sunset runner

In many ways, summer is actually the worst season for running: it’s hot, humid and there seems to be no shortage of other activities you could be doing instead. But with autumn just a few weeks away–and with it, the fall racing season–now is the best time to prioritize your running.

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Whether it’s been a few weeks or even a few months since you last laced up on a regular basis, returning to running should be easier now that the fall season is on the horizon. The best way to make your running routine stick is to start small, set short-term goals and celebrate your successes along the way. Here’s how:

Step 1: Start (small)

You know how that motivational quote goes… Something about a journey starting with a single step. In this case, that’s applicable and we mean it literally. Everyone has to start somewhere. Whether you’re walking a mile for the first time or aiming to complete your 15th marathon, focus on where you are now and not where you want to be tomorrow.

Once you’ve committed to start, the next important step is to make time for running. Even 15 minutes will do. Not to overdo it with the cliches, but getting out the door truly is the hardest step. Set yourself up to succeed by sharing your plans with a friend or family member–in order to create accountability–and by setting out your shoes and exercise gear in advance so you’re ready to go.

Step 2: Set (short-term) goals

Once you’ve resumed running, you’ll want a reason to keep at it. Setting goals is the most effective way to do this. Short-term goals can be daily, weekly or monthly and will allow you to gauge your progress (and success) as you go and provide you with ongoing motivation. Be sure to set a number of goals and aim to meet them as closely as you can. Remember to set S.M.A.R.T–specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-oriented– goals too.

RELATED: On setting a variety of training goals

Daily goals: Take the stairs over the elevator. Schedule 30 minutes for your run. Make a healthy lunch to eat rather than buying take-out.

Weekly goals: Run three times including a longer run on the weekend. Do a strength, core or flexibility class. Buy a few new fruits or vegetables and make a meal you normally wouldn’t.

Monthly goals: Aim to run a certain amount of kilometres or total minutes this month. Try running more days than you don’t this month. Cut out or minimize your “bad food” habit.

Step 3: Celebrate success and forgive failure

We runners are often far too hard on ourselves and constantly want and expect more than what we’re currently giving (which is usually a lot). It’s important we take time to celebrate every success, which will help to reinforce good habits and behaviours.

It’s also important to let things slide from time to time and not dwell when we miss a run (or two), have a bad run (or two) or let our (usually good) diets slide.

Ultimately, being a runner is about incorporating a feel-good activity into a healthy, active lifestyle. Be proud to be a runner, celebrate yourself and share your passion with others.

RELATED: Frustrations of the Type A runner

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