Ready to take on the new year with some running resolutions that will make you stronger and faster? By setting some simple goals for yourself, you can do just that. Here are four easy-to-monitor, year-long resolutions to get you started:
1. Race one a month.
Nothing sharpens your racing skills better than getting out and doing it. In fact, too many runners have a yearly goal race and then are wracked with terrible nerves on race day. You can solve this problem by simply adding one race to your schedule every month. That way, you'll go through the process of registering, picking up your bib, getting dressed and racing once every four weeks. Not only will you get lots of practice, but you'll also get used to running under the pressure of competition. Don't worry: These can be local 5Ks or other low-key (even free) races. Something is better than nothing!
2. Reserve one day a week for stretching.
Runners should place a heavy emphasis on stretching and lengthening muscles to undo some of the tightening caused by running. A great way to do this is to set aside one day each week to stretch – and nothing else. The best thing to do is to take a yoga class on this day, but you can also just go to the gym and spend a good amount of your normal workout time (say, 45 to 60 minutes) stretching your body. Doing this will give you a nice, relaxing recovery day, too.
3. Try something new every week.
If there's one thing that runners tend toward, it's being creatures of habit. Unfortunately, doing the same things every day, or using the same schedule over long periods of time, can lead to performance plateaus, boredom and lack of motivation. To break this pattern, reserve one day of the week for trying a new type of workout. Do a speed workout you've never done before, pick a new place to run or play arunning game with your friends. Use your imagination – and the Internet if you must – but come up with something you haven't tried before. You may find methods you really like and wind up mixing them into your workout plans going forward. And, you'll scare away the Boredom Monster at the same time.
4. Become a part of the running community.
Perhaps nothing contributes more to the longevity of runners than becoming a part of the running community itself. Many runners just show up for a race now and then or run by themselves at the gym. Take the opportunity to join a running group, volunteer at a race or coach a youth running team. There are many ways to get involved. The most important thing is to place a priority on becoming part of something greater than yourself so you feel connected and rooted in the sport. Once you've established some connections to the community, you'll find yourself more motivated to show up and see your friends – and you just may keep on running much later into your life.
Once you pick your goals – be they from this list or your own – write them down. This may be both the simplest and most difficult part of a New Year's resolution. But it's important. By taking the time to write down some goals, you're challenging yourself and making a commitment to go after those goals in the coming year. You'll also need a plan to make those goals happen. Think about what you'd like to improve about your running – whether it's to get faster, be more competitive or just to have more fun – and write down how you will make each one a reality. Just remember that your goals need to be measurable by your own performances – not those of the people around you.
New Year's resolutions are a time for us to reflect on where we've been and where we're going. Take the opportunity to challenge yourself in some of these simple ways and you'll improve your running, keep yourself in good health and hopefully be happier in the long run. Happy New Year, runners!
4 Resolutions Every Runner Should Make was originally published on U.S. News & World Report.
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