September 2 2015
Here's how to set realistic but challenging goals—and go after them.
Resolutions are exciting and ambitious to follow when first made, but they can get tiresome and harder to follow as the year goes on. Coach Jenny Hadfield has tips to help one reader keep her goals throughout the year.
“I often start the year with big fitness goals but don’t always follow through—especially when it’s dark and dreary outside. What’s your best advice for staying motivated?” – Christine
When I was a corporate fitness coach, I hosted an annual motivational program in January to encourage employees to exercise. Every year, attendance would be high for the first three week s—then somewhere around the beginning of February, it would drop—dramatically.
Then one year, we decided to mix things up. Instead of starting the program with a bang on New Year’s Day, we offered personal consultations for employees to develop a long-term movement mission. We evaluated personal interests, considered family life, made a chart of busy periods and developed small goals. The outcome was incredible to watch: Instead of having people quit en masse, the majority of employees stayed active throughout the entire year.
The key to maintaining motivation is to have a solid plan in place. Instead of focusing solely on January, think like Mother Nature, break the year up into seasons and mix in a variety of activities and goals. Use this foolproof plan to create your own movement mission to stay strong and fit throughout 2014.
Step 1: Get your hands on an annual calendar. Either digital or paper works—just make sure you can see the entire year at a glance.
Step 2: Highlight what you think will be your busiest and calmest times of year. Busy times might include the holidays, final exams or kids heading back to school.
Step 3: Make a bucket list for the year. Pick three target goals and plug them in at the end of your calm periods. Goals may include racing a 5K, completing your first triathlon or running 10 miles without stopping.
Step 4: Working your way back from your target goals, marking the start of each training period (12 to 14 weeks before your goal). Training periods will be when you’re ramping up miles and intensity and preparing for an event. Next, write in your recovery periods—three to six weeks of down time immediately following your accomplished goals. This will be when you’ll allow yourself to heal and rest. The remainder of the year will be the slow season, when you’re not training per se but still active.
Step 5: During your training periods, brainstorm social fitness opportunities to keep you accountable. If cold mornings aren’t your thing, running with a buddy will help make them more fun.
Step 6: This one is important! Give yourself permission to get off the fitness hamster wheel. It can be tempting to train without a break—there are so many fun races to run! Although it may seem like always having a race to look forward to will keep you inspired, there will come point of burnout. In your off-season, remember to run for the joy of it! With a little bit of planning, you’ll ensure that each season will bring a fresh challenge. You’ll stay excited through the end of the year and beyond.
Jenny Hadfield is the co-author of Running for Mortals and Marathoning for Mortals. You can find more of her training programs, tips and running classes at coachjenny.com.