A New Year equals New Year’s Resolutions and New You goal setting. For many, this is a time to create new goals to stop or start doing something. And for other individuals, it’s a chance to review, reset and reattempt the previous year’s goals.
And there are endless possibilities when it comes to choosing a running goal. You could aim to:
- Build your running base (i.e., from zero to 5kms or more)
- Improve your time (i.e., a PR or PB)
- Increase your distance (i.e., make the jump from a 5 mile or 10 mile to a half or full marathon)
- Run a new race locally or in a city you wish to visit
But I believe the most important goal of all has been overlooked: training consistently.
Consistency is important. I was an inconsistent runner who ran myself into an injury; shin splints. I loved signing up for races but didn’t commit to regular training. On one occasion, I didn’t begin training for a half marathon until the fortnight prior. By trying to jam 4 months of training runs into 2 weeks, I injured myself and had to hobble to the start line. I was in tears watching my fellow runners start the race without me.
It took another 6 years to learn the value of consistent training (let’s say I’m a slow learner!). I had more free time to run in 2017 and 2018 which meant no excuse to not run. I ran daily in preparation for my tenth marathon. I ran 6 days a week, only taking Monday as a rest and recovery day. As a result, I ran my first sub 4:15 hour marathon, shaving more than 10 minutes from my personal best time. And I had the most fun I’ve ever had in a marathon. I loved it! Amazing what consistent training can do!
What does consistent training actually do for you?
Consistent training has been known to:
- Reduce the risk of injury.
- Increase your body’s ability to recover quickly.
- Take the pain out of race day by spreading it across training runs.
- Prepare your body and mind for the effort required to push your limits.
- Improve your mindset.
But how do you ensure you train consistently?
As someone who has dabbled with consistent training, I’ve found that when I implement the following three actions I have the best shot at success.
1. Make a plan
You know what your daily schedule looks like, whether it includes school drop off, working lunches, long commutes or a celebratory night out. And you have your training plan with its intervals, sprints, hill reps and long runs. Now it’s time to align the two.
With this deluxe plan you’ll need to be flexible. You don’t HAVE TO complete your long run on a Sunday and your rest day doesn’t need to be on a Monday. Shuffle your sessions to suit your social, work and life admin plans.
2. Defeat those excuses!
Once you’ve melded your life schedule and training program into a single plan, it’s time to defeat the excuses that are likely to derail your consistent training.
Some of my runner friends call this the ‘what if’ situation but I prefer to think of it as the ‘no excuses plan’. What if it rains? What if it snows? What if it’s dark? What if I can’t leave the kids alone? What if I’m tired? These are just a few of the common excuses that runners use to avoid running.
But they’re just that – excuses! Where there is a will, there is a way. If you really own this challenge, you’ll find a way to train consistently.
You won’t melt if you run in the rain. You can carry a torch, run with a friend or use a treadmill at the gym if you aren’t comfortable out after dark. If your children are too young to be left home alone, then what’s to stop you running laps of your driveway, around your house or between two street lights in front of your home? If you’re busy with family and work, why not run during your lunch break or before bed time?
Grab a piece of paper, draw a line down the middle. In the left column, write a list of every excuse that has ever stopped you from running and a few others you think you may wish to use in the future. In the right column, write down how you’ll stop this excuse in its tracks.
For example, if you can’t leave the kids home alone you’ll pop them in a jogger pram and take them with you. Can’t fit them in the jogger pram? Then how about running laps around the local playground while they enjoy the sandpit? It’s night time and too late to take the kids out? Then run 100-200m up and down your street until you achieve your training goal.
Let’s start eliminating all of the excuses that could derail your new running goal.
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3. Run in the early morning
I always say that motivation is fickle. Discipline (i.e., consistent training) is something you can rely on. In the early morning hours, when your head isn’t quite aware yet, you’ll make fewer excuses to skip a run. If you are disciplined enough to run in the morning you won’t need motivation later in the day.
There are a lot of benefits to starting your day early:
- Energise yourself for the day ahead. You’ll be ready for any challenges that come your way, be more alert in the afternoon and sleep better in the evening.
- Enjoy the sunshine, fresh air and quiet. Yes, you can get this all day long BUT mornings hold a special kind of magic that is enjoyed by few.
- As mentioned above, you won’t be distracted and fail to run later in the day
- Thrive on the feeling of accomplishment you get when you’ve ticked a run off of your list while others sleep.
My suggestion: start your day 30 minutes earlier. The first day and first week will be tough. Embrace that! You will be glad you completed a run while everyone else was still tucked up in bed. You can’t beat the feeling of productivity and accountability before the sun has risen! And there’s still 12+ hours of the day to go! Imagine the possibilities…
In summary, don’t just set a goal to run a race. Make it your goal to train consistently for that race. Consistent training requires an aligned schedule, a plan to defeat the excuses and starting the day right. But in return, you’ll reap the benefits with greater enjoyment in your races!
Are you an aspiring runner? Let us know in the comments below what have been some of your greatest roadblocks to achieving consistency with your training!
About the author:
Nicole Stirling is an avid runner and the author of 366 Days of Running blog. Nicole started running in her 20’s to get fit and lose a little weight. But her start was rocky; she ran irregularly and was prone to injury.
To address her consistency, Nicole set herself a challenge: to run a minimum 3kms every day for 366 days. And she achieved her running streak! Since then, Nicole has run 12 marathons, 9 half marathons and explored the US, Europe and Asia through running tours and races. She’s heading to Italy, Slovenia and Croatia later in the year to run a marathon and trails on a group tour. Follow her story and find more articles like this at: www.366daysofrunning.com