Every runner needs to have goals. Whether you're looking to set a PR, gain confidence or shake up your running routine, check out one of these 12 resolutions that will ignite your training and keep you having fun in the New Year.
1. This Year I Will: Race Farther
Rachel Gaffney, 39, a mother of four in Everett, Washington, moved up the race-distance ladder from a 5K to a 50K in four years. Now she's a coach who encourages others to step onto the same ladder, even if they only wish to climb a few rungs. "Seeing how far you can go keeps you motivated," she says. "Each time I complete a new distance, I'm reminded there are no limits."
Make It Happen: Gaffney says that if you're looking to up the race-distance ante, gradually boost your mileage for 6 to 16 weeks to a new plateau. This lets your body adapt to the increased demands on your legs and lungs. Stay on that plateau for an additional 4 to 10 weeks before tapering for your longest-ever race. It's a safe and solid game plan.
Gaffney notes that you may need to exceed these minimums, and add tempo runs and speedwork, if you have an ambitious time goal (Use this Training Calculator Tool to determine your ideal pace). But it's safest to set a goal of only finishing in your first attempt at a new, longer distance. After all, it's a guaranteed PR.
- 5K to 10K: Bump up your training to at least 20 weekly miles in a minimum of three runs, peaking with a long run of six or more miles.
- 10K to Half-Marathon: Log at least 30 weekly miles in at least four runs, culminating in a long run of at least 11 miles.
- Half to Marathon: The full 26.2 demands at least 40 weekly miles in at least four or five runs. Before tapering, nail one long run of at least 20 miles.
2. This Year I Will: Try Yoga
For every video-rental store that disappears, a yoga studio opens. That doesn't mean you should swap running with pretzel poses, but spicing up your weekly routine with a dash of Om is worth considering. (Here's why yoga helps your running.)
"More than just stretching, yoga gives you whole-body strength, especially in the hips, core and upper body," says Sage Rountree, Ph.D., a yoga instructor, USA Triathlon-certified coach, and author of The Athlete's Guide to Yoga. "Yoga's mental training is ideal for runners because it teaches you to be present and breathe fully even in the face of intensity."
Make It Happen: It's possible to find yoga classes designed for athletes or runners, but you can start with any class with the terms hatha, gentle or level 1 in the title. "In any class," Rountree says, "do what you can and rest when you must. Follow your breath, and don't push too far—just like in running. With regular practice, you'll get stronger, more flexible and more focused, and that will extend to your running." Do yoga twice a week, preferably on nonrunning days.
3. This Year I Will: Lose 10 Pounds for Good
Ah, the $400 billion question. That's the net worth of the bloated U.S. diet industry, and what's it get us? "Not much, because most diets fail," says Enette Larson-Meyer, Ph.D., R.D., a trail runner who heads the University of Wyoming nutrition and exercise lab. She does say that runners have half the weight-control puzzle solved by exercising regularly—but that the other half, eating less, is even more critical.
"There's no magic bullet," says the sports nutritionist, instead offering a barrage of bite-size tips (below). Adopting even a few can help you shed pounds, and if you stick with them, you won't gain the weight back. But she cautions against overreaching: "Don't set a goal like becoming as thin as a supermodel. That's unrealistic and can even hurt your running, because below a certain weight you'll lose lean muscle and become more susceptible to injury or illness."
Make It Happen: It would be nice if you could lose weight by simply running more. But most of us neutralize the 100 or so calories we burn per mile by eating more.
"We reward ourselves by thinking, I've earned it," Larson-Meyer says. The key is to reduce calorie intake gradually so that you're dropping just a half-pound to one pound per week. "That's consuming 250 to 500 fewer calories a day, which isn't a lot," she says. "Don't think of it as a diet, because you can't diet forever. Think of it as permanent changes to eating habits that you can maintain." Larson-Meyer's advice:
- Include protein in every meal. A 2010 study found that athletes were more successful losing weight with a diet that was 35 percent protein than one that was 15 percent protein. "Protein preserves lean muscle mass and controls appetite," she says. But it should be lean, such as poultry, fish, lean meats, beans, lentils, soy food and yogurt.
- Eat a meal within an hour after running. "This aids recovery and makes high-fat snacks less tempting."
- Don't skip meals. Doing so almost always leads to excessive snacking.
- Stay hydrated before, during and after running. "Some people perceive thirst as hunger, and water dampens hunger." Don't bother with sports beverages except during intense workouts or on runs of 90 minutes or more because you won't need the extra carbs. (Remember these Hydration Rules That'll Boost Your Performance.)
- Eat food, don't drink it. Guzzling an 8-ounce glass of apple juice, for example, won't fill you up as much as a large apple. The real deal also has five more grams of fiber and takes longer to finish.
- Run from fast food. A database of people who have lost significant weight and kept it off for at least a year shows that most consume only one fast-food meal per week.
- Some "duh" tips you've heard that bear repeating: Eat only when you're hungry. Eat smaller portions at meals.
4. This Year I Will: Be More Consistent
Ask elite runners for the number one "secret" of their success and the most common response is one word: consistency. "Consistent training promotes the physiological changes which are necessary for better performance, while inconsistent training stresses the body and can lead to injury," says Robert Martin, a San Diego running coach and personal trainer.
Make It Happen: "Start with a reasonable goal, develop a plan, then record your workouts and progress," says Martin. "If that's not enough motivation to not skip workouts, find a coach or a training buddy who can help you keep your feet to the fire, and announce your goals to friends, family and coworkers."
Social media is a good place to declare your running plans, too, whether it's Facebook, Twitter, dailymile.com or runnersworld.com (Forums or The Loop). If all else fails, for every mile you run reward yourself with $1 toward a trip or something else you desire. Just don't confuse consistency with rigidity. It's okay to skip a run for a legit reason; it's not okay to repeatedly skip them if your reasons are as thin as an Ethiopian marathoner.
5. This Year I Will: Try a Triathlon
So you've always figured that training for three sports at once is in the same category as learning to speak Cantonese. But you've figured wrong. You can spend as little as a few more hours of weekly training than you now spend running, for only a month or two, and finish a triathlon.
Provided you keep it short—both the training sessions and the triathlon. Short-distance "sprint" triathlons—which have exploded in popularity, now accounting for nearly half of all USA Triathlon-sanctioned events—include a swim of just one-quarter to one-half mile, a bike ride of 10 to 20 miles and a 5K.
It doesn't take much time in the saddle and pool to be ready for those distances. And the run will be a cinch—because it comes last in the event, your running base will make it easy for you to sweep past novice striders.
Make It Happen: Add three 30-to 60-minute lap swims and two 30-to 60-minute bike rides each week—while sticking to three 30-to 60-minute runs—for at least four weeks this spring or summer, says Hank Campbell, a runner-turned-pro triathlete turned coach (Or, follow this guide to Get Triathlon-Ready in Six Weeks).
"The most common concern among runners new to triathlon is the swim," he says. Take a lesson first to learn an efficient stroke. "Once you can comfortably swim at least 50 percent farther than the race distance in the pool, you can feel confident of completing it on race day."
Scheduling the workouts can include one two-workout day. Also plan to do one weekly "brick" workout in which you do two of those workouts back-to-back—bike-to-run or swim-to-bike—which gets you accustomed to the race-day reality of stringing activities together.
To find a nearby race, go to the event calendar at USA Triathlon. Most sprints are in the summer, when cycling and swimming are palatable even in heat that makes running a chore.
Bonus: Giving your running muscles a partial break means they'll be fresh for harder road-race training in the fall.
6. This Year I Will: Win a Medal
Finisher T-shirts are great, but the award that sets you apart from the finishing hordes is the coveted age-group medal. This is the prize you'll proudly display in a prominent spot in your home (if your spouse allows it, that is). But how do you win one—other than, you know, training harder and racing faster? A few "cherry-picking" tactics can be deployed.
Make It Happen: Choose a race that puts you in a five-year rather than a 10-year age division, which doubles the odds of winning something. Compete on weekends when there are multiple races in your area, which scatters the competition. And pick events that aren't well publicized. Peter Cini, a runner in Fairfax, Virginia, also suggests: "Low-turnout races, inaugural races and races put on by churches or schools often have easy competition and good prizes." See last year's times online.
Cini notes that sometimes these strategies backfire: A slow age-group field with great awards one year is often followed by a stacked field the next year because the word gets out. There is no cakewalk. Just ask Apollo Creed (Rocky) or Goliath how their matches turned out. The only sure way to up your odds of taking home a den-worthy award is to train hard and consistently.
7. This Year I Will: Try Real Trail Running
Melody Fairchild had success on the track as America's first high-school girl to break 10 minutes in the two-mile, and then on the roads as a frequent race champion. But one of her favorite surfaces is the trail—twisting, turning, undulating paths, not smooth rail-trails or dirt roads.
"Constantly adjusting your stride to maneuver over rocks and roots forces you to run more on your midfoot and forefoot, which teaches you to run more efficiently," she says. "After a trail run, your muscles feel completely worked because you're going up, down and sideways. It's the fast track to gaining fitness. Plus, driving to a scenic trail makes it an outing."
Make It Happen: Find nearby trails at trailrunner.com, or ask at a running shop. Fairchild, who leads trail-running camps in Colorado, says to gauge your workout by elapsed time, not distance—otherwise you'll get frustrated because you'll compare your pace to road runs.
Spend enough time off-road and you may want to consider buying trail-specific running shoes, which have better traction and are made of protective material that shields the feet from sharp objects.
Trail races (5K to 100 miles) are also an option. Train for one to two months on similar terrain to condition your body to the special demands of running off-road.
8. This Year I Will: Stop Giving Up
Maybe you've skipped the last 800-meter interval of a track workout, fallen off goal pace at midrace (costing you a PR) or quit a training plan halfway to race day. You hang your head just thinking about it, as if you failed a test.
"Giving up on yourself can make you angry," says Barbara Walker, Ph.D., a sports psychologist and Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon board member. "But make sure the anger is justified. Were your workout or race goals reasonable? Was the training plan too demanding for your stress load? If you're convinced you had no valid excuses, there are a few things you can do the next time."
Make It Happen: Let's say you're skipping workouts. If you're a morning runner, set your gear out the night before. If you run after work, start from a park that's on the drive home so you're not tempted to loaf. And always ask yourself: "How often do I regret afterward that I went running?"
If you're on the verge of abandoning an entire training schedule for a race, don't toss it before determining if you're being too hard on yourself. Few runners—elites included—can stick to a plan like glue, because life intervenes. A better option is to keep the plan but slightly modify your race goal.
Now let's say that when the going gets tough in a key workout or race, you don't get going. "Hours or days before that moment of decision, visualize hitting the goal pace for mile after mile," says Walker. "That makes it easier to accomplish." Rehearse cue words, like strong and powerful, to say whenever negative thoughts enter your mind. Mentally breaking up the distance into bite-size segments, such as each mile of a race or each repeat of a workout, also helps.
9. This Year I Will: Figure Out My Watch
Whether you picked that fancy running watch for its "bling" look or its cool features, you probably only use the clock time and running time. But you should get your money's worth. Most running watches include an interval timer (for timing speedwork and walk breaks) and a running log option (to store workout data). Some also have GPS capabilities. But with incomprehensible instructions, it's understandable you haven't bothered to open the manual, says Schuyler Schuster, an equipment guru at Fleet Feet Sports in Hartford, Connecticut.
Make It Happen: Schuster says your best bet is to not leave the store until you've asked the staff to walk you through the motions of at least your top two functions. Then ask them to show you any cool extras they love about the watch that most people are unaware of. For example, he says many runners are surprised to discover they can set alarms for drink and gel reminders, or that some recent models are capable of storing data for two runners.
Already left the building? That's why the Internet was invented. Go to YouTube and type the name of the model into the search bar. "Even the most obscure watch has short tutorials showing how to change settings and use all the features," he says. And if you're still stuck, our own Ask Miles says, "just use a simpler watch."
10. This Year I Will: Give Back to the Sport
Running has given you so much, but have you reciprocated? There are countless ways to give back.
Make It Happen: The easiest way is to volunteer at a race, where you'll earn the gratitude of race organizers and participants alike.
"I got such a rush handing out water and cheering on runners the first time that now I volunteer often," says Houston's Jay Sonnenburg, who helps at about four races per year and runs twice that many. "It's all about supporting other runners and the groups that provide support when I'm racing." He's also helped with race setup, bag drops, course turns and registration.
If you prefer to think big, you can raise funds for trail maintenance at the park where you run, lobby for a shower at your workplace so you can get serious about lunch runs, or launch a new race that raises money for a favorite charity. If your time is limited, pick up litter on a local path, offer to assist the track coach at your child's school, or encourage friends to try running. Some of this will require that you "sell" running, but with all its benefits, there is no easier sales gig.
11. This Year I Will: Find More Partners
There are practical advantages to solo running, BUT when a friend, loved one or running-club pal comes along, it's more fun and the time goes by faster. And because you'll look forward to these runs more, you'll be less likely to skip them.
Make It Happen: Joining a running club's group run is the surest way to find people to run around with. Most clubs offer one or two weekly runs, where the pace, distance and conversation varies widely enough to accommodate almost anyone. You might even meet someone whose pace, personality and schedule matches up well enough with yours that you can arrange other runs together. When you arrive for a group run, you may be asked to sign a waiver, but won't need to join the club. Eventually you may decide to join, as most club dues are a bargain (about $30 per year), with coached workouts, races, social gatherings and store discounts among the typical perks. Find a club at rrca.org.
New Yorker Val Cognetto is typical of runners who blossomed after joining a club. "So many members were happy to share their knowledge about training and racing," she says. Cognetto has forged many friendships, especially at the Sunday morning runs that end with a potluck breakfast. Emotional support is another asset. "After my last marathon, I cried when I saw that I'd missed the Boston qualifier, but then someone from the club gave me a hug and a pep talk. That's what these groups are all about."
12. This Year I Will: Beat My PR
Setting new PR's (personal records) may be the most popular of all running resolutions. It isn't easy, as diligence, patience, and luck all play a role. If you've been running for more than a decade—or you're over 40—it's even harder, so chase after your age-group PRs (the fastest times you've run in your five-year age group) rather than your all-time bests.
Make It Happen: Plot a gradual buildup for just one or two race distances, so your workout routine isn't all over the map. Then pick two races in the spring and two in the fall to improve your odds of notching at least one PR. Weather in the winter or summer will likely prevent a PR, and vacation plans may hamper training. If possible, cut back on work and personal commitments in the month before each race.
"Developing leg strength with hill running, core strength with core exercises, speed with intervals and improved fitness with recovery days are all important when you pursue a PR," says Mike Norman, head coach of Chicago Endurance Sports. "Training consistency and good nutrition are also important."
Article Source: active.com