How to Pursue Your Running Goals in January AND BEYOND
January – the promise of a new planner, a new wall calendar, a new start. As 2018 waned and 2019 approached, I was thrilled to see meaningful conversations and encouraging posts on social media that pushed against the pressure to make unattainable resolutions, to internalize the “New Year / New Me” mantra, or to approach the new calendar year from a deficit perspective. I wholeheartedly agree with these insightful reflections, and I think that we too often approach December 31st/January 1st from the negative perspective of “Here’s what I don’t like and, therefore, what I need to fix about myself.”
With that having been said, however, I firmly believe that making goals and dreaming big is a healthy and necessary practice* – and one that we should consider recursive and ongoing. As the end of one year comes to a close and the beginning of another shimmers on the horizon, January tends to be the time that many of us most actively explore our goals. If you made some #2019runninggoals earlier this month, and if you find yourself struggling a bit with those goals, well, 1) join the club! and 2) this post is for you. Below, you’ll a few suggestions for pursuing your #2019runninggoals once the new-year sheen has worn off.
1. Verbalize Your Goals
Having a running goal – or any goal! – is exciting, especially as that goal starts to materialize. For a while the goal might remain your own secret, something to be dreamt about but not shared. You might research a training plan, look at the price of a race, gather materials/resources discussing what it takes to achieve the goal. At some point, however, you need to claim the goal, to articulate it – first to yourself and then to others. Verbalizing a goal is both thrilling and terrifying. When you claim a goal, you tell yourself and others that this is something you believe you can accomplish. It’s something that you are willing to work for. Additionally, verbalizing the goal means that it moves from that private whisper to a spoken commitment that others might expect you to attain.
So, what’s your #2019runninggoal? Run a 5k? Train for a marathon? Get miles in 3 days a week? I just told my husband last night that I want to run a 6-minute timed mile and finish a half marathon in 1:45 in 2019. I’m a little scared, but I’m also excited, and verbalizing these goals – both to my husband and now to the Internet – provides an extra level of motivation!
2. Find Accountability
We all know that accountability is key to perseverance. Whether you’re talking about a prayer partner, a writing group, or a running buddy, having someone to check in with is incredibly helpful with keeping us on track. For runners, we can find this accountability in a running buddy, a running group, or a weekly/monthly/etc. running meetup. As someone, however, who has always been too lazy to seek out a running buddy, too cheap to pay the minor cost of joining a running/training group, and too shy/awkward to turn up at a running meetup where I don’t know anyone, the above suggestions don’t quite work for me. I do, however, find accountability through engaging with other #womenrunners #motherrunners and the ladies of #catholicwomenrun via Instagram. I also check in with my sister-in-law (@heathersuzannedesigns) with whom I am running a race in February. These aren’t in-person, logging miles together accountability approaches, but they work for me. Find what works for you and go with it!
3. Track Your Progress
I don’t know about y’all, but I love writing things down. I’m that person who incorporates easy things into her to-do list (um, brush my teeth, make my bed) just to enjoy the satisfaction of crossing those tasks off. I also LOVE looking back over the work that I did during a training period – or just during a maintaining period – to see the miles I logged and the workouts I completed. There’s just something so darn satisfying to me about quantifying this work. You can go as simple / inexpensive, or as complicated / pricey as you like for this practice. Some people track their miles in a spreadsheet while others use a blank notebook or a fancy training log. If I may make a suggestion, however, I’d suggest the Believe Training Journal by Lauren Fleshman and Ro McGettigan. It has an easy-to-use format with a healthy dose of encouragement and an aesthetically-pleasing layout.
4. Adapt as Needed
As with any goal we set, life always happens, moving our #runninggoals to the proverbial back burner. We might fall ill during a training a cycle, experience a schedule change, go through a major life change, deal with unexpected job/family/etc stresses, or find ourselves injured. I know that obstacles in the road are disappointing. I know that being denied the pursuit of our goals can be heartbreaking. I also know that we might get off track – not by any major life event but just because our initial approach wasn’t best suited to our schedules or current life situation. But here’s the deal: we can always adapt our expectations. It may not be easy, but it is possible. So, if working to be lifelong runners and moving our bodies to glorify God are our ultimate fitness goals, then adapting our approach AND GIVING OURSELVES GRACE are two ways to achieve those goals amidst the messiness and curveballs that life always gives us.
*Just to clarify, the authors of these posts and reflections never said that we shouldn’t make goals or dream big! Many were just encouraging everyone to not fall prey to the often negative pressure of resolution-making at the start of a new calendar year.
Jennifer is a wife, mom of three, runner, and PhD. She and her family recently moved back to the Carolinas after a five-year grad school stint in the Midwest. Jennifer is a cradle Catholic, and she began running almost thirty years ago, participating in her first road races as an elementary-school kid at the annual Knights of Columbus Turkey Day Run. She frequently turns to both the rosary and distance running (oftentimes simultaneously) for assistance in embracing the joys and the demands of family life and academic life. You can connect with Jennifer on Instagram.