How to achieve your running goals; how to form good habits

I would be worth a fortune if every person who has made a renewed effort to attend a gym, just handed the money over to me and saved themselves the bother; after all it will only last until……………..  Cynic or a realist?

Take a look at the norm of over-populated gyms, circuit classes and running clubs; the significant rise in membership renewals and the number of races that sell out within minutes/hours.  But for those of us who regularly exercise and don’t succumb to seasonal variances in our activity levels, what can others learn from us? What do we do that makes us more likely to maintain a relatively consistent training regime?

Habits have been proven to take on average 66 days to form.  From a study by Lally the range is from 18-254 days  Just break it down 66 days, just over 2 months, that’s 9 weeks. That’s a whole lot of excuses right there.

So here are my top five strategies to help you reach and maintain your running goals without backing down from the promises you have made yourself.

  1. Create a positive environment – surround yourself with positive people who believe in what you want to achieve and will support you to achieve your goals.  When you are setting out to make a change in how you lead your life regardless of your reasons; increased fitness levels, weight loss, change in lifestyle; you need as much assistance as you can get.  Take those close to you on the journey with you either by getting them involved in the same goals or making sure they understand your reasons and are therefore able to support you.  Seek out positive support at work and give anyone who doubts you a body swerve
  2. Plan what races and training you can do – this is different from entering a shed load of races; virtual or real, that in your heart you know you are not going to go to.  This type of unrealistic behaviour only feeds into any negative thoughts you may have.  Be realistic about what you want to race in with one key goal race and enter others which you use as part of your preparation.  As part of this you also need to be realistic in your training plans.  If you are planning your own training, be realistic about what you can and should achieve on a monthly, weekly and daily basis.  Again do not set yourself up to fail by expecting too much too quickly.  Respect the golden rule of never increasing your overall mileage by more than 10% per week.  So if you currently run 15 miles per week then next week this can increase to 16.5miles, 30miles per week can be increased to 33miles next week
  3. Find a running buddy or coach – we are by nature social animals and as such most of us require social company in some shape or form.  Even those of us who train / choose to train alone 99% of the time, need the input from others for some sessions to get us out the door.  That might be the promise to a training partner to meet them at a certain place and time for a session you know is going to be tough, it might be telling someone you are going to do a certain session just so that you keep that promise (this is my go to which involves a message to my daughters, which acts as almost a pact with them that I will train) or it could be meeting up with others even once a week for a rep session or steady run so that you have this as part of the focus of the week.  Alternatively, if you do not already have one, consider linking up with a coach; the number of times my athletes tell me they do a session I have set them just by virtue of the fact that I have set it for them still ceases to amaze me.  I am almost like their shadow, not necessarily with them in person but still with them and the accountability to someone else seems to be a very effective motivator.  If you do not have that someone else then be accountable to your training diary.  I write down my training plans and tick them off as I complete them, often the virtue of having them down in black and white can be enough to make them happen
  4. Look out kit – this seems a strange thing to do but try it.  If you are just finished a long day at work, the mere fact that your kit is sitting looked out might just be enough to give you that extra gentle nudge to get out the door.  Put your kit on and run or put it away; I challenge you that 9/10 you will put it on and get out the door.
  5. Finally take control – things will happen and plans will have to changed but do not let that be the controlling factor in your running aspirations.  If something gets in the way, get back on the proverbial horse as quickly as you can so that you can continue to form those positive habits.  Work is my Achilles heel which often scuppers my training plans.  This used to be a constant source of stress but I now manage to accept it as I do not let one missed session, control or dictate all of the sessions I have managed to make happen.  I engage all of the other strategies to make sure that I very quickly get back into my routine of training so that one missed session, is just that one missed session and not a disrupted week

So if you think you struggle to maintain running goals, have a think about these strategies and try employing some of them to make your running into a positive long term habit.

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