With the new year upon us, it’s time to wave goodbye to 2017 and start putting some serious thought into what you want to accomplish in 2018. But don’t make foolhardy New Year’s resolutions you can’t maintain. Avoid the “New Year, New You” propaganda and instead build on what you accomplished in 2017 by making some subtle life changes that you can sustain over the coming year. Here are some inspiring ways to start framing the next 12 months.
1. Dream big and embrace the target!
This is the time of the year you have a blank canvas, so dream big, select a few big goals to shoot for and start the year off right with inspired training. Is your biggest goal just to improve your fitness? OK, then get fit! But doing it through an endurance-oriented goal will keep it fun and keep you from jumping on the bathroom scale every day. Want to run your first or fastest half marathon or marathon? OK, get after it by picking a race and following a smart training plan. Do you want to run first 50K or 100-miler? Ultrarunning is the next frontier of human endurance and comes with an amazing community of supportive runners. Is this the year you enter an Ironman or a Spartan Race? Yes it is! Just go for it! Don’t put off for another year what you really want to do.
Challenging yourself beyond your perceived limits will give you both daily and long-term purpose and inspiration. Once you’ve decided on your goal races, take the appropriate steps to make it a reality. First step: Pick an event and sign up as soon as possible. Then, post it on your social media channels so the world knows you’re doing it—both so you can gain support and get motivated and also so you can hold yourself accountable. Also consider what kind of training plan will you’ll follow. Do you need a coach to advise you? What kind of gear will you need? What kind of time will you need in your daily life? How will that affect other aspects of your life? What are you willing to sacrifice? Considering all of those variables will help you frame your year and what you’ll need to do to achieve your biggest goals.
READ MORE: 10 Ways Running Will Change Your Life
READ MORE: Going Longer—An Intro to Ultrarunning
2. Be relentless!
The biggest step you can take to ensuring yourself a great year is to make your endurance goals a priority, no matter if that means modest daily training to improve your fitness, a new half-marathon PR or completing an Ironman or a 100-miler. Sure, you probably have a lot of other worthy priorities in your life, but on most days your commitment to training might only require 60 to 90 minutes of your time. If you really want to get fit, lose weight, run faster, run farther or anything else, then you have to be absolutely relentless in your pursuit. That doesn’t mean you have to be obsessive about it. It just means you need to be consistent about giving your best effort every single day in how you train, recover, eat, sleep and ultimately race. Yes, we all have days where life gets in the way or you can’t give your all. Stick to your commitment, don’t fall prey to excuses and push yourself to achieve. If you’re consistent at giving your best effort every day over several months, you’ll be amazed at what you’ll accomplish.
READ MORE: 5 Habits of Successful Runners
3. Start the year with a 30-day challenge!
Need to ramp up your fitness, get inspired or shed a few pounds? Start your year with a 30-day personal challenge! Being consistent in pursuit of your fitness goals for a full month will give you a jump start on the year, and it will also help boost your inspiration, motivation and good habits you can carry throughout the year. What you do during those 30 days isn’t nearly as important as making sure you do something meaningful every single day for a month. (And, of course, once you get through 30 days, there’s no reason you should stop.) The might mean you run several days a week, go to the gym a few other days and do yoga or a bit of cross-training on the remaining days. This kind of motivation can be contagious, so share it with the world. Get some friends involved both near and far, either through inspiring social media posts or a FitBit challenge. Trust us on this one: You can change your habits in less than 30 days and you can change your life in less than 60.
READ MORE: 6 Ways to Keep Improving as a Runner
4. Run more!
Believe it or not, most recreational runners struggle because they lack the aerobic strength. You’re not going to improve as a half marathoner or marathoner unless you’re building your aerobic capacity, and running only a few days a week will leave you forever stuck in a place of not being quite fit enough to reach your goals. Try running five days a week and gradually increase the amount of miles you run. It’s a tough balance because you don’t want to increase your mileage too quickly sine that creates a greater chance you’ll risk overuse injuries. But if you think about it as a long-term goal, you can ramp up your mileage over the next few months and achieve a new level of fitness by mid-spring. Adding another 10-mile run in your week (or two more 5-mile runs) will go a long way in taking you to the next level as a runner. If you averaged 25-35 miles per week over the past year, shoot for 35-45 this year. If you averaged 40 miles per week this year, make 50 your goal this year. With more muscular strength and greater aerobic strength, you’ll reach your hard-sought goals and start aiming for new ones.
READ MORE: How to Safely Ramp Up Your Mileage
READ MORE: How to Shake Up Your Long Runs
5. Run 2018 miles in 2018!
Can you run 2018 miles in the new year? You can if you can average 38.8 miles per week (or roughly 5.5 miles per day). Depending on your perspective, that might seem like a little or a lot. It doesn’t really matter … the only thing that matters is if you can be consistent throughout the year. The best way to go after such a goal is to get a partner in your pursuit and to sign up for the official Run the Year 2018 fitness challenge at RunTheEdge.com. Created by “Running the Edge” authors Adam Goucher and Tim Catalano, the annual run-the-year challenge series is now in its fifth year. You can sign up for the basic ($20), deluxe ($35) or complete package ($55) and start logging the miles you run, walk and hike or even those you log on a treadmill or eliptical machine. A t-shirt, social media badges, legacy coins and a huge community of online support await. “It might seem hard, but anyone can do it if they stick to it,” Goucher says. “And it can be a lot of fun.” (Read more about the Run the Year 2018 program at this link.)
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6. Get stronger!
Most recreational runners lack functional strength in key areas. You don’t need to bulk up, but you might need to become functionally stronger to you can more efficiently emulate good running form for the duration of your run or race. Make it a goal to work on some basic core strength a few days a week and you’ll put yourself on a path to building a strong foundation that you can build on all year. Even just 15 minutes a day can make a huge difference. Start with basic sit-ups, push-ups and planking and work your way up to doing parts of the pedestal routine a couple days a week. Then mix in a yoga, Cross-Fit Endurance or Orange Theory class and you’ll be able to keep things fresh and work different muscles groups.
READ MORE: How Runners Can Get Stronger
READ MORE: What You Need to Know About Doing an Ironman
7. Eat better, run better!
You are what you eat, and there’s no question we can all refine our dietary habits and cut down on the stuff we don’t need. Eating better will not only help you become leaner and stronger, but it will make you feel better and run better. But here’s the thing: You don’t need a new diet. You just need an improved diet. Too often, people who decide to change up their eating habits in search of better fitness make a giant leap from their current habits to some one-size-fits all plan or specialty diet. Not only are most such diets unnecessarily extreme (you’ll be hard pressed to find an Olympic distance runner who completely avoids entire food groups), but they are also difficult to sustain. A more humane and effective approach to achieving better fitness is to make specific, targeted changes that are proven to yield results and leave the rest of your preferred eating habits alone. In other words, tweak your routine instead of overhauling it.
READ MORE: 8 Ways to Take Better Care of Your Body
8. Run Faster!
If you want to become faster and improve your race times, no matter if you’re running a 5K or a marathon, you absolutely have to run faster in training. Running the same pace for all of your runs during the week just won’t cut it. Speed workouts are challenging in different ways than long runs, but, like your high-mileage days, they can be enormously satisfying. With elevated endorphins, you’ll find that running fast is exhilarating and can provide a big boost in fitness when it’s part of a well-developed training program. “Speed workouts” may mean different things depending on what type of race you are training for. Here it’s used as a more general term to refer to workouts that push you beyond your easy running pace.
READ MORE: Speed Training for 5K to the Marathon
9. Hit the trails!
This one is simple: Just go running on trails a couple of times per week for the numerous benefits it will bring. Running on trails requires increased awareness of not only where you’re stepping but how you’re feeling at any given moment. Unlike a well-paved road or revolving treadmill belt, running on trails requires that you use a wider range of muscle groups to stay upright and propel yourself forward. When you’re racing regularly on the roads, running intervals on the track or logging a lot of miles on the treadmill, it’s hard to escape the pressure of checking your pace or hitting a mileage target. On the trails, mileage and pace hardly matter—focus instead on the amount of time you’re out running and the perceived effort you’re putting out, whether it’s an easy run or challenging workout. Also, there’s an element of unpredictability involved in trail running that keeps many runners away, but the lessons learned from embracing and overcoming these challenges—i.e., conquering a monstrously steep hill, navigating a tricky stretch of rocky terrain, finishing a tough 10K route—will translate to your off-trail running, helping you realize that you’re capable of more than you thought you were.