If You’re Struggling to Create Healthy Habits Try Running

Sometimes things you hate develop who you need to become.

Michael Horner
Jun 17, 2020 · 7 min read
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Develop the habit of running. Photo by Nourdine Diouane on Unsplash

The benefits from incorporating running into your life go far beyond just fitness. Fitness is the obvious benefit, but all the other healthy habits that go along with creating a running habit make this an even better healthy habit.

This coming October I will celebrate my tenth year anniversary of my first run. When I first began running at 46 and 260 pounds, to say I had some bad habits would be the understatement of the century.

From my eating habits to my personal budget, my lifestyle was one train wreck after another.

It didn’t magically change when I first began running, but along the way I have noticed some very curious side benefits that far outweigh the weight loss and overall fitness I now have.

And I despised running! To say I hated running doesn’t go nearly far enough. I was that person who would try and find the rain puddle on the road and time it so I could splash the person running on the sidewalk. I despised the thought of running and I despised those sleek runner bodies showing off their rippling muscles and smiling as they ran along.

Until something changed. For me, it was my pants button popping off and flying across the room. I realized that I was overweight, unhappy, and unproductive. If I didn’t change, I was going to end up a primary example for what not to do with your life.

I didn’t start running when I began to take my weight seriously, but about ten months into going to a gym four days a week, my fitness instructor said to go outside and run around the building.

As I started to open my mouth and tell him, “no, no and hell no”, I suddenly had a thought.

What if this is part of the turn-around in my life? What if running is something that could help me get my life on track?

So, I went outside and ran around the building. And loved it. I loved it so much that I got home and loudly exclaimed to my wife that I was going to run around the block. I had never walked around the block with her before this.

As I began developing a running habit, other healthy habits began to form in my life. These are what keep me running.

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Healthy work habits = healthy future. Photo by Issac Smith on Unsplash

I’ve been in sales or business development since 1993. I’ve had some really successful seasons and some seasons where I couldn’t sell air conditioning to the occupants of hell.

The number one reason I could not develop a consistent string of success was that I lacked healthy work habits. I was prone to bouts of resting on my laurels and expecting good things to fall in my lap.

I lacked the ability to listen because I was so insecure I thought I always had to be talking. It’s impossible to be successful in sales and business development if you don’t know how to listen.

Running taught me that yesterday’s awesome run wouldn’t equate to an awesome run in a month unless I kept running, kept working on my form, kept setting more challenging goals for myself and encouraged other runners when I saw them.

Pay attention to that last one because that is the one habit that will help you be more successful in every area of your life and I learned it from my running tribe.

I lined up for my first running race in December 2010, a 5K Jingle Bell Ball in Williamsburg, Virginia. During those 3.1 miles, I discovered something that has always stuck with me.

I was still round back then. I had slimmed down to about 245 pounds by this time but still large. All the runners took off flying down the road and I took off with them. About a mile into the race, I had to pull up on the side of the road. I thought I was going to have a heart attack.

An older man pulled up beside me to make sure I was okay. He then did something I had never experienced before in my military career, my sales career, my overseas business development career or my church career. This man waited and then he ran with me, encouraging me with tips to stay on pace, to hold some energy in for the kick at the end of the race.

He abandoned his race and helped me cross the finish line successfully.

Apply that same principle to your work career. How would success look differently if you were to abandon your mad dash race for financial independence and you were to encourage and help others finish the race?

Running helped me develop this healthy habit. I am more successful consistently in my career and have flown to heights I never thought I would simply because I developed the habit of consistently taking my eye off myself and helping others.

Running put me in the position I am in today where I am taking over a business in the midst of one of the worse economic downturns of my lifetime with the responsibility to lead and guide people to new areas of success in business.

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Healthy life habits = healthy marriage. Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash

I’ve now been married for thirty-four years. Before I started running, my marriage had become one of those relationships where you live together because it is probably more difficult to figure out how to just give up on having any passion or life together.

My wife was not interested in running with me, but we did discover something that changed our relationship all because of running. We discovered we were both selfish individuals with no plan for doing anything together.

For me, it came on a training run two years after we moved to a tiny town in northeaster Wyoming. Running is the one area where I get out of my head and just seek to listen for long periods. This discovery run was a four-hour mountain trail run where I got hopelessly lost but for some odd reason was incredibly calm.

When I finally made it back to my truck and made my way down the mountain, as soon as I got cell coverage, I called my wife. She was near the stage of panic because as usual, I hadn’t told her where I was going, but had just said I’d be back in a couple of hours.

I realized how selfish I had become in my life as the one person who cared about me was shut out of my life and didn’t even know where I was.

We didn’t have a long talk when I got home, but we began to talk again.

In fact, we began to date each other again. Together we would go for hikes in the mountains because my wife loves walking. We would walk, hold hands, and just talk about where we were going, what we wanted to accomplish in life, and got to know each other again. She would often tell me to go run up the trail a mile and come back to her knowing I was itching for a nice aggressive run.

My wife now crews me on my ultra-marathons. She has learned not to say, “you’ve run far enough, you can stop now”. She has also learned how to tell me to eat and drink. When I am spent at an aid station, or in our virtual races — our entryway, she has learned how to encourage me to get back after it and keep going. When I finish, she feels as if she finished something great also.

We celebrate small victories together. We do the budget together. We plan life together, and we know how to make the other one feel valued.

Running rescued my marriage because I learned how to develop healthy life habits as I developed healthy physical habits.

Often when I am talking with people and discussing developing healthy habits, they ask me how long it took for me to develop healthy habits. They get that disappointed look when I tell them it took years to develop these habits.

We are such a micro-wave society now that we want to see quick results. Take a pill and lose weight. Join a gym and be fit. Lace up your shoes and become an ultra-runner. Kiss a girl and live happily ever after. Go to a protest and get the change you think you deserve.

Life doesn’t work that way. Life is a process of each of us developing habits that benefit others in such a way those good things can happen. The process takes time.

Ever hear the saying, “good things come to those who wait”? Most people don’t want to see, hear or be that saying. We want it now.

But, if you are like me and you are at that point in your life where nothing seems to be going your way, I have one question for you regarding developing these habits over time and being willing to wait?

What do you have to lose in not taking the time to develop good habits? I’m not saying you need to start running…well, maybe I am.

I will tell you that running and the mere work it takes to get out the door or on a treadmill nearly every day will develop in you the discipline to turn around other areas of your life.

If you don’t believe me that running will help you develop these habits, I’ll make a deal with you.

Go running for twenty of the next thirty days. If nothing in your life begins to change, then come back and tell me I’m wrong. However, if you begin to notice that you can tolerate other people more, that you become more productive at work, that you see a difference in your relationships — promise me one thing.

Keep running and keep developing healthy habits.


How to be your best self.

Michael Horner

Written by

From deep depression and overweight in 2010 to multiple ultra-marathon finishes. Writes about running and living life to the full. www.livinganultralife.com


Make tomorrow better today.

Michael Horner

Written by

From deep depression and overweight in 2010 to multiple ultra-marathon finishes. Writes about running and living life to the full. www.livinganultralife.com


Make tomorrow better today.

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