How to Make a Habit of Running by Building a Habit Loop

The power of action toward building momentum in goals is a key concept in the Habit Loop. In order to establish new habits, it is important to create momentum and build upon previous behaviors so that you can create positive changes over time.

In this example of establishing my own habit of running, there were three key phases to making running a habit:

– Define the goal and plan ahead (Establish “Future Self”)

– Start small and work towards your goals (establishing good habits)

– Track, acknowledge progress & celebrate milestones.

First establish what you want to do. One of my favorite examples for this step is “The Paper Method.” This technique allows you to visualize the habit as a physical object. Most importantly, it helps you track your progress and become aware of milestones in your new behavior.

To start out with my example habit of running, I found an old bottle of wine (you can use any similar size container) and wrote down on a piece of paper “I will run three times per week.” I stuck this note in the bottle. Every time I completed one of my runs, I would write (on another slip) what day/time and how far I ran. At the end of every month, when there was no more room in the bottle, I would tally up how many miles I had run and celebrate my progress.

This may seem silly or like too much work for some people, but it was an incredibly effective way for me to see tangible evidence of my progress and stay motivated. There were times when I didn’t feel like running, but because I could look in the bottle and see that I had already run three times in a week, it inspired me to go out there anyway.

Once you have started your new behavior consistently for about 30 days (this is when your habit should be founded), then you can move on to Phase Two: increasing the number of repetitions per week.

After every month, I would increase the number of times per week that I ran. When you first start running it’s easy to have three days a week be your goal and then move up from there. Once again, after every month or so, if my habit was strong enough (i.e., I could run at least four out of five weeks), I would increase the number of times per week I ran.

I continued doing this until eventually, my habit was running six days a week and three miles each time (for a total of 18-20 miles). At that point, it became quite easy because I had built up so much momentum in my new behavior that it just became what came naturally to me.

This example may not be right for everyone, but it is a great way to understand how habits work and the best time frame that they should take hold in your life.


– RTCL Member