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

The Irish Times - Tuesday - Health - - Fitness - Mary Jen­nings Mary Jen­nings is founder and run­ning coach with For­getTheGym.ie. Mary trains begin­ners and marathon­ers and every­one in be­tween to en­joy run­ning and to stay in­jury-free. Mary is also the cre­ator of all our Ir­ish Times Get Run­ning pro­grammes:

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.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: IS­TOCK

Ex­pect chal­leng­ing days and evenings when you don’t feel like run­ning.

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