Improving means making mistakes

If you want to get fit, go for a run.
If you want to change your life, become a runner.

No, don’t worry, this is not an article with the usual motivational phrases to push you over the edge and get you out of your comfort zone. Or rather, it was not born with that intention, but if it should then give you some insights about, that’s ok. This is an article about habits, trial and error , and, most importantly, the mistakes that beginning runners can make.

Let’s start with the first thing then: our habits.

As messy and unpredictable as they can be, we all have habits, especially if our ID card says we are over 30 years old. These are all those things that we do more frequently than others, even without scheduling them, and that we could roughly distribute not over a single day, but over a time space of at least a week. For example, a habit might be washing your car on Sunday morning, or going grocery shopping on Saturday afternoon. We could consider as habits all those things to do for which we can choose when to do them, so from the very long list we could draw up we can exclude work, study and a few other things. Everything else is changeable, and to find the right way to modify it, we have to go to the next step.

Attempts, that is: the spring that sparks us forward

Before becoming a runner, that is, deciding that running should be a constant part of my life, I used to wash my car on Sunday mornings. It was not a taxing thing, but it was my habit. It used to take me about an hour and a half to do all the cleaning with the vacuum inside and bucket and soap on the outside (about the time I take even now, by the way). Here, since I started long-distance running, the words “Sunday morning” have morphed into “Sunday morning long run,” so the car-washing habit has necessarily had to undergo changes.

The first attempt had been to wash it after running, but it failed miserably, because from the very first time, not even halfway through the wash, I was already late for the family’s peremptory Sunday lunch (here, this is another example of non-habit, because you cannot decide the time). Then I tried to change the day for washing, but by moving it to Saturday afternoon I couldn’t do the grocery shopping comfortably. I then attempted to do midweek washing. No way: too little time.

The solution was simple, though a bit costly in terms of mental effort: wake up earlier on Sunday and go for a run planning the timing so that when I returned I would have the hour and a half needed to wash the car. After the first four or five times, myhabit of washing the car on Sundays had become a habit of running and then washing the car. Successful attempt.

Mistakes MUST be made

Eh, you didn’t expect that, did you? Usually you read lists of mistakes not to make, but not this time. Because the habits you have to build through trial and error necessarily come through mistakes, and those are strictly personal and not identifiable for everyone except in broad strokes. If it is easy to, for example, advise you not to overload your body with too heavy workouts-which is a good suggestion for anyone-to advise you to wash your car on Saturday afternoons makes much less sense, because it is something that may apply to me but not to everyone else.

What do you have to do then? Easy: get a training plan (any distance is fine), put it in your calendar and then sit at your desk, couch or wherever and see for yourself how you can fit all the things in your life with running. Don’t be discouraged if sometimes one of the things you planned to do will come up short, or you won’t have enough time. It’s part of the game and you need it to improve. Change something in your habits, give it another try, and see if the mistake you made is resolved.

The transition from a person who runs from time to time to keep in shape to one for whom running is part of life is all here, in not demoralizing oneself, looking for new solutions, and not getting angry about making mistakes. Which is a new to-do list, I know, but you didn’t really expect that there wasn’t even a tiny little list at all, did you?


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