I looked out of the window of my apartment to falling snow and a fresh blanket of white on the sidewalks and streets. “Nope”, I thought to myself, “not today”. It’s Saturday morning and I am awake for my weekly long run, scheduled to meet my running group in an hour and my winter running gear laid out and ready for me to put on. For the first time in a long time, I actually let myself believe that I would skip it, just this once.

You see, running has become a non-negotiable part of my day-to-day life in the past year, ever since training for and running the Chicago marathon. I found out from a young age that I had a natural talent for running and was running competitively as early as kindergarten. But by my teenage years, I was burned out from the pressure of it. I had a brief resurgence in my early 20s while training for my first marathon, surprising myself with the ease of training and how much I enjoyed it, but then again took a hiatus.

My fiance and I decided last year to run a marathon together, and it was one of the best decisions we made. Running several times a week became a part of my routine that I grew to love (again). But this time it felt different. When I found the sweet spot of the hard training paying off, and my daily runs came with more ease, I knew I was in love for good this time.

In between my on-again, off-again relationship with running, I have tried a variety of physical activities to stay healthy and in shape. I wondered many times what the “magic” combination of type of exercise, duration, and frequency was to make me feel my best, but always felt like I was missing out on some secret. It turns out the answer was just beneath my feet, and all I needed was to go out and do it, regularly and consistently.

When I am running regularly, I feel my best physically and mentally. Living in Chicago, the weather can often be less than ideal, but there is a high level of accomplishment when you go out and run in poor conditions and push through it. When you are done, it makes you feel like you could take on any type of challenge in your life. Physically, you know that you did something good for yourself, and that also brings on a level of accomplishment that lasts all day. If you consider investing just one hour in your day in order to feel good for the other twenty three, it really feels worth it.

Sticking to regular running after the marathon was over hasn’t been as tough as I imagined, as long as I make sure that it is consistent. I continue the same running schedule as before, but with shorter distances. If I have a busy week, I make sure to look at my schedule in advance and prioritize getting my runs in, even if it is 5:00 in the morning and below freezing. The key to my happy relationship with running has been to do it without questions or excuses, and ingrain it as a habit. As a result, I have found better physical and mental health than I may have had, ever, and other people have taken notice.

For me, running is easy because of the small amount of equipment required and the fact that you can do it anywhere, anytime. Whatever the type of exercise, I truly believe that being consistent is the most important thing to achieve the most benefits. When the question is no longer “Will I exercise today?”, but “When will I exercise today?”, it shifts the mind frame entirely.

I looked again out the window at the snow-covered sidewalk, and saw a fellow runner making her way through a clear area of pavement. “Okay”, I said to myself, “yes”. Yes to today and everyday.