I hate running. I hate the feet-pounding, ear-ringing, heavy-breathing, thigh-burning process of it. I hate putting on my shoes, finding my headphones, and walking out the door. I hate that moment halfway through where I realize I am only halfway through. But here are some other things I hate: Broccoli. Spring. Drinking water. I’m really just a hater, and my primary targets are things that are good for me. I am a creature of inertia, and it takes a lot to get me off the couch. But I’m going to unveil my secret weapon for you today: how to get off the couch and start running.
Make it easy to say Yes and hard to say No
Ring ring. You wake up, roll over, and shut your alarm off. Groggy eyes see your running shoes and clothes on the floor next to your bed. All you have to do is wake up, put them on, and you’re out the door. If you’re not a morning person, do it anyway. You’re already grumpy, so this is a good time to get something you hate out of the way. It’s easy to say yes when everything is already in front of you. A yes is a yes, even if it’s a baleful “fine, I guess I’ll start running.”
If you decide not to run, you have to step over what you set out last night. Now you have a choice. You can either pick up your shoes to put them away, or you can leave them there and let them judge you all day. Soon or later you’re going to have to get off the couch and then you’re going to remember this article about how to get off the couch and start running, and then you’ll think about those shoes again, judging you from the closet or the floor where you left them. It’s hard to say no when you know it will haunt you all day.
How to take it up a notch: Ask someone to be your accountability buddy. If you say yes, you can text them a triumphant picture when you start running or when you complete your run. If you say no, you have to tell them that you have disappointed them and text them a picture of your sad shoes, unworn and unloved.
I may hate running, but I love audiobooks. You might love a certain musical artist, or a certain trail through the woods. You may love how it feels to come home after having done something strenuous for so long. You may love the hot shower you get to take afterward. Whatever it is, find something you love and use it as a tool to get you off the couch and forming a new habit. When you start running, start listening to a new book: one you will only listen to while your feet are moving. Use your favorite album as a motivation, or purposefully start running early in the morning, on a route that will take you through the woods at sunrise.
This is an essential brain-hack in forming any new habit. Find something, anything to reward your brain with. Endorphins are addictive and when you purposefully generate them in association with something you don’t like to do, you will associate that addictive happiness with something you previously disliked.
How to take it up a notch: Put your treat out in the open where you can see it every day. Now you’re also using that “hard to say no” rule. It will taunt you until you get to have it.
Create a goal
One of the biggest rushes of endorphins occurs when we reach a goal. This is why games like Candy Crush are so addictive. They set the bar low at first. Every time you pass an easy level, you get a reward. But the levels gradually get harder and harder, and the rewards bigger and bigger. You’re spending days or even weeks on a single level, and when you finally pass that, it’s so exciting. Now put down your phone, get off the couch, and start running. When you first start running, it’s exciting to reach the end of the street (even if you’re already winded). Now you have to turn around and go home even more tired, and that’s a bigger goal. Reward yourself with one of the treats mentioned above. Next time you’ll go even further.
Set an ultimate goal and a timeline. Make sure it’s something concrete, not just “I want to feel better” or “I want to be a runner.” Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Pick a 5k race you want to run and sign up for a certain date a few months in advance.
- Choose a goal weight and a big event that you want to reach it by.
- If you struggle with a certain health indicator that running will help, make a doctor’s appointment and pledge to beat your previous statistics by that point.
How to take it up a notch: Choose a goal with an entry fee. Now it’s hard to say no and lose that money you have already invested.
There you have it: my tried and true method for how to get off the couch and start running. It’s a series of simple brain hacks that will trick you into enjoying it: if not the actual process, at least you will enjoy the results. Stop thinking. Start running. Just do it.
What are your tips to get off the couch? Share your ideas in the comments below!