. Better still, pop on the running gear long before you plan on going. Once you are wearing comfortable clothing, you are more likely to stretch and get ready. You are certainly much less likely to sit down on the couch.

  1. Why am I going?

Sometimes we need to remind ourselves why we love running so much. Frame a few of your favourite race day photos or medals and put them on view at home. Set your screensaver on your computer to one of your favourite running routes or memories. Create a countdown on a calendar to an upcoming event/race in the diary. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you to get ready to run. Keep a motivating running magazine on your coffee table. All these little tokens prompt you to remember how important running is to you and how it makes you feel. That will make you more keen to get out the door.

  1. Where will I go ?

Make sure that every training session has a purpose and you know your route and the type of training session you will well in advance of getting ready to go. Having your training plan printed out and impossible to miss acts as a gentle reminder of what lies ahead. Without structure, we can dismiss the value of our training and put off going. Knowing the exact route and purpose of our run avoids indecision and makes us more focussed. Enlist an enthusiastic member of your family to tick off your training runs or reward you with gold stars if you need a little social support at home.

  1. When will I go?

The biggest problem for most of us is that we wait until we have everything else done before we prioritise ourselves. Often this time never arrives, or when it does, all we are fit for is the couch. Having a set time to go out is often the only way to move ourselves up our to-do list. One sure fire way of making this happen is to have arranged to meet someone else. Make small changes to your home environment to make this a possibility. The commitment of knowing you are meeting a friend or a running group will ensure you don’t put yourself last on your to-do list. The people we choose to spent time with outside of our home are such a key part of our environment and our success.

Refreshing our environment

Often our environments can be working against us, making it an uphill struggle to make time for ourselves. Our home environment is often filled with jobs we need to do, kids with big appetites as well as technology that can absorb and distract us. In the winter we may close the curtains at dinner time and put an end to the day of opportunity. But next week the clocks change. Now is a chance to expand our opportunities and create new habits for the brighter longer evenings. Let’s not rely on motivation and willpower this week. Just focus on making one change to your environment that will make it easier to go and run than it is to stay indoors.

This article by Mary Jennings published in The Irish Times on 22nd March 2022.

If you need a little inspiration here are all the ways we can help you get moving at ForgetTheGym.