As the new year approaches, you're probably giving some thought to your 2017 running goals. Instead of merely jotting down a few vague goals based on a year's worth of planned races, why not think long-term about what exactly you want to get out of running in 2017?
A year is the perfect amount of time to accomplish a very specific goal: It’s short enough for you to stay motivated, but long enough to realize some really big benefits. Think about where you are now and where you want to be as a runner by the end of 2017.
To help get you started, here are five specific goals you might aim for with tips to help you achieve them.
Improve Fitness and Lower Health Risk with Consistency
One of the best reasons to start and maintain a running habit is to simply get in better shape while reducing your risk for chronic disease. To achieve this goal, start by assessing your current fitness level and disease risk factors. See your family physician early in the year to get baseline measures for body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and any other factors you want to track. Talk with your doctor about your running plan to make sure it's a safe strategy. Then, head to a fitness center or performance lab to get an idea of your current fitness level.
Working with a certified trainer or running coach is a great idea if you're new to the sport. If you plan to go it alone, start off slowly and remember that consistency is the key to success. Walking briskly, jogging or running for 30 minutes five times a week will greatly improve your overall health, regardless of how many miles you cover or how fast you run.
Lose Weight by Adding Intensity
Slow and steady may win the health-risk race, but to drop some serious pounds you'll have to increase the intensity of your runs. Weight loss is a matter of burning more calories than you consume, and you burn many more calories running faster than you would during a slow and steady trot.
While you definitely shouldn't do every run as fast as you can, on those days when you're short on time or are game to challenge yourself, get out there and put it into overdrive. On days when you have a little more time for your workout, stick to a pace that feels like an effort level of 6 or 7 on a 10-point scale. If you're using a heart rate monitor, this will be around 75 percent max heart rate. If you can spare an hour or more on the weekend, head out for a nice long and slow distance run.
Just be aware that regardless of pace, time or distance, your effort will be for naught if you put those calories all back with your post-run recovery snack. In most cases, simply rehydrating with water after a run is sufficient. Be on the lookout for hunger attacks later in the day, too, and thwart them by eating a high-fiber, nutrient-dense meal like a big salad with plenty of raw veggies and a half cup of beans.