I'm aiming for a good mood all summer long.

“Just three more days!” I tell my kids this morning when I wake them for breakfast. They’re well aware, of course, of the end-of-school-year countdown. No need to remind them, really. But I’m trying to make it fun, and maybe do a little self-reminding that summer break is a very, very good thing. It is. I’m ready for a break from the routine, the structure of backpacks-lunches-homework-afterschool activities. Bring on the beach days.

But there’s adjustments nonetheless. Work I still must tackle is a biggie. Another: setting a summer running schedule. Now that my kids are older, I do feel I can leave them alone at home while I run a quickie around the ‘hood. But it’s not my preference; I’d rather get my exercise in early, before they wake up, or later in the evening when Joe is home. I do know, however, that summer training and me…well, we have a complicated relationship. I haven’t historically been so great at a consistent schedule, partly because I just am not a very good early-riser. I also don’t do so well in the heat of the day, and evenings, well, I like my dinners-on-the-deck. Add softball games (with post-win ice cream), into-the-evening days spent at Lake Michigan, camping excursions…well, you get the picture.

But enough with the excuses. What I do know: I want to maintain my current fitness level. I am looking forward to running the Cherry Festival 5K with my family — all five of us! And, I have recently decided to sign on for the inaugural Lighthouse Half Marathon in Traverse City this October. I’m really excited to train for this race with a good friend.

So it’s that time of year again, when we many of us take a look at the lazy summer days ahead and decide to not be entirely lazy, to make times we spend in the hammock, on the beach or around the table all the sweeter because we feel strong in body, mind and soul. I decided re-posting my stay-strong summer running tips might just help all of us get going — and stay going — over the next couple of months. Michigan summers aren’t nearly long enough, so we need to savor every. single. moment. we can out on the road and trails.

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 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 my first marathon in the 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. There are so many races and volunteers are always appreciated.

Stop into your favorite running store. This is a new one I had to add after visiting Running Fit in Traverse City last weekend. Joe needed to get a new pair of shoes, and while he tried on a few pairs (and my kids discovered how high they could stack the foam rollers), I found myself getting inspired just looking at the signs posted around the store announcing an upcoming race or running-related event. I also got stoked just seeing the new vehicle magnets on display (a favorite: Run MI) and dreaming about the Garmin I hope to buy sometime in the near future. I also had a great conversation about running and trying to stay injury-free with one of the workers, a sweet woman who actually was my gym teacher in junior high. Need some motivation? Go to a store like this. Talk with like-minded individuals, check out the latest gear and accessories. Learn about a new race. I bet you’ll be itching for your next run.

What’s your summer running schedule? Does it vary much from the rest of the year? What keeps you going strong through Labor Day?

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