With January as a distant memory and the light starting to creep in through the curtains slightly earlier now, many people will be wondering what comes next. A new year always brings good intentions but those new year fitness resolutions have a tendency to slip by the way-side despite a month of hard work. So how do you turn these good intentions into habit; into a routine? I’ve included some practical tips and a different perspective on some thinking so as you can approach winter training head on and stay motivated.
The ‘unachievable’ Goal
Let me stress here – that goal is achievable! It is just going to be difficult and take a great deal of hard work to achieve. The point here is ‘bite off more than you can chew’ and challenge yourself. Starting out? Commit to a 5k and give yourself that deadline to meet. You will meet it! Completed a few 10k’s? Take the plunge and step up to a new distance but again book a deadline for yourself. The time pressure and the race will never be far from your thoughts and you will commit to training.
A daunting, challenging goal that you have committed to will focus you. Scare you, quite possibly, but you will find an enormous amount of drive from this and you will be amazed at what you can achieve. My personal mantra that gets me out of bed is “Comrades won’t wait.” A big race for me that will come on the 29th of May no matter how prepared I am.
Enter a race. Take a new challenge. Begin the countdown and see how much it will hone your attention and commitment to training.
Whatever the Weather
A friend of mine always sends me a message about the weather the night before a morning run. I never read it. I don’t check weather forecasts and see it as a somewhat trivial piece of information. The only last minute decision I make before leaving the house is whether I need a jacket or not.
Weather shouldn’t dictate your training. It should be a minor factor in your day. By checking forecasts and worrying about the outside conditions you have already begun to look for excuses not to get out the door. Providing you have the correct kit and are anticipating the temperature (almost a given in Scotland) than any other factors such as rain, wind, snow don’t play a big factor. A last minute call on which jacket is all you need to decide on.
That being said the times when I do check forecasts is when I’m heading to the hills. Conditions here are much more variable and you need to be prepared more here. On these occasions I would always take a pack with extra clothing should the weather take a turn.
By adopting a similar mindset and an indifference to weather conditions you will vastly improve your consistency of training. Prepare for race day in the worst conditions it could possibly be. This may be rain, wind, extreme heat but by facing these challenges in training, you will gain confidence in your ability and take this into a far stronger performance. After all, if it’s raining on the day of the race you have worked so hard for, are you going to miss it? So why miss tomorrow’s run for the sake of a little rain?
Get up. Get out. Quickly!
Dark. Cold. Wet. Why would anyone want to get out of a nice warm bed to go and run? Long, tiring day at work, why would anyone stay out longer to run?
There are far fewer excuses to find not to run if you get up and out early in the mornings. I see mornings as my time. No one is waiting on relying on me and its guilt free – maybe not on Sundays! Set an alarm early and commit to it. No snoozing! No five extra minutes! When you alarm goes off get straight out of the warmth and comfort of your bed and get your gear on straight away. Look out your kit the night before and minimise the time it takes to leave the house. Don’t look out the window, you will only look for excuses not to run, to return to the warm comfort of your bed. As soon as you’re out the door you will be glad of the effort. Take pride in how few people you see on the road, all the more that are still in bed and that you are gaining on.
If I am ever in two minds before a run I always put my kit on and see how I feel once I have laced up my shoes. Most of the time, by this stage I feel energised and ready to run. By reducing the time it takes to get out the door and run, you will cut out the distractions and excuses to find not to go.
Evenings are usually more challenging. After a long day’s work the body and the mind are tired. There are more people waiting on you at night; family, friends, kids. Why not turn your commute into a run and combine the two into getting home? Start mapping out your running week and create a schedule for your spare time and how it will be spent.
Keep a track of your training and how you’re feeling throughout the weeks. Apps such as Strava and Garmin Connect are a great way to stay motivated and challenge yourself. For the competitive ones out there then the monthly challenges you can set yourself on Strava are great. You can also monitor what training your friends are doing and adds a bit of fuel to the fire if your training partner has been out for a run and you may have considered skipping a day.
There are also worldwide leaderboards and various famous athletes here that you can follow and gain a bit of insight into the life of the elite! Fancy racing the whole of Scotland on a specific hill or route? Then the segment records are a great way to pit yourself against others and maybe bag a few course records along the way. Strava will also plot your times in a graph allowing you to see how your training is progressing. A great way to keep you engaged and motivated to run.
Keep it interesting
Run training is repetitive and requires dedication if you are looking to continually improve. It is hard to stay motivated if you only ever run the same route time and time again. Naturally, interest will dwindle. Don’t be afraid to add some variety to your running. Try something new. It is a great way to explore an area. Get lost and enjoy the new surroundings you find yourself in. There’s nothing better than finding a new route that soon becomes a staple in your week.
Try a new distance! If you are in the situation of doing the same type of races year in, year out – try something new. Take a step back from your marathon mileage and see what it’s like to train for a 10k. Trying something unfamiliar will add new perspective and enjoyment which will fuel your motivation to run.
Tired of the roads? Head off road and go explore a nearby forest or national park. It will provide you with a whole new challenge. I try and do at least one run off road each week and find it is easier on the body and far more enjoyable at times. Seek solitude in the nature around you and the surrounding areas. It offers escapism that you sometimes can’t quite find on the road and in traffic heavy areas.
If all else fails, then there is a host of empowering and motivational sporting videos online…
Enjoy your running and stay motivated in 2016! Make it the best one yet.