What's not to love about summer running?

This morning in my neighborhood I crossed paths with three other runners. Which doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s more than I’ve seen out in our not-that-big ‘hood at 6:45 a.m. It got me thinking, though, about how maybe these runners are out more often than I think — it’s just me who is not out there to notice.

I’m starting to have a déjà vu summer running experience that goes a little something like this:

Nighttime: I’m going to get up in the morning and run! I’m going to run 6  days this week, just like when I was training for the marathon!

Morning: Is that my alarm going off? Yep, that’s my alarm. <hit snooze> I’ll get up in a minute…an hour later, I’m awake — because my youngest is standing next to our bed. “I’m hungry, Mommy.”

So I’ll squeeze in a run later in the day (if it’s not too terribly hot) or I’ll maybe, just maybe, find an hour at dusk to head over to the trails. This is all well and good — when it works out. But more often than not, it is too terribly hot. And my daughter has a softball game, or we have family visiting, or I have a deadline…so it’s back to the mornings, the time of day when you’re most likely to get cooler weather and time that’s yours alone. I know this is the best time to just do it. It’s making it a consistent thing that seems to be my stumbling block.

But I’m determined. That’s half the battle, right? Now for the follow-through. I’m putting it out there — my goal of getting up and running in the mornings — in hopes that stating it for all to hear will help me stick with my plan. This isn’t the first time I’ve started to let my running routine slip (I’m sure it won’t be my last), but I’m not going to stay down. Gotta keep getting back up. To that end, I figured there’s got to be at least a few of my readers dealing with something similar, and I know there’s things that will help me stay on track. So here’s my unscientific list of ways to stay motivated during summer.

Don’t think too hard about it. I could drive myself nuts coming up with a plan, but I think simple is the smartest: shoot to run every day, knowing there’ll be mornings that just don’t work out for any number of life reasons. Set alarm, set out clothes the night before, set coffee maker to brew as you run — and then just get up and go. Just go. The first few steps (or even miles) might feel rough, but you’ll get into a groove. You won’t regret going.

Grab some friends. Much of the time I run alone. It’s just the way it’s worked out for various reasons. But I do enjoy running with friends, so I’m making an extra effort to line up running dates with my fellow early-morning exercising friends. One big bonus to this: my two closest running friends live far enough away that I have to hop in my car to get to them. Knowing I need to get up and drive, that they’re waiting for me and that I’ll be getting a change of running scenery is motivating.

Remember how great routine can be. When people ask me how I ever managed to find time to train for a marathon last winter and spring — especially outside throughout Michigan’s cold and snowy winter — I tell them a significant factor was building the training into my everyday routine. Sure, it was different and tough at first, running morning after morning after morning. But it truly became habit. You get to the point where you feel off if you’re not running at that same time. For me, it meant going from pj’s to running clothes nearly every day, driving kids to school, then running the city streets after dropping them off. I carved out that one hour (or more) between kid-duty and work, pretty much penciling it into my calendar, and it wasn’t long before I realized I never scheduled anything else for that time — no work meetings, no doctors appointments, nothing. Maybe it’s the lunch hour for others, or late afternoon or evening. Whatever the time is that works for your life, find it and use it — consistently. I haven’t always been known as the most planning kind of person, but the older I get, the more I appreciate it. And when it comes to exercise, I’m a firm believer in it.

Sign up for a race (or two or three). Races may not be the end-all-be-all for your running — we all run for so many different reasons, the opportunity to race being just one — but for me  there’s nothing like having a date on my calendar to get me revved up. I’m also learning the benefits of not only running a race, but helping behind-the-scenes. I’m serving for the first time on a race committee, for this weekend’s Cherry Festival races, and it’s been both fun and educational doing my small part. Spending time with other runners talking running is always a treat, too. I’m also signed up for the event’s 15k, and I recently signed on for the 10k portion of a triathlon relay in August. Beyond that, I’m planning for the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco in October and, hopefully, Boston in April. Knowing I have all these coming up, and really wanting to actually feel great running them, I’m motivated to keep running strong.

How’s your summer running going? Are you all about routine? What keeps you in the game?

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