Taking 2017 one month at a time
Work out what is important to you, write it down and you are one step closer to success
Fitness will return if you build slowly and gradually. Take your time in these early runs. Focus on a good warm-up, count your run in minutes rather than miles and cool down to finish
Our bodies deserve a break from the calories and the couch. It’s time to shake off the seasonal hangover and the extra kilos gained. However, before you run out the door, take the time to set out your running resolutions. Planning your running year sensibly will ensure your comeback won’t be short-lived.
Don’t rush in
Many people run aimlessly out the door in January full of great intentions and enthusiasm. Without a training plan or any pacing strategy, many will end up breathless, disillusioned and maybe even injured. It’s not surprising that many running comebacks don’t last the month. To make your year a running success, start by working out your running goals and find a training plan to suit you.
Build your grand plan
Decide what you want to achieve this year. Are you inspired by a particular race or distance? Maybe this is the year you hire a coach or join a club to keep yourself on track? Is it time to improve your technique or get faster? As a beginner, 2017 could be the year you move from walking to running. Regardless of your running experience to date, work out what is important to you, write down these running goals on paper and you are one step closer to making them real.
Take a look back
Identify what worked well in your training last year. List your running successes and what helped you reach these running milestones. Maybe a running buddy, a training plan or a club made the difference. Alternatively, your GPS watch or your social media support group may have been your motivation.
Write down also the things you know you should have done but never managed to make the time for. Did you dedicate enough time to strength, technique, flexibility, hydration and rest? Maybe some of your training sessions were replaced by Netflix marathons. Be honest in your notes and these will help you plan the year ahead.
Set monthly resolutions
I set goals for every month as I find an annual resolution too daunting and too large to manage. Instead I break my year into months and set small goals and three to-dos in each month. January is always the month I put the running foundations in place, deciding to build back gradually after the Christmas break. I make sure the goals I set for January are achievable. Finishing January successfully inspires me for February when I then have the confidence and motivation to add an extra challenge. Each month builds upon the last.
Make it easy on yourself
Be realistic and don’t over-commit. When creating your training plan for January, pick something you know you can do. Run every second day at most. Respect rest days and give your body the time to adapt back into running. If it has been a while since your last run, gradual progression will be key to keeping you motivated and injury free. Don’t expect your comeback to be easy. There will be challenging days and evenings when you don’t feel like running.
Search out the experts
If you run with a club or a group, you may already have a training plan to work from. If you run alone, online training plans such as our Irish Times Get Running programmes provide guidance, tips and training schedules for runners who do not have a coach available.
Search out the information you need and learn from those who have achieved what you are looking to do. Personalise the training plan to suit your lifestyle and include your runs and their details in your January calendar.
Accept the start is hard
You may feel like you have lost all fitness when you start back running. Fitness will return if you build slowly and gradually. Take your time in these early runs. Focus on a good warm-up, count your run in minutes rather than miles and cool down to finish. Use your breath as a gauge and make sure you are running at a pace you can talk comfortably at. Do not compare your pace to your previous self.
Once you have re-established the running routine, you can start to build speed and endurance, but initially allow your body to adapt slowly to help avoid injury or burnout.
Take one month at a time
With 12 months and 12 mini-resolutions, you have ample time this year to reassess your progress at the start of each new month. You can finish 2017 as motivated as you are now if you pace your training and your goals. Gradually you will see the changes and maybe even surprise yourself with what you can achieve when you just focus on the month you are in.
Expect challenging days and evenings when you don’t feel like running.