The new year. A time of new beginnings. A time when resolutions are made and promises are given. Often times, those resolutions revolve around exercise. Unfortunately, if you don’t do a little planning, resolutions often fail within the first three months.
As a runner, a YMCA professional and a Sport Psychology consultant, I’m more than familiar with trials and tribulations of starting and maintaining an exercise routine. If you are one of the many who resolve to run more in 2012, here are five things you can do to enhance your chances of success.
1) Set a reachable goal.
Often times, we set goals that are big and daring (I’m going to run a marathon in July) without thinking through what it will take to reach that goal. While a large goal (i.e. marathon) can be motivational, make sure you understand what will be needed to reach that goal. Do you have enough time to train? Can I run 4-5 times a week? A better goal might be, “I’m going to run 4 times a week. The days I will run will be Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. I will run 10 miles the first week and increase my mileage by 10% each week for the next three months.” Being realistic and as specific as possible will enable you to be more successful.
2) Write your goals down and share them.
Goals that are written down are better internalized than those that aren’t. A goal not written down, as they say, is just a wish. Own the goal by writing it down in a prominent location. Write your goal(s) on 3×5 cards and place those cards in places you will see them. The bathroom mirror, your car sun visor, etc. These constant reminders of your goal will help you keep focused on achieving them. Also, share your goals with others. Friends, family or strangers on the internet all can be helpful in keeping you accountable. Write a blog about your goals and tell your friends about the blog. Or, better yet, find a friend to train with to help keep you honest.
3) Choose goals that are measurable.
Saying, “I want to run more” is not the same as saying “I want to run increase my current weekly mileage from 15 miles to 25 miles a week by July 1, 2014.”
4) Identify challenges and work to eliminate them.
If your goal is to run a marathon in 2014, what would be the challenges to this goal? Maybe you need help from your spouse to watch the kids during your long runs or your work schedule makes it difficult to train. Whatever your challenges are, it’s important to identify them and then work to eliminate as many of those challenges as you can. Talking to family and friends to support your goal might
open up a level of support you didn’t know existed.
5) Don’t let small failures kill your goals.
It is rare when a training plan goes perfectly. Things happen. You get sick or your job gets busier or life just gets in the way. During times like these, it’s best to just acknowledge that life is willing this battle but be resolved that it won’t win the war. Instead of lamenting the demise of your plan, accept that this is a hiccup but you’ll be back to conquering those miles in no time.
-Matthew Henry, M.A. Sport Psychology