As the end of January draws near and even the most well-intentioned resolutions begin to fade, keeping your eye on the prize can mean the difference between reaching your running goals now or repeating them on next year's list.
Whether you're shooting for a new PR or trying out a different racing distance, these seven tips from USATF Certified Coach Beth Shaw will help you stick to your plan all the way to the December finish line.
You may have heard this more times than you can count, but when it comes to accomplishing your biggest running goals, consistency really is the key to success. It's helpful to use a training plan as a road map toward your destination. Then make sure you stick to that plan.
“One common mistake I see athletes make is that they start off very strong in their plans and then fall off after a few weeks,” says Shaw, who is also a marathoner and IRONMAN finisher. “Consistency will help get your body used to moving and solidify positive habits toward your end goal.”
Give Each Workout a Specific Purpose
Whether you're working with a coach or following a generic training plan, it's important to understand the reason behind each and every single workout. Identifying this will help curb your temptation to skip it in the first place.
"I try to remind athletes to look at each workout and think about how it's helping them reach their goal," Shaw says. "Is it for recovery? Is it to learn how to run on tired legs? Understanding the reason for a workout can help push you out the door when you consider how it's helping you reach the end goal."
Plan with Periodization in Mind
Building up to a longer distance or faster pace—both of which are common goals for runners—requires adequate time for your muscles to not only adapt, but to also be ready to deliver on demand.
With periodization, runners carefully plan their training cycles to gradually build toward smaller goals, say a new race distance or your first stab at a one-mile PR, while allowing for critical recovery time to ensure fresh legs. Shaw advises, "For every running event, it's crucial to give yourself time to recover appropriately after tough workouts and still build toward your goal. You want to make sure you don't peak too soon."
The best results are achieved when athletes vary their workouts. Though it's easy to fall into the "same-route, same-pace" rut, varying your training ensures your body doesn't go into autopilot. “Repeating the same workouts daily can lead to boredom and over training,” Shaw warns.
Don't forget to sprinkle in tempo runs and hill workouts. Your legs will thank you come race day.
While a new year often brings a renewed sense of hope that this time will be different, it's important to be honest with yourself about your training. The key to getting to the starting line healthy is by gradually increasing your fitness level.
"Don't set a goal to conquer a 5K and then immediately go out and try to run three miles,” Shaw says. “Progressing in a manner that is best for your fitness level will help you get through your workouts without feeling exhausted or defeated."
Find a Running Buddy
It’s human nature to not want to let others down, which is exactly why making running friends needs to be at the top of your priority list. Knowing that your pal is waiting for you to run can motivate you to lace up those shoes on days when you just don't feel like it.
And don't worry if you don't ultimately run the same pace. "Just meeting up with friends to get started on a run is hugely helpful," Shaw says. "You might do different workouts, but a friendly face at the start can really help you get encouraged to run."
Put Your Goal on Blast
Don't be afraid to shout your goal from the rooftops! Shaw recommends telling everyone your intentions for the year—and tell them often. Social media is excellent for accountability. Consider using a hashtag every time you post, so that virtual friends can cheer you on. Hashtags can be as simple as #goalgetter, or more specific like #BQorBust. If social media isn't your thing, post-it notes work just as well in your office or at home.
The bottom line? Reaching your running goals is met through purposeful planning. Taking the time now to think through your overall plan will lessen the risk of detours and ultimately help you on your way towards a successful running year.
Put Your Goal on Blast Don’t be afraid to shout your goal from the rooftops! Shaw recommends telling everyone your intentions for the year—and tell them often. Social media is excellent for accountability. Consider using a hashtag every time you post, so that virtual friends can cheer you on. Hashtags can be as simple as #goalgetter, or more specific like #BQorBust. If social media isn’t your thing, post-it notes work just as well in your office or at home
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