A New Year’s Resolution is a great way to start running or create dramatic change to your running lifestyle, but carries an extremely low rate of success (some studies have pegged it as only 8% of resolutions being successfully met). So why such a low rate of success and what can you do about it? Like all goals, the key is to lay out and follow an actionable plan while keeping it simple as possible in order to meet running goals that enforce consistency before tackling greater challenges.
Resolutions for those Beginning/New to Running
Do you want to go for a run or become a runner? Most with only a minimal amount of training could work themselves into struggling through a 5K. However, its far better to embrace the running lifestyle and enjoy all the health benefits that come with it than push your body into discomfort forcing you to leave running all together. This is the ultimate goal of the New Year’s Resolution for Runners…. to become a runner enjoying a lifetime of running versus quitting after meeting a singular goal, such as a 5K.
To that end, beginner runners need to focus on a training program that underlines the goal of consistent running versus running a race, where the race is just a reward for all your efforts. In following our comprehensive guide to start running, you will find that you will train well over the distance necessary to complete a 5K. This is critical to maintaining your New Year’s Resolution since it forces you to get a strong base that takes time, reinforcing the habit of running, while setting the stage to make your 5K as easy as possible from an endurance perspective before you can take on larger distances such as a 10K.
The same methodology is true for the 5K training guide, in that the goal is not to complete the race (as the Couch to 5K would set as the goal), but rather become a runner where the race is a reward/simply a milestone on the way to a long and happy running career. In essence, if you set goals such as running a Marathon as your New Year’s Resolution, the stage is set for failure unless you are already in a great running habit with a strong running base.
For beginner runners, it is especially important to find a running group/support to keep your New Year’s Resolution intact as this creates accountability. It also makes it easier on the tough days to either run together or “talk” through what happened in a run or race.
In planning for your first race, the aim should be for late March to early April, as this gives you a few months of base running before attempting your first 5K. Again, the critical rationale is to make it as easy as possible from an endurance perspective, acknowledging that the greatest challenge to meeting your resolution will not be race day but all the days leading up to it. For this reason, you need a constant reminder of you goal, so sign up for the race on January 1st and mark your calendar.
If for some reason you have a running setback or can’t make the race, don’t worry! There will likely be another race the next weekend, and since you are more in the mindset of a “runner” versus “going for a run” you will find it easier to adjust to missing a race.
Resolutions for those Returning to Running after a Layoff or Trouble Finding Consistency
Those returning to running after a layoff or having trouble finding consistency struggle with meeting their New Year’s Resolution just like new runners… because they set their goals too lofty and fail to focus on laying a strong foundation and consistency. One of the most beneficial things a veteran runner returning to the sport can do is to forget all previous PRs and distances you used to be able to run (whether it be due to an injury or life events that restrict the amount of time in the day to run).
By wiping the slate clean, you could reset your running by following the same schedule for new and beginner runners, as you will be pleasantly surprised by how fast things come back and possibly discover new capabilities. You may also discover through this process why you left running in the first place, whether it was an injury due to poor stretching approaches or not getting the support of the running community. Whatever the case, starting fresh takes the pressure off of you, since you no longer have to race the most intimating runner of all… the old you!
Akin to the new runner, schedule a race for late March/early April to test the waters after a few months of foundation have been built. You may be capable of running more than a 5K and better suited for the 10K, but don’t overdo the distance or pace as the goal of this first race is to feel good after the finish where the next day you are looking forward to running again.
From this point forward, you can evaluate your training to determine if a longer distance/challenge like the Marathon is in your future. To be clear, all because you may have run a Marathon or multiple Marathon’s before doesn’t mean that you should and could run those again. During this running reset, you need to discover what you running goals should be, not what others may pressure you into (ex. If you love running 5Ks, don’t feel the pressure to train for Marathons if it’s not right for you!)
Keeping Your Resolution Simple and Having the Support to Keep It Going
Too many times New Year’s Resolutions are lost and completely abandoned because they are too complex, contain too lofty of goals, or don’t fit in with other life responsibilities. Using these three points as guidelines, you should measure your resolution to first determine if it is too complex. Begin by asking yourself “do I understand the concepts?”, “does it add stress to think about?”, or “does it feel overwhelming?”. If so, strive for simplicity in your resolution. As an example, instead of advanced training for a competitive trail run, focus to running your first 5K.
Having an overly aggressive goal is a quick way to end a resolution. Don’t set your running goal as completing a Marathon if you are just beginning to run but rather focus your goals on slowly building your miles up and becoming a runner. There is no threshold to becoming a runner beyond that you run consistently, so whether you are running 1 mile three times a week, or running 50 miles a week, you have met the criteria… and are able to sustain your resolution.
Running, like all things, takes time and dedication. Unfortunately, there is only so much time in the day, and if you attempt to radically adjust your life all at once you will likely fail in your resolution and negatively affect life outside of running. The underlying goal should always be to make running part of your life, and this takes time. This is why it is so critical to start with low mileage and not overcommitting your time. If you discover that you don’t have time to run anything beyond 15 miles a week, this still lays a great foundation for a lifetime of running.
With the aforementioned challenges to your resolution, it is critical to have support as being committed with others is a great way to reinforce your goals. This crosses the individuals you run with, and those affected by your running. In the first instance, try to find a running club or group with a shared goal that can help keep you in check if your goals are too lofty while being able to talk “runner” to you. The running community is totally inclusive and there are many running clubs across the world. The RRCA has a great list of running clubs across the United States, while a simple Google search will unveil running clubs in your nation of choice.
Whether you like it or not, your running lifestyle affects others around you. It might be your immediate family members who need to adjust their schedules to support your new running goals, or friends who are used to heading out with you on a Friday night… where now you go home early to prepare for a Saturday morning race. In any scenario, it is important to communicate with your loved ones and let them know why these goals are important to you, and how it can have a positive impact on them (for many it’s being healthier and getting others in the family or friends to run). Again, starting with low sustainable mileage is critical so you don’t cause stress to those around you and miss out on your other life responsibilities, which is especially true for parents.
Veteran runners, or those struggling with consistency, need to hyper focus on the 3 points to meeting goals as they tend to attempt complex events, set high goals, and don’t align to lifestyle changes. This is likely due to holding themselves to previous standards. One of the most difficult things to do for a previous runner returning to the sport is to let go of the past. In fact, many Master’s runners are still trying to compete with the 20 year old version of themselves from a pace perspective, which is rarely successful (it can be and has been done, but should not be the focus).
If you are returning to running, you must consider throwing out your old Personal Records (PRs) and the distance you used to run and start anew. Use the beginning runner guide as a baseline. It may seem too easy or simple in the beginning, but that is an advantage in that you have been here before, it just feels a little different this time. Taking all this pressure off will allow you to set new goals and discover new running passions. Try to find a group of runners that share that passion, as isolation when trying to return to running is a huge barrier made easier by your running club or those non-runners in your life.
Dealing with a Setback to Your Resolution
Running does not mean that you will become injured or face a setback to your resolution, but if it occurs you need to immediately “down shift” and focus to the goal of becoming a runner. As an example, if you had set a goal of running a 5K and injure your ankle, you may abandon your running all together. This is why one time goals are dangerous for meeting resolutions, they put a lot of pressure on a single milestone while the resolution of becoming a runner is simple to meet and each day is a milestone. Running a race is just a reward/another milestone on your path to a new running lifestyle where you take just as much joy in a running workout as crossing the finish line of a race.
If a setback occurs, and this goes for both beginner and veteran runners, it is important to get the proper medical care and work back into a running schedule if injured. In this process, never hold yourself to what you used to be able to run in distance or speed, but rather focus on that “good feeling” of running when you first started. The speed and distance may come back, or you may need to adjust to a “new normal” of less miles and speed, which is fine if you embrace the goal of lifelong running!
Setbacks are not only injuries, but life events such as demanding jobs, birth of children, or a sad tragedy. In these scenarios, you need to evaluate what is possible for you to do without negatively impacting your life responsibilities. You may not have the time or support for a Marathon, but you might be able to sneak in a few runs a week, or at least walk to keep consistent.
Lastly, running is a gift… that some may need to, or are forced to return. Not everyone can run, should run, or can maintain running. If you discover that for injury or lifestyle reasons that running is not for you, try to find another activity to keep physically moving for your health, using all the good habits running has taught you. If you do this, your resolution to become a runner will be a lifestyle change for the better, and one that you can sustain for a lifetime.