The Perfect Running Plan - How to start and stick with it.

The Perfect Running Plan?  How to Start and Stick with Running.

There are so many reasons why people choose to run.  It could be to lose weight, to feel more fit, to help with stress management to name a few.  And running is so simple!  There is no fancy equipment needed.  The only thing needed is a good pair of running shoes and your time.  Just lace up your shoes and head out the door!

So why is it so hard to get started and stick to a plan?

Have you started running on your own or followed a "learn to run" program or "couch to 5km" program - in person or something found online - and just couldn't follow through with it?  Or still ended up with an injury?  So frustrating to follow what seems to be good advice and still get and injury.

It seems there are two issues that might impact your success with running.

1.  Just getting started and sticking to it.

2.  Finding a running program that is right for you.

1.  Some tips to get you started and stick to your running program

Understand YOUR reasons about why you want to run. 

Have you really given thought to WHY you want to run.  And if you have set a goal for a specific distance or time, what is the driving force behind that goal?  Understanding your motivation behind running will help you at times when running feels hard.  And it will feel hard sometimes!

Set your mindset:  I am a runner!

It is so much easier to stop doing something when you don’t believe in yourself.  Believe that you are a runner even before you start!      There is no definition of a runner that says you have to be able to run a certain distance or run at a certain pace, or that most of your run can’t be spent walking.  When you set your mindset to believe that you are a runner - this will influence the choices you make related to running.  Runners plan to run (or walk or walk/run or cross train) on a regular basis.  Not necessarily daily (and actually preferably not daily) but they make the effort to get out.

Make it convenient and easy

Think about your current daily routine.  Where does it make sense to fit a run in?  Perhaps its first thing in the morning before you go to work or start your day?  That’s a common choice and means that you got it done and fewer things will get in the way!  Maybe your schedule won’t allow that because you already get up insanely early! After work or on your lunch might make the more sense.  

Once you have decided the when, create an environment that will help you be successful.  Have your running clothes and shoes ready to go so less thought needs to go in to getting ready to get out the door.

Be accountable to yourself and/or someone else

Put your run in your calendar as an appointment and treat it like that.  We make an effort to respect other peoples time and attend appointments as scheduled.  We should give ourselves that same respect and consideration!  We are only cheating ourselves when we back out of our own running or fitness “appointment”.

Tell your family members your plan and get their support and encouragement to stick to attending our “appointments”.  Or plan to run with someone else.  It is so much harder to cancel when someone else will be impacted.

Reward yourself

Running does have its own intrinsic rewards.  But when you first start, you may not quite experience that “runners high” that you hear other runners talk about.  This might take some time to experience, or may take some time to see the benefits of your running (like weight loss or improved fitness or feeling less stressed).  And when running is hard, it can be hard to keep going when there seems to be no real immediate reward!  

So give yourself a reward!  Maybe its an actual treat when you finish your run (and who cares if that might seemingly defeat the purpose of losing weight…).  Maybe its listening to your favourite songs that you save specifically for your run.  Or maybe its enjoying a really good cup of coffee or latte when you are done.  Eventually you won’t need those extrinsic rewards because the intrinsic reward of running for the sake of running will kick in!

2. Physiotherapists Tips To Choose a Safe and Successful Running Plan

You now have a plan to help you stick to running, but what about the actual running plan that gets you going without injury.  Everyone seems to have a program!  So which program do you pick, or do you just start on your own?

To be honest, many of these programs are very similar and actually quite simple following the same principles of gradual progression of your training.  You are probably wondering, if it's so simple, why are there so many running injuries following these plans?

The plans might be simple but our bodies are not.  Each of us has a different history for our bodies that may be different than your running partner or others following the same running program.

Some things that may influence how to progress a running or fitness program include;

  • Current level of activity/fitness level  
  • Your history of exercise/running/activity over your lifetime 
  • Your history of previous injury.  
  • Your current experience of life stresses 
  • How much sleep do you get  
  • Your age

All of these things have an impact on potential risk for injury and will influence how we progress running or any fitness program for that matter.  

Progression of a running program is about managing load to the tissues (joints, muscles etc).  In order to improve our running/fitness/strength we need to load the tissues.  If we do too little we won’t get stronger.  But if the load is too much, there is increased risk of injury. 

The problem is that we don’t really know where that tipping point is.  And your tipping point will be completely different than your running partners.  That weekly plan in the Learn to Run program does not take this in to account either!  It may not be appropriate to progress your running exactly as laid out in the Return to Run plan, even if it seems very gradual.  The plan should be ever changing and respond to your current life stresses (physical and emotional).

So perhaps there isn’t a perfect learn to run program.

Tips to Create a Running Program that is Right for YOU

  • Listen to your body as to what you are feeling and make changes accordingly.  
  • Surround yourself with people who understand the body and understand running.  
  • Find a Physiotherapist who also understands running to help coach you through the progression of your running plan.

At Fit for Life Physiotherapy our experienced Physiotherapists , who are also experienced runners, can work with you one on one to create a plan that is right for you.  

Miriam Mulkewich, Registered Physiotherapist, has been practicing as a Physiotherapist for over 26 years and has been running for longer.  She has taken numerous courses related to running injury prevention over the years to keep her knowledge up to date.

Natalie Lehto, Registered Physiotherapist, has been practicing as a Physiotherapist for over 23 years and has taken ongoing courses in Pelvic Health Physiotherapy and applies this knowledge when working with women returning to running after pregnancy.  She also works with the Burlington Track and Field club as a volunteer Physiotherapy consultant for their senior distance athletes.

To work with Miriam or Natalie - in person or virtually - to develop a safe and successful running plan call the clinic at (905)333-3488 or email us at