Image Source: Unsplash / Seth Macey
For years, I made a New Year’s resolution to run. I generally made it out the door for a few miles on Jan. 1, but the first time it snowed on a day I intended to run, I’d crawl back in bed and promise myself I’d try again when the weather warmed up. The Spring season of fun 5Ks and half-marathons would fly by before I ever laced up the shiny running shoes I’d bought in a moment of blind ambition.
Keeping your running resolution this year isn’t impossible. Here are 10 ways you can make it out the door and cross the finish line next New Year’s Eve as a better, more consistent runner.
1. Register For a Race
No matter what your current fitness level is, you can and should commit to a race in the foreseeable future. You want to be sure to leave yourself enough time to gradually increase your mileage to hit your goal distance and that race finish line, but not too much that you feel like you have time to slack off. If you’re just getting started, search for local 5Ks, and get started on a training plan. If you’ve been running for awhile and have already mastered the 5K, challenge yourself with a half-marathon just a little further out. Having a date on the calendar will get you out the door when you would rather stay home.
2. Find Your Why
Running isn’t a fair-weather resolution. There are days that it’s too hot, too cold, or you’re just not that into it. On those days, you need a stronger sense of purpose to get out the door than just a resolution. Attaching a purpose to your running, like raising money for your favorite charity in a 5K, encouraging friends or family to get healthy, or to finally get a hold on your anxiety and depression are all better motivators than running just for the sake of running.
3. Give Yourself Something to Enjoy
For me, getting lost in a great story can make me actually want to go for a run. Find a great audio book, podcast, or running meditation and only let yourself listen to it when you’re running. If you get hooked on a story that you can’t wait to finish, you’ll want to lace up your sneakers and tune in.
The practice of sitting silently and focusing on your breathing may seem counterintuitive when you promised yourself that you would run this year, but adding meditation before, during, or after a run can help you lock in your “why” and boost the postrun endorphins. Spend just a few moments before your run in quiet, reflective silence picturing your run. Where will you go? What scenery are you looking forward to exploring? While you’re running, instead of mentally complaining and praying for the run to end, refocus your attention for a quick body scan. What feels good when you run? How’s your breathing? Notice what sensations you feel in your body when your foot strikes the pavement. Using your running time to check in with your body may make you appreciate how the simple act of being able to run lets you appreciate the healthy, strong body you have.
5. Put a Team Together
On the nights that I don’t want to run, I generally make it through because I have a team of women I meet once or twice a week that I miss when I skip out. We push each other through a few miles, then go grab a healthy dinner nearby. Just knowing that the women are waiting for me at our favorite park and there’s a social hour after the sweaty hour is enough to get me out the door on nights I’d rather go home.
Image Source: OurStyle Photography / Ericka McConnell
6. Mix It Up
You may have promised yourself that you would run this year, but that doesn’t mean that all you’re allowed to do is run. Running takes a physical toll on the body, which is why it makes for great cardio exercise, but that also means that your body needs cross training and rest. When you’re building your training plan for your goal race, be sure to include days for rest, cross training, stretching, and strength training. Give your joints a rest from the pavement pounding and strengthen the muscles you need to power through your long, hard runs. Mixing it up also provides just enough of a mental vacation from running to prevent burnout.
7. Make It a Vacation
You can race almost anywhere. If you want to add vacation to the race goal, look for races in the time and place that you most want to travel. Hit the Disney World races, find a beach race, or test your endurance in the mountains. Running in a new locale is a great way to see the local sights and stay active when you travel.
8. Be Patient With Yourself
A bad run has a tendency to ruin a running streak. There may be days when you feel slow, out of shape, or just mentally checked out. Try to get through the miles on your training plan, then give yourself a break. The more time you spend dwelling on a bad run, the less likely you are to give up on the resolution. Instead, appreciate that not every run is going to be a great run, and promise yourself you’ll try again within a day or two. The longer you wait to hit the street after a bad run, the more time that bad run has to get stuck in your head. Switch your route, change your podcast, or just wear different running gear. You might be surprised how easy it is to change your mindset.
9. Add Walk Breaks to Your Run
Whether you’re an experienced runner or a newbie, there’s no shame in adding walk breaks as you increase endurance, speed, and fitness. Find the ratio of walking and running that works best for you, and experiment until you find the ratio that allows you to hit your goal distances with energy left in the tank. The more races you run, the more you might begin to recognize that even people who have been running marathons for years add strategic walk breaks to balance the pounding with a gentle break.
10. Take a Look at Your Diet
You don’t have to make drastic changes in your diet to begin to appreciate the role food plays in fueling your runs. Steer clear of foods likely to upset your stomach before runs, and add healthy, whole grains or complex carbohydrates to give you the energy you need to complete the distance. No two bodies respond the same to the same food during a run, so make small changes frequently to see what works and what doesn’t.
Ready to run 2018? Make this the year that you run the year, instead of the year running you!