Power of Habit

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Champions don’t do extraordinary things. They do ordinary things… They follow the habits they’ve learned. —Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit

As a trail runner, you can do little things  every day that will make or break you. The small routines may not seem to matter sometimes, but all successful trail runners employ the power of habit. What positive habits can you borrow from the elites?


Ultrarunner and Coach, 57, of Cool, California
Career Highlights: 10 top-10 finishes at Western States 100, ran for the United States in the World 100K Championships for eight consecutive teams.


Body-Maintenance Mindset

Laws tries to treat her body like a high-end car. “An oil change, or new tires, are the equivalent of new shoes or a new hydration pack that doesn’t chafe,” she says. “More important are the big things like a new timing belt or brakes, so I recommend going to the PT every few months or getting a massage at least once a month.”


The habit of constant tweaks and maintenance helps you avoid injuries. This allows for more time training and helps maintain your level of competition. “I believe that the PT treatments and learning good biomechanics got me where I am today,” says Laws.

Put It into Practice

Laws suggests that beginners and injury-prone athletes especially benefit from routine body work.

In addition to massages and PT sessions, she feels all runners should develop small habits like foam rolling, strength work and stretching.


Ultrarunner and Coach, 32, of Phoenix, Arizona
Career Highlights: 100-mile American record holder (11:40:55), 12-hour world-record holder (101.7 miles), three-time national champion (2x 50-mile, 100K).



“The most important habit I practice and promote to my coaching clients is consistency,” says Bitter.


Consistency benefits you both physically and mentally. “The body will adapt to your lifestyle and if you are consistent in your training, that adaptation will carry over on race day,” says Bitter. “Toeing the starting line knowing you were on top of your training and consistently putting in the work can greatly ease your mental strain.”

Put It into Practice

Getting started with the habit of consistency is as simple as sitting down, analyzing your schedule and prioritizing training time. Look at what your life entails and what kind of training you can realistically handle.

“I usually start with what is causing any inconsistency,” says Bitter. “Often it ends up being lack of accountability or simply not allowing yourself to take the time needed to work toward your running goals.”


Ultrarunner, 31, of Omaha, Nebraska
Career Highlights: 2016 Western States 100 winner, 2016 Ultrarunner of the Year.


Goal Setting

“One of the most important habits that has helped me succeed at being a top runner is my drive toward goals,” says Lickteig.

It’s hard to find a top trail runner who has no goals in place. Goal setting comes as second nature for elites.


According to Lickteig, a goal will make it easier for you to get out the door every day. By setting short-term goals, you will take small steps to your long-term goals. These will help you to see where your training is headed.

Put It into Practice

“I started with a long-term goal to run my first 100 miles,” says Lickteig. “I found a race that caught my eye and heart, the Black Hills 100. So, I set short-term goals to help me get there. I built races into my training plan to train myself up to the distance and terrain. Those short-term goals allowed me to stay focused on training and to reach out of my comfort zone to prove to myself that I could run 100 miles.”


Elite Runner and Coach, 32, of Carbondale, Colorado
Career Highlights: 2018 overall winner at Tarawera 100K and Ultra Trail Mount Fuji 100-mile.


Morning Runs

“The most important habit for me is running first thing in the morning,” says Bowman. “I feel most productive when I get my run done early.”

The Results

Bowman says morning runs allow you to tackle the most important training sessions with the most energy. “This helps build confidence and momentum in training,” says Bowman. “You can then handle the rest of your work and life obligations without having to worry about squeezing in a midday or afternoon session when your energy has likely waned.”

Put It into Practice

Start by waking up early enough to capitalize on the morning. Bowman streamlines his process by preparing his coffee and putting out his running clothes the night before. Choose one or two days a week and routinely run early on these days. Gradually add more days to your morning-run habit.


Ultra Athlete and Endurance Coach, 46, of Logan, Utah
Career Highlights: 25 ultramarathon wins, and well over 100 ultramarathon finishes.


Eat Right

Nutrition is Browning’s number-one good habit. He concentrates on a primal/paleo lifestyle, avoiding grains and sugar in his diet. “When you put in good fuel, you get a cleaner running machine and that means faster recovery, less risk of injury and better energy levels,” he says.

The Results

Browning has noticed faster recovery and far less inflammation with his eating habits. His fat-burning capabilities are optimized, and he has experienced some improved health bio-markers, such as lower blood pressure and better cognitive function.

Put It into Practice

Browning drinks bulletproof coffee and only has fat and protein at breakfast. This allows a carbohydrate fast, then he does a workout at lunch in a carb-fasted state.

“Strategically restricting carbs helps to optimize my fat metabolism,” says Browning. “I concentrate on good fats like coconut oil, grass-fed butter/ghee and olive oil. By avoiding sugar and grains I’m encouraging low inflammation which aids in a faster recovery response.”

Want to Know What It Takes to Finish at Western States? Just Ask Hellah Sidibe.

Find out what happened when this six-year run streaker and HOKA Global Athlete Ambassador took on an iconic ultramarathon in California's Sierra Nevada