You know the drill. After a decent amount of holiday indulgence, the calendar flips to the next year and suddenly—filled only with the best of intentions—you feel compelled to transform into the ultimate runner. This year is your year, you reason. It’s time to tackle those running goals once and for all. New year, new goals, new you…right?
The process of setting goals and resolutions seems to be hard-coded somewhere deep within us, as we continuously reset well-meaning objectives with the start of each new year. Yet, we often set goals in haste and are quickly disappointed when we fail to achieve what we set out to accomplish. It is estimated that 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions have been cast aside by February.
To make sure you end up in the successful 20 percent, you should understand why most running-related resolutions fail—and steps you can take to keep your own goals on track.
Your Goal Isn't Specific Enough1 of 7
It's quick (and easy) to throw out a vague resolution like, "I think I'll get into better shape." But if your goal is too ambiguous, you'll be setting yourself up for failure. Even goals like "start running," "train harder," or even "incorporate more speed work" lack specificity.
The Fix: Instead of saying, "I'll do more speed work," aim for something like: "I will do a track workout from Jack Daniels' book every Tuesday for 12 weeks until my goal race." Try to define the goal as much as possible with clear language and specific details—the who, what, where and why.
You've Made Too Many Resolutions at Once2 of 7
Raise your hand if you've decided to change multiple things in a season in an attempt to become a better runner. Yup, me too. Trying to tackle several goals at once can be a recipe for disaster. It's tempting to overhaul your running lifestyle by setting several resolutions, but by splitting your focus you actually make it less likely to achieve any goals at all.
The Fix: Start small and focus on one goal at a time. If you want to start running in 2017, focus only on creating the running habit and concentrate all of your time and energy on that. Placing all of your energy and focus on one goal allows you to more easily maintain momentum and motivation to see that goal to fruition.
You Haven't Prepared—Physically or Mentally—for the Discomfort3 of 7
While January may be the official start of a new year, it's not always the best time for runners to set new goals. It's cold, dark, the weather is bad and you may be carrying a little extra "holiday weight" as you head. Once you're staring down a dark, 20-degree run at five o'clock in the morning, you may be tempted to abandon that "PR in the 10K" goal you set as you lounged by the fire in December. The discomfort of training in the winter months after a holiday break can often be too much mentally and physically if the runner is unprepared.
The Fix: Realize what you are getting yourself into, and be prepared for some discomfort. If your goal is to run a fast 10K in April, you will need to do some training in the winter months. Be sure to prepare with appropriate cold weather gear or an alternative training plan (treadmill, pool running, elliptical) on an especially bad weather day. Realize that it will take time for your fitness to return and those first few weeks of running may feel slow and uncomfortable as you coax your body back into shape. By being mentally prepared to experience both physical and mental discomfort, you can acknowledge the difficulty of training without giving into the temptation to quit.
Your Goal is Too Ambitious4 of 7
Before you pummel me into pieces, understand that I'm a huge fan of dreaming big. But, when setting goals, you do need a realistic idea of what's achievable. If you are a 5-hour marathoner, it may be too ambitious to try and cut your marathon time by 90 minutes in one season. While there is often a lot of excitement in setting a highly ambitious goal, a perceived lack of progress and frustration with the level of difficulty in pursuing an overly ambitious goal may cause you to throw in the towel. There's also the very real risk of injury in pursuing a goal that is too far from your current level of running ability.
The Fix: Goals should push you, but still be attainable within the timeframe you set. Consider your current capabilities, resources and time constraints, and make sure that your goal is achievable. Make a list of any additional resources or support you will need for success and develop a plan to acquire them.
You Lack Support and Accountability5 of 7
Accountability is a powerful force when it comes to goal achievement. No one likes to look bad in front of others and we will often go the extra mile (pun intended) for our friends and family. If you haven't told anyone about your goal or don't have anyone to hold your feet to the fire, it becomes easier to abandon your goal when things start to get challenging or your motivation begins to lag.
The Fix: Commit publicly to your goal. Post it on Facebook, blog about it or simply tell your friends and family about what you plan to accomplish—and don't stop there. Hold yourself accountable by committing to giving frequent updates on your progress. One way to boost running motivation is to find a running friend or local group to help you log some miles. Having a group to meet with each week can provide you with support and accountability to stick with your training and meet your goals.
You Don't Have a Plan to Get Back on Track After a Setback6 of 7
All runners deal with setbacks during training. A bad cold, a strained muscle, work or family priorities can all necessitate a few days off. But after time off it can be difficult to get back into the swing of training and goals can be tossed aside in favor of sleeping in and skipping that early morning run.
The Fix: Try not to skip two days in a row. We are all human and it's normal to miss a day now and then, but don't let a single day off turn into several. The more time you take off, the harder it becomes to get off the couch. After all, a body at rest tends to stay at rest. Have a plan to get back on track if you experience a setback or a required block of time off. Make a commitment to yourself to get back out there as soon as you can.
No matter what your running goals are for 2017, remember that the best plans are worthless without action. Commit to taking one action each day to move closer to your goal. It could be waking up 20 minutes early to make time for your run or foam rolling for five minutes before you go to bed—but take action. There's no magic involved for the 20 percent who actually keep their resolutions. It simply takes hard work and the dedication to continue showing up each day. If you can find a way to enjoy the process, you'll discover that ultimately the outcome matters little when you enjoy the journey.