What’s the #1 way to become a better cook? Cook every day.
Want to improve your cello-playing ability? Practice early and often.
Aiming to be a better runner? Then (wait for it!): run consistently.
Whether you are an elite or sub-elite runner looking to shave a few seconds off a fast PR or a total running newbie, just trying to break a 10- or 11-minute mile, consistency will afford you more gains than the latest fancy-pants training trend or a pair of sub-2:00 sneakers. Making running a regular habit – and not talking yourself out of doing it – is the easiest way to improve both your running and your mental grit.
Sweating up a storm while running a steamy ODDysey half marathon
As is the case in many areas in life, sometimes, consistency sometimes even trumps talent. People who get out and run regularly –- when it’s raining, snowing, cold, hot; when they don’t feel like running; when they just had a blowout fight with their spouse; when they are majorly stressed out at work, when they are sore from the previous day’s workout –– develop the mental grit and discipline that some naturally talented but less-consistent runners lack.
I’ve been running sorta-seriously for 7 years now. While I may not be the fastest or the most talented person on the course, I will say that I have been extremely consistent. And more than anything else, I think this has helped me improve.
Deer prints spotted during a wintry run
I trained for several marathons while I worked a stressful job as a creative director in advertising – where they days were long and the weeks were longer. Advertising is not a 9 to 5 gig. Clients’ needs dictated my end of day, which was sometimes 5:30PM and sometimes 9PM, especially when I worked with West Coast clients. Still, I routinely got up at 4:30AM to squeeze in 13-mile midweek training runs and speed sessions.
Was it hard? Of course. But I felt so much more energized after running, knowing that I’d had “my” time and that I prioritized what was important to me. Not only was it good for me as a runner, but my ability to handle job stress also improved. After my run, I could handle almost anything at work: dueling deadlines, client crises, equipment malfunctions, employee freakouts – even all at once. I was good to go because I got in my run. Had I not run, I’m certain I would have been more stressed, plus I would have been upset at myself for not running.
Common Philly winter running scene.
When I look back over old photos, I see images from all kinds of runs: great runs; shitty runs; frozen hair runs, 3-layers-of-clothing-I-can’t-put-my-arms-down runs; windy runs, business trip runs; 95%-humidity-sweaty-Betty runs in teeny-tiny clothing; track workouts in downpours; runs when 4 of 10 toenails were missing; speedwork on the treadmill when it was too icy to run outside; vacation runs – including runs in the Caribbean heat and humidity, the Icelandic chill and darkness, and the 110-degree desert (where, no lie, where I was once chased by a coyote!).
Frozen hair, don’t care
Instagram is flooded with shots of people who log in their runs. And I admire their consistency. I like watching their background images change throughout the seasons while their grit and determination remain stalwart.
The perfect days when all the stars align are a gift – days when you wake up super motivated to run, when the weather is perfect, when people are nice, where you feel no job stress, and you run like a Kenyan stud. When they come –– once or twice a year — cherish them. The other days, embrace your health and be grateful that you can run. If your run sucks, then embrace the suck. It’s but just one run in a sea of runs in your life. A bad run is better than no run.
Regardless of innate running ability, consistency is a skill that every single person is capable of improving. So, get out there and run.