by Tom O'Grady
With a new year upon us comes hope and optimism for many after what was a year of hardships. The best way to characterize 2020 was as a year of running through challenges. The good thing is that most runners are used to some sort of struggle and difficulty because of the nature of the sport. With optimism on the horizon there should come some additional motivation to help runners fulfill their goals in the coming year. The key to moving forward after tough times is to leverage the mental and physical toughness of the runner psyche and utilize this to get off to a good start in 2021.
Some Quick Tips for Success in 2021:
Set reasonable goals and keep your expectations in line with your current abilities and fitness level. For some people, training in 2020 was easier than for others. People who were able to keep training consistently alone will have a solid base of fitness to call on. This will provide an easy pivot point on which to ramp up from for races (in-person or virtual) that may be on the horizon in the coming year. If you have not raced in a while but are fit from training, then setting short- and long-term goals for races will help you ease back into race fitness. For those who found training to be more difficult or nearly impossible in 2020 (whether because of motivation or obligations), then building back your base fitness will likely be a necessary first step in 2021. With a reservoir of consistency early in the year, it is possible to be prepared to shift gears and train for a race as things “return to normal.” Measuring and adjusting expectations is the key to avoiding setbacks in either case as you strive to achieve your running and fitness goals.
Most people do not stick to their New Year’s goals because they have unreasonable expectations and no plans in place to keep them accountable and working towards their goals. It is each runner’s responsibility to set an achievable goal and then make a plan that ensures your success. Whether you have racing goals, general fitness goals related to running, or are a beginner, there is no shortage of options to help you make a suitable goal and plan. Options include working with a coach or trainer, joining a club or team, or utilizing books, YouTube videos, or online websites that provide instructional information. Each of these options comes with varying price and time commitments as well as options for virtual, in-person, and group instruction. You should aim to match your goals and knowledge with the services being provided. When deciding “what path to take” a person should be honest with themselves about the amount of instruction they may need and the environments they excel in. This frame of mind will allow you the greatest opportunity for success with choices varying tremendously from person to person. Beginners may need one-on-one instruction and additional encouragement that comes from working with a trainer or in a group environment. Veterans may simply want advice or information that they can use at their own time and at their own discretion.
Because of the potential health and financial strain people are facing, it is important to be aware of burnout and respecting your limits in the new year as you work towards your running and fitness goals. If you find yourself not able to meet the demands of your running goals, it will be important to recalibrate rather than quit altogether. The goal should be to make running gains, not have setbacks!
Finally, in the northeast there are many ways to achieve gains towards your running goals in the winter. This means keeping a good frame of mind and taking advantage of the available options when the weather does not provide you with the best conditions for running. This means being prepared to dress properly, potentially utilize a treadmill (gasp), and maybe even supplementing your running with activities like cross-country skiing or snowshoeing.
Tom O’Grady’s Archive
Safe Pedestrian Ways in the Capital Region: You Can Help
A Look at the Olympic Marathon
Summer Training – Building a Foundation for Success
Review: Staying the Course: A Runner’s Toughest Race
Plan Your Summer Running (previously “Racing Season”)