I don't know about you, but I am feeling the holiday season. Something about big family meals and too many sweet treats really makes you want to settle down for a long winter's nap. I know better than to give in, though—the new year is upon us, and that means it's time to get up and start strong.
I know how difficult it can be to get truly motivated in the new year. Many of us try, and most of us give up in spectacular fashion just weeks (if not days) into our ill-conceived resolutions. But I'm not talking about resolutions: I'm talking about real change. Sometimes it can feel like you've fallen so far off the saddle that it's not worth getting back on the horse.
In endurance running, we all have our seasons of trial. If you're feeling defeated because you're out of the habit, your diet is off the rails, or you just haven't been as serious as you “should” be, let me encourage you with these six steps to running stronger in 2019.
6 Steps to Stronger Endurance Running in 2019
1) Focus on your form.
Worrying about times, speed, or weight loss right off the bat probably isn't the best use of your mental energy in the new year. For a runner coming off of a slump, it will only lead you to frustration. Instead, focus on perfecting something that will improve the quality of your runs overall: your form. We can easily let our form slip, but it's also easy to work on and improve regardless of our physical state.
One tip: imagine you're being pulled up on a string like a marionette. This “running tall” will ensure that you land under your center of gravity. If you are running with proper form, you will exert far less energy, which enables you to run farther, using less energy and feeling less tired.
2) Wipe the slate clean.
If you were a successful runner to any degree, but fell off for whatever reason, trying to return to reclaim your place can be an exercise in frustration. If you want a successful new year in endurance running, you can't expect to jump right back in where you left off—you have to wipe the slate clean. Forget where you were and think about where you are instead. That might mean starting at square one and running as if you were just starting out. You don't have to beat yourself up for this, either. In fact, it's far faster to start from the beginning than to jump to where you were and face discouragement or injury when you push too hard.
Don't think about where you have been. Only run as you are now.
3) Schedule a race.
For a successful year in running, give yourself a goal immediately. Schedule a 5k or other race for March or April and start training. This will give you something to work towards. You will have the first few months of the year to rebuild a solid foundation and then time enough to properly train for the race. Either way, setting your sights on a clear goal gives you something to look forward to and benchmarks to measure in terms of times and speed.
4) Find a support system.
One of the best things any runner can do is find a system of support. Get a running buddy! There is never a better time than the new year than to convince a friend, family member, or coworker to join you and give it a try. Have them sign up for the same race and be accountable to one another. In the first few months, you will face the temptation to return to your bad habits. Having support is critical.
5) Figure out what motivates you.
There will still be days when running is the last thing you want to do. If you struggle to want to run, take the opportunity to find what engages you. What is it that sparks your interest? Maybe you're motivated by a favorite post-run juice or smoothie, or a treat of some new running gear. It could be that you would do well to mix things up with a new route, new playlist, or new way to engage altogether. Do some thinking to discover what it is—if not the pure enjoyment of running—that gets you up and moving on tough days.
6) Don't obsess.
I think we run the temptation of obsessing sometimes, especially when it comes to our ambitions in the new year. It's all-too-easy to get frustrated when we don't see the progress we feel like we should be seeing or to fixate on where we used to be versus where we are now. We might beat ourselves up when we miss a run or do poorly.
What matters more is that we actually enjoy what we're doing. Running is a lifestyle, not just an exercise routine. If you hate every minute of it, what's the point? Don't make yourself miserable. Instead, focus on the good—even if you miss your benchmarks. Remember what really matters and enjoy the journey.
What gets you motivated to run? Share your tips in the comments.