While it’s easy to put off that run, the buzz is irreplaceable

For running to feature higher up that priority list there needs to be a reason, a motivation

Mary Jennings limbers up around Grand Canal Dock. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Mary Jennings limbers up around Grand Canal Dock. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

I am a professional procrastinator. As I write these paragraphs, last minute as usual, I’m reminded that without a deadline I don’t get anything done. Whether it is writing a column, completing a tax return or even making a Christmas cake, the pressure of the deadline is what makes things happen for me. I’m guilty of prioritising email, social media and making tea ahead of taking on the big job. I will do everything but what I need to do until deadline is imminent. Then things happen.

Are you the same?

Putting off running

My running is no different. Without a focus on a race or event, I don’t have the same discipline in keeping a regular running routine. With only myself to answer to, I can blame the rain, my workload or indeed a long to-do list as a reason to postpone or indeed skip a run. Without the prospect of a big running date in the diary, great intentions often get replaced with excuses and the weeks and months can fly by. While there is no shortage of running motivation these days from running buddies to weekly park run, the absence of a running goal makes it easier to steer off track.

Race day deadline

While sometimes it is good to run free and take a break from the structure of training, I know that the times when I have been most consistent, successful and happiest with my running is when I have been working towards a big day out. Race days provided a time milestone, an end goal and a structure to the weeks and months of training. For many years I loved the colour-coded excel spreadsheet which documented my training, my races and my real-life responsibilities that slotted in between running commitments. I enjoyed the shared goals and conversations with my buddies and the discipline of the diary kept me on the straight and narrow. I thrived on the structure of it all and I didn’t give my excuses airtime. I just ran.

Too busy to run?

Fast forward to today and while I still see plenty of these colourful training plans, I’m writing them for others, not following one myself at the moment. You see, I have convinced myself that I am too busy to prioritise my own running this year. Indeed I have more responsibilities now than I had a few years ago and like everyone else my calendars and to-do lists are bursting with commitments. But deep down I know that getting back to a proper running training schedule with a few key dates in the diary would actually make everything else more manageable. I just have been procrastinating getting going again.

A Christmas deadline

If you have great intentions of keeping up your running routine but find, like me, that there is always something else to be done before you run, why don’t you join me in getting back on track this month. Let’s start with a short-term deadline. Sign up for a Christmas fun run or local charity event and make that your first target. Design your training plan and commit to getting going before the year is out. The goal doesn’t need to be hugely challenging to start, we can save that for next year, but if you can get out the door three times each week for the next six weeks you will be in the perfect position to start the new year of running feeling fresh and strong.

I’ll start in January

It is very easy to postpone a new challenge until “sometime” when we have more time and energy. But as time goes on I certainly realise that time may never happen. We can always find a reason or a responsibility that we can use as an excuse to stop us running out the door. We will never get to the end of our to-do lists or laundry baskets. For running to feature higher up that priority list there needs to be a reason, a motivation and a little bit of fear. A date in the diary brings just that.

The 2020 deadline

Your big target doesn’t necessarily mean running long distance. While many runners enjoy the challenge of running a half marathon or longer it is not the only type of motivating goal you can have to keep you on track. You don’t even need to sign up to a formal race. You could design your own individual challenge by running a route you drive or a scenic greenway or path you love. Get inspired by looking up events or routes that tempt you and put those in your diary. For added motivation get someone else to join you. An exciting challenge for 2020 in the diary and a running buddy by your side will make things happen.

It will get easier

Indeed we could all wait until the new year and start with the masses on a health drive in January. But why wait. We all have six weeks on our side before Christmas. It’s time to get that colour-coded spreadsheet up on the fridge. So let’s stop postponing the runners high. No more excuses, no more procrastinating until the weather gets better and the jobs gets done. From now on I’m fitting in my runs first. Can I tempt you to join me?

As for my writing procrastination, I feel I’ll still be last minute on that for another while, but here’s hoping for plenty more writing inspiration when out on the running paths.

  • Mary Jennings is founder and running coach with ForgetTheGym.ie. Mary’s new book Get Running, published by Gill Books, is out now
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