How Becoming a Runner Helped Improve My Finances

May 9, 2013

I began running last spring after realizing that my exercise “routine” had been whittled down to walking to the mailbox and a few random hours of “guilt yoga” – i.e attending class only on days I felt particularly guilty about my utter lack of movement.

Luckily two of my girlfriends (who agreed to embark on the journey with me) were at the same unimpressive exercise level. In those first few weeks, the dread at the beginning of our workouts was tangible. We knew baby steps would be our friend.

We started off speed walking around the entire park, then eventually worked up to running 1 minute and walking 3, then running 3 and walking 1, etc. etc. etc.

The first few months weren’t fun. Period. My lungs hurt, my sides hurt, my throat hurt. And I was irritated.

Then, once I managed to run the entire park without stopping or keeling over, I realized (with utter amazement) that I actually enjoyed running. And a year later, I still enjoy running – so much so that I can now declare it to be a full-on habit and plan on running my first 10k in a few short months.

In looking back on my year of becoming a runner, I’ve noticed that the lessons and successes have actually translated over into my financial life as well. Here are the obvious financial implications:

Running created a routine that didn’t require spending money.

While I’ve always tried to be at least somewhat money conscious, most of my after-work activities involved spending money – grabbing a drink, going to dinner, etc. Then, once my after-work activity became running, I inadvertently curbed this spending. I wouldn’t think of getting a drink before a run, and I wouldn’t crave the unhealthy food I would get eating out after a run.

Which brings me to my next point:

Running changed my eating habits.

I’m not one for preparing elaborate meals (or cooking at all for that matter). In fact, I’ve often referred to myself as a “lazy eater.” I eat the easiest thing possible to curb my hunger.

Running didn’t lead to a complete overhaul of my eating habits, but it made me find healthy options that I could prepare at home instead of at the drive thru. I just didn’t crave a greasy burger after suffering through a 3 mile run. On a subconscious (and conscious) level, my mind realized how counterintuitive that was.

Running didn’t require a gym membership or fancy gear.

Going from zero to one hundred in the workout category meant that I needed to make it as easy on myself as possible – I needed to choose something that didn’t allow for excuses.

Running doesn’t require a trip to the gym, enrolling in a class at a certain time on a certain day, or a huge chunk of the budget.

It really just requires some comfortable clothes and good tennis shoes (which is one expense worth splurging on).

And then there were the not so obvious financial implications:

Running made me feel confident in my ability to make a change.

I used to watch runners at the park and think, “My god, how can they do that??” And the first day I attempted to run, I had no idea how I would ever even make it out of the parking lot.

Now that it’s second nature, I’m proud of the fact that I can start something and actually see it through to the end. This makes me confident in getting in control of all areas of my life – including my finances.

Running gave me laser-like focus.

Not only does running help me quiet my monkey mind, it has helped me to create a habit of focusing on the task at hand and moving to do it without thinking twice. If you don’t give your mind the chance to say “no,” then you don’t have to wrestle with the excuses that might arise.

For me this change happened because of the routine I created around running – as soon as I walk in the door after work, I change into my workout clothes. I don’t allow myself the time to sit on the couch and think twice about going, I just go.

Managing my finances has taken on much of the same feel. I try not to give myself the option of putting things off for another day or another week.

Have the habits you’ve created around exercise helped you to better manage (or spend) your money?