It can be the year you kiss your sedentary lifestyle goodbye. Or the year you really shed those pesky 10 lbs. you’ve been trying to lose forever. Or maybe this will be the year you run your first marathon.
No matter what your new year’s resolution is, know that most resolutions don’t last past January 31. Why? Many of us yearn to make sweeping lifestyle changes, but unfortunately those changes can’t happen overnight and life often gets in the way.
Experts say it takes about six months to form a habit. After those first six months, the new behavior — whether it be saying “no” to dessert or getting up at 5 a.m. to run – will be easier to do.
But getting through those first six months is the most challenging part. It’s common to fall off the wagon, get discouraged, and throw in the towel. With some careful planning, realistic goals, and determination, you can make your new year’s resolutions stick. Here’s how:
- Be realistic. Perhaps you want to sign up for a half marathon because all of your coworkers are doing it. But if you’re not a runner, it’s probably not a good idea. Start small and train for and run a 5k first. On the same note, if your resolution is to get to the gym before work every day, but you’re not a morning person, you’re just setting yourself up for failure. Working out during your lunch break or hitting the gym on the commute home may be more realistic.
- Focus on one goal at a time. Don’t train for a 10K PR while training for a marathon. Sure, a 10K PR may naturally happen for some of us as we gain fitness. But these are two very different goals. Focus on speed or endurance, not both. Doing so could set you up for failure or – worse – injury.
- Be willing to put in the work. If this is the year you want to finally break a 4:00 hour marathon, you need to be willing to put in the work. Not only does that mean regular speedwork and long runs, but it also means you’ll likely have to temporarily give up some social activities during training. Remember, training for a race isn’t supposed to be easy. You have to be willing to make sacrifices and work your booty off to meet your goals.
- Track your progress. Many people abandon their resolutions because they feel like they haven’t made progress. Seeing what you have accomplished is encouraging, and may be exactly what you need to keep going. Tape your training plan to the fridge and check off each completed workout so see how far you’ve come.
- Reward yourself. I’m sure we’ve all told ourselves that getting to the finish line is reward enough for making it through training. While that’s true, especially if you meet your goal time, it’s not always enough incentive to stick to a training plan. So set up mini-rewards. Splurge on your favorite dessert after you make it through the first week of training. Get a pedicure after the first month. Or buy the new running jacket you’ve been drooling over after you complete your first double-digit run.
What’s your running resolution for 2014? I want to get to the finish line of the New York City marathon. I had to defer this year because I got pregnant, but next year I’ll make it happen.
Written by Jen Matz