Maintaining the Running Habit

I wrote previously about the challenge that faced me due to being away from my comfort zone in Cambridge for a week. If I wanted to keep up my running habit I would have to continue my runs in a new country away from my familiar routes. I was a bit anxious about whether or not I would be able to achieve this and the effect on my routine if I did fail.

Well, that time has come and gone and I am delighted to report that I did indeed succeed in continuing the running habit. I think there were several factors which helped make this happen, and for your reading pleasure, they are presented below.

Taking my usual kit

It may sound ridiculously obvious, but I made a specific point of taking my running kit with me. So, the usual t-shirt, the usual shorts and the usual shoes. Due to a slight oversight on my part, the usual socks did not make the journey with me, but a more than willing substitute pair was available.

My running kit does not stop there however. I also made a point to remember my arm-band for my phone, as well as the phone itself.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/8169108@N03/2628455329/ Running kit

Having all these bits of kit with me acted as a great motivator to get me out the door and running - after all what would be the point in lugging them all thousands of miles across the globe if they didn't get used?

Staying in a suitable place

I deliberately chose to stay a fair distance from the centre of San Francisco (for that was where I was) so that I would have a choice of routes. I was particularly drawn by the larger swathes of greenery that inhabit the western side of the city.

https://en.wikivoyage.org/wiki/San_Francisco The greener parts of San Francisco

Golden Gate Park in particular was a magnet for me because it looked to about the perfect size to run about in. There was also the enticing prospect of running either north or west to the coast in order to see the Pacific and the Golden Gate Bridge itself. Of course I wasn't quite aware of where all the hills were at this point...

Wanting to continue the habit

As daft as it sounds, I still probably wouldn't have got up early that first morning in order to run in that new environment if I hadn't really wanted to keep this habit going. I knew that I had been doing well - running four days a week every week for a couple of months by that point. I was determined to keep it up.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/my-silent-side/2641841922/ Consistency

Getting up early and getting out the door for a run is now pretty close to being my routine - which is great because it means I can start to focus on other things that I want to improve upon. I really didn't want any kind of setback to derail me, so I was extra motivated to make that effort to keep the routine going.

In some ways I was probably a little obsessed with getting out running. This was going to be my first big test and I didn't want to fail so I made the running a real focus of my 10 day visit.

Planning a route

It's bad enough trying to find a new route in a place you are familiar with, so I was keen to figure out at least a rough idea of where I was going to run. In my case I thought I would be pretty happy running in Golden Gate Park so I figured out the best way to get there and how far round I was likely to be able to go.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Gate_Park Golden Gate Park from the air

In the end I was actually spoiled as my host for the stay recommended a route to and through Golden Gate Park that was the perfect length for me. With a lot of greenery/park land and plenty of sights to see it was a great route. It basically involved running a few blocks to the Panhandle, then running the length of the Panhandle to Golden Gate Park and finally running round Stow Lake before returning back the way I had come.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Gate_Park#Stow_Lake Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park

Usually I try not to re-trace my steps on a run but I didn't want to get myself lost on my first run so I was quite happy about having a bit of back and forth - it definitely helped to cement the area in my mind so that I could always get back there if my route went a bit wrong somehow!

The result

As a result of all these factors, I successfully got out running according to my regular routine. I even exceeded expectations, but that is a story for another post. Five runs in total and I got to see some amazing things - certainly a refreshing change from the flat routes around Cambridge that I am used to.

I am now much more confident that I will be able to continue this habit regardless of where I am. Now all I am waiting for is the opportunity to jet off somewhere new and exciting to test myself once more!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/lutherankorean/9384284982/ Jetting off