Many people love the idea of running -- sculpting a lean physique and a high-horsepower heart, maybe even finishing a marathon. Unfortunately, the reality of repeatedly putting one foot in front of the other when your body's not used to it can be daunting enough to overwhelm even the most vivid daydreams of kicking endurance butt. That's why it's critical to have an ability-appropriate training plan centered around specific goals and instructions.
Plan in Advance
Establish a concrete running goal with a definite end date. This may be completing a road race of a given length, losing a certain amount of weight or merely completing a five-mile run without having to walk.
Assess your current level of running fitness. You can do this in a number of ways, such as running a 5K for time or trying to cover a given number of miles without stopping.
Create a training plan around your goal and fitness level. You can use an online source such as the "Couch-to-5K" plan for newbies or a more advanced schedule, or you can hire an online or local coach to do the work for you.
Print out your plan and your goal and put them in a prominent place, such as on your bedroom wall or the refrigerator door. You can even use your goal as your PC or cell-phone wallpaper.
Make it Happen
Choose a time for your run each day that you train. If possible, head out at the same time every day -- not only will this reinforce running as a habit, but it's physiologically sound as well. Failing this, try to at least know when you'll be doing any given run a good week in advance, and ink this on your training plan.
Partner up with someone with a similar schedule, goal and fitness level, if you want to. This adds a layer of commitment and accountability to your plan for those inevitable days when you need a kick in the butt to get out the door.
Record your training after every run, either on your schedule or on a separate sheet. Include details such as the weather, the terrain and how you felt in addition to the nuts and bolts such as distance and pace.
Analyze your training at the end of each week to ensure that your goal appears realistic -- challenging without being a pipe dream. Amend it if you have to in order to make it conform to reality, as chasing something that's either a given or unlikely to happen can erode your resolve.
L.T. Davidson has been a professional writer and editor since 1994. He has been published in "Triathlete," "Men's Fitness" and "Competitor." A former elite cyclist with a Master of Science in exercise physiology from the University of Miami, Davidson is now in the broadcast news business.