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Habit stacking: a helpful tool for busy runners

Forget to stretch? Can't find time to foam roll? Use habit-stacking to get it all done

Being a runner is a lot of work. On top of all your daily mileage, you’re supposed to be stretching, doing form drills and mobility work, strength training, cooking healthy meals and getting eight hours of sleep every night. Combine that with a full-time job, family and other life commitments, and there just don’t seem to be enough hours in the day. It can be easy to let some habits slide when you’ve got so much to do, but habit-stacking can help you get it all done and have some time to spare.

The term “habit stacking” was coined by S.J. Scott, the author of Habit Stacking: 97 Small Life Changes That Take Five Minutes or Less. The concept, according to Scott, is simple: by adding new habits on top of existing ones, you’re more likely to do them consistently over the long term.

4 keys to making running a habit

Habit stacking for runners

Building a new habit is hard, because until it’s a habit, it can be difficult to remember to do it or find the time to fit it into your already busy schedule. Activities that are fairly mindless or automatic, that you’re already doing, are great opportunities for habit stacking, because they’re usually times when you aren’t doing anything else (like brushing your teeth, watching T.V. or waiting for your coffee to be ready). You likely do all three of those habits every day, so they’re great candidates for habit stacking because you’re not likely to forget to do them. Every time you go to do that activity, it will act as a reminder to also do whatever habit you’re trying to ingrain.

For example, if you have trouble finding time, or remembering, to foam roll, you can spend 10 minutes doing it while you watch your favourite T.V. show. If you always forget to stretch (or don’t want to take extra time out of your day to do it), do a few light stretches while you make your coffee in the morning. You can even practice your single-leg balance or get some extra strength training (think air squats, lunges or calf raises) while you brush your teeth. Committing five minutes for some core work after your run or doing some strides in the middle of your run are other good examples of habit stacking.

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Habit stacking is a simple way to make new habits stick. Doing some calf raises while you’re brushing your teeth may not sound like a big deal, but gains are made through small, consistent habits over time, so if you’re having trouble fitting everything you need to do into your daily schedule, use the things you’re already doing as a springboard for incorporating new, positive behaviours into your daily routine.