Tuesday, October 21, 2014

13 Tips for Staying on Top of Your Running Goals

Recently, I rediscovered my love of running. After a nearly 6-week hiatus, I hopped on the treadmill and quickly realized how much I missed it.

I missed the way it made me feel. The energy it gave me. The bounce in my step. The confident “I-can-take-on-anything” feeling. The way it cleared my head of those yucky negative thoughts. The good tired feeling. Dare I say, I even missed the sweat on my brow.

During some seasons of life, time just gets away from me. Our days become packed full of fun activities—gymnastics and play dates and music classes and library story time—and of course, runs to the grocery store and Target.

Carving out time for regular, uninterrupted exercise becomes challenging—particularly when your two toddlers don’t nap at the same time (or don’t nap at all!).

Still, staying on top of my exercise goals is important to me. Lately, I’ve been asking myself this question: How do I get back to that place? That place where I was on top of my running goals.

Coincidentally, while I was mulling this over in my head, Oscar, a company that provides health insurance in New York, reached out to me asking if I would write a blog post about how I stay on top of my running goals. And that’s how this post was born.

I’ve compiled a list of what has worked well for me in the past—as I trained for a 5K, a 10K, a 12K, or a half marathon. I wrote these 13 tips for myself as I strive to reach my latest running goal, but I’m hopeful they will aid you, too, in staying on top of your own running goals.

1. Register for a race or run.
Setting my sights on a specific race is key for me. I need to have a goal in mind--as well as a target date. I'm planning to register for an upcoming race as motivation to continue running on the treadmill at least three days a week.

2. Create an exercise calendar.
You can design your own handmade calendar using paper and pen; print a free, customizable calendar at www.timeanddate.com; or search for a running calendar online. When I ran a half marathon, I printed this 12-week calendar. If you'd prefer to track your running goals on your smartphone, try one of these fitness apps: Map My Fitness, RunKeeper, Strava, or Nike+ Running.  

3. Post your exercise calendar in plain sight.
Find a spot where you will see it frequently. For me, hanging the calendar on a clipboard near my computer monitor means I will see it at least twice a day; once at naptime and once at night.

4. Make running a priority.
Place it in the number one position on your to-do list. When I worked outside the home, I found that if I didn't complete my run as soon as I got home, I'd often procrastinate and work on other projects, and before I knew it, it was time for bed.

5. Dress for success. 
Setting out my clothing the night before always helps me to get dressed faster, whether I'm going to work out that day or not. Now that I'm a stay-at-home mom (not an elementary school teacher), I often put my running clothes on first thing in the morning, so that when nap time rolls around, I can hit the treadmill immediately. If you want to take it a step further, follow positive psychologist and author Shawn Achor's advice: Wear your workout clothes to bed! (If you haven't read Shawn's book, The Happiness Advantage, I highly recommend it.) I’ve never tried this practice myself, but it makes sense: The less you have to do before you start your run, the better the odds that you'll actually hit the pavement or treadmill.

6. Work out when it's convenient for you, not someone else.
I know many people who love starting their day off with a run. But that’s just not for me. I’m so not a morning person.  When I worked as a teacher, I tried many times to get up early and run before work. I'd tell myself the night before that I'd get up, but I never did. I'd hit the snooze button six or seven times. Which is why now, I always work out during the day (nap time) or after the kids go to bed (but not so close to my bedtime that I won’t be able to fall sleep).

7. Buy yourself a new pair of running shoes. 
When I spend $125 on a pair of athletic shoes from Fleet Feet Sports, I really want to wear them. Not only are they clean and pretty, but they feel so good on my feet. And my rule is, if I put them on, then I must run. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

8. Surround yourself with inspiration.
Pinterest is a great place to find funny quotes or inspirational sayings about everything and anything running. Gather a few that resonate with you or make you laugh, print them out and then stick them up all over your house--on your bathroom mirror, your refrigerator, even your treadmill.

9. Create an awesome running playlist.
Need ideas? Check out these Pinterest playlists. If you love listening to Pandora during your workouts, there are many station options, perfect for your running workout. I just added Country Fitness radio and 80s Cardio to my Pandora list. 

10. Watch television when you run.
Catch up on your DVR shows—whether it’s Parenthood or The Voice or The Walking Dead. Want to take it up a notch? View your favorite shows only when you're running. That way, you'll be really motivated to jump on the treadmill. I'm chuckling as I write this because I watch very little television. I literally had to google, "Most Popular 2014 TV shows," because I had no idea what people are watching these days. (By the way, Big Bang Theory was #1, and I'm sure it comes as no surprise that I've never seen it.) I write all that to say that it’s easy for me to only watch television when I run. If you're an avid television watcher, then you're probably laughing at me...and the absurdity of that very idea. I can hear my television-loving hubby now, "Run every time I watch TV? Never!" Ha! 

11. Track and celebrate your progress.
In the past, every time I finished a run, I'd check off the box on my exercise calendar (thinking, Ah, yeah!) and jot down my time or mileage. And then I’d let out a little "Woohoo!"  

12. Keep yourself accountable.
One way to do this is to exercise with a friend. Or join a running club. If you exercise alone (as I often do), share your running goals with friends and family. Ask for their support during your training as well as on the day of the race. Post your progress on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or your blog.

13. Celebrate your accomplishment.
When you cross the finish line (and you will!), be sure to share your BIG running accomplishment with friends and family--in person, via email, or on social media. Go ahead, brag a little. You've earned it! You never know, you just may inspire someone else to tackle one of their own exercise goals. 

In short, this is what I want to remember going forward: Plan. Train. Race. Celebrate. Repeat. 

It’s as simple--and as challenging--as that.
Fellow runners: What tips would you add?  How do you stay on top of your running goals?

Keep on running,

Thanks to Oscar Health Insurance for inviting me to write this piece. I was not compensated in any way for this post, and all opinions and suggestions are strictly my own.  

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