12 New Year’s Resolutions You Can Start Now!
Want to become a better runner in the new year? Of course you do.
January 1 inspires most of us to dream big. We’ll lose 10 kilograms, run regularly, earn that finisher’s medal. It’s good to set goals: After all, people who make New Year’s resolutions are 10 times more likely to achieve their goals than those who don’t, says John C. Norcross, university professor of psychology who has studied the follow-through of Resolutionaries. As the saying goes, you can’t hit a target if you don’t have one.
But dreaming isn’t enough, and procrastination will make the new year look a lot like last year. So we’ve laid out steps you can take right this minute (and later today, and later this week) to set you up for success.
Resolution 1: Start Running Regularly
Plug four or five 15- to 20-minute runs (or walks, if you’re not currently exercising) into your schedule for the week – that’s enough to build fitness and establish a routine without overtaxing your body. “Write them down before the week begins, and make them non-negotiable,” says Gus Arias, a sales engineer who in four years transformed from a sedentary 130kg man to an ultra-marathoner and Team in Training coach.
Later today… Complete your first session. If you’ve been doing some walking or running, run for one minute and walk for three – repeat for 20 minutes total. New to exercise? Go for a 15-minute walk. “Most people try to do too much, too soon,” says Arias, adding that it took him eight weeks before he could run for five minutes without stopping.
Later this week… Create a progress chart and reward structure to fuel your motivation after your initial enthusiasm has ebbed. Once you’ve logged your first week’s workouts, get a pair of new running shoes, schedule a pedicure, or sign up for a fun, untimed event, like a color run or obstacle course run.
RELATED: Walk Breaks for Faster Running
Resolution 2: Diversify Your Diet
Go to our nutrition section to discover runner-tested dishes from chefs, cookbooks, and other runners, or dust off one of your own cookbooks. “Bookmark a recipe on your smartphone or put the book in your car so you can reference the ingredients list when you’re at the grocery store,” says sports dietitian Suzanne Girard Eberle, author of Endurance Sports Nutrition. Study the recipe to ensure you own the cooking gear you’ll need to make it.
Later today… Choose an ingredient you always have on hand and collect three recipes that use it. “They don’t have to be complicated main dishes,” says Eberle. “Simple sides, soups, or salads also count toward your goal.” After you’ve worked through those, pick another ingredient and collect recipes for it.
Later this week… Start a monthly online recipe exchange with friends and family who cook (or aspire to). Ask each participant to email a recipe they’ve tried – with success – and encourage everyone to attach photos of their creations.
RELATED: 6 Power Smoothie Bowls You’ll Love!
Resolution 3: Set a 5K PB
Do 12 pushups – or as many as you can before your form crumples. “Upper-body strength is essential for boosting your speed,” says Jeff Horowitz, author of Quick Strength for Runners. “Driving forward with your arms helps you tap into the power required to conquer a long sprint, which is what a 5K is.” Add one or two pushups to your routine every week until you plateau.
Later today… Register for a race that plays to your strengths. Flat, straight courses appeal to most runners. Make sure favorable weather conditions are likely, given your chosen location and date.
Later this week… Add six to 10 strides to your pre-speedwork warm-up to improve your turnover and get acclimated to running fast. (You are doing speedwork, right? For some workouts, go to our speed section.) Run hard but in control for 45 metres, rest for 30 seconds, then do another. Aim for four to eight repeats total. And remember: Strides are a great way to warm up for your race, too.
Resolution 4: Run Your First Half Marathon
Download a guide designed by our experts. Then sign up for a half that’s at least three months away and within driving distance. Racing close to home makes it easy for loved ones to cheer your progress and celebrate your finish with you, says Team in Training coach Arias.
Later today… Call or email loved ones to broadcast your plan, and share it on your social networks. “It definitely makes it harder to back out once you’ve advertised your goal and have people checking up on you,” says Arias.
Later this week… Buy new shoes. Endurance events demand well-designed shoes that truly fit you. “Running stores are staffed by really knowledgeable people who can help you choose shoes you’ll love,” Arias says.
Resolution 5: Lose Weight
Drink water. Hunger pangs often signal thirst, not a need for more food, says Brian Maher, a personal trainer in Philadelphia who specialises in weight loss.
Later today… Clear your fridge and pantry of high-calorie junk foods. “Most people don’t have the discipline to turn down a chocolate if it’s right there,” says Maher.
Later this week… Make a weekly meal plan and matching grocery list. Opt for quick, simple combinations: Eggs, brown rice, and spinach make a fine dinner.
Resolution 6: Complete Your First Triathlon
Make a list of everyone you know who bikes or swims so you can hit them up for loaner gear, suggests Amy Charity, a triathlon coach in Colorado. Get your own after your first race, should you commit to the sport.
Later today… Locate facilities where you can complete your swimming and cycling workouts, and plug them into your schedule. Sign up for Spin classes if you haven’t yet secured a bike.
Later this week… Go to the pool, grab a kickboard, and complete a few legs-only laps. “Kicking is a crucial aspect of swimming,” Charity says. Kick from your hips (rather than your knees), keep your legs parallel, and don’t exaggerate the motion by kicking above the water surface or below the bodyline.
Resolution 7: Stay Motivated
Identify your bugaboo: Cold weather? Dark mornings? Not having a race on the horizon? Figuring out what triggers your off times puts you in a better position to engineer the fix, says Rachel Dehner, a coach with Revolution Running.
Later today… Pick a goal that will get you out the door. You don’t have to train for a race, although that’s one popular objective. You might run so you can treat yourself to new running gear, or lead the pack during your weekly group run.
Later this week… Climb back on the wagon, but make moderation your mantra. “Most runners are so worried about the fitness they’ve lost that they overdo it when they start running again,” says Dehner. She recommends walk/running to start (if it’s been months since you last ran) and limiting your workouts to every other day.
Resolution 8: Qualify For Comrades or Two Oceans
Choose a race that suits your schedule, your course-profile and weather preferences, and the race’s specific requirements.
Later today… Push yourself out of your running comfort zone. “A lot of runners do every workout at the same moderate intensity day after day, so they see their speed hit a plateau,” says coach Dehner. After warming up with a few low-effort kilometres, pick up the pace gradually until you’re working hard and running at a speed that feels challenging but sustainable.
Later this week… Do the last three kilometres of your long run at your qualifying race pace. In the coming weeks and months, you can gradually increase that race-pace period until you’re completing all your long runs near your race goal speed.
Resolution 9: Get Into Yoga (For Real This Time)
Learn a sequence of moves to help you warm up before or cool down after a run.
Later today… Call or email local studios and seek advice on the best class for you. Ask for a beginner focus, so you can learn proper alignment, but let the teacher help you decide what style can help you achieve your goals – whether that’s to increase flexibility, to build strength, or to calm your mind.
Later this week… Complete four short yoga sessions at home. With yoga, frequency is more important than duration, says Sage Rountree, author of The Runner’s Guide to Yoga, adding that shorter sessions also reduce the likelihood of overdoing the effort.
Resolution 10: Find Running Friends
Sign up for Twitter and Instagram if you haven’t already. “It takes just minutes to open an account, and it lets you connect with other runners in your area and across the country,” says Dorothy Beal, a running coach and blogger. Search for hashtags like #runchat, #runnerds, and #seenonmyrun to connect with other runners.
Later today… Research running groups in your area, and browse their forums. “Running with people you don’t know is life-altering,” Beal says.
Later this week… Visit your local running shop – the manager will have the scoop on all running-related happenings in your area, from colour runs to races to lectures by visiting shoe-company reps or well-known runners. Plan to attend something – these events encourage mingling, and you know you’ll have something in common with others.
Resolution 11: Run a Trail Race
Search the Web to find local trail-running groups and clubs, and make plans to join the next meet-up. You’ll get pointers – and suggestions on where to race – from veterans, says coach Dehner.
Later today… Start building hip strength and flexibility. “Trails uneven surfaces force your legs to move in various planes, not just forward and back,” Dehner says. These moves will improve your range of motion and may build the agility you’ll need to avoid a face-plant.
Later this week… Log your first trail run. Sign up with strava.com to find the best beginner loops in your area. Pick a short route – trails’ obstacles can make a distance that seems easy on the roads more fatiguing – and don’t worry about speed. Road shoes are fine for most trails, but choose cushioned socks with a high cuff to keep out rocks, twigs, and other debris.
Resolution 12: Give Back
Consider what population you’d like to serve, then get online and research opportunities to work with them, suggests coach and blogger Beal. You might prefer to help needy families or donate to animal welfare.
Later today… Reach out to your target organisation and commit to a certain activity or block of time. Not sure how you can help? Ask what their needs are, and fill in as requested.
Later this week… Follow through on your offer, if your organisation can use you right away. If not, see if an upcoming local race needs volunteers, donate toward a friend’s charity bib, or just pick up and throw away a few pieces of trash on your next run. Act generously: The more you do it, the easier it becomes – just like running.