So it’s the New Year and you find yourself in that no-man’s land (or woman if you are one) of neither being completely out of shape but certainly not fit. You’re in that murky twilight where nearly every run is a chore but you're not running enough to get in shape. It is not an easy task getting over this hump. I feel the best way to get out of this funk is to take the following four steps: Pick an event, get a plan, track your progress and get with others.
1. Pick an event or Goal.
Ask local runners or search the internet to find a race that sounds intriguing. Make sure this race is approximately 12-18 weeks in the future. When preparing for any race distance it is advisable to allow time to adapt to the new intensity and training volume. When you find the appropriate race for you, SIGN UP! Signing up for a race and thus making a monetary commitment usually creates a sense of obligation that will help keep you motivated.
2. Get a Training Plan.
Make sure your plan considers what fitness level you are in NOW, not what level you would like be in the future. That way, your plan will incorporate the appropriate intensity and volume at the beginning and build from there. Ideally, consult a running coach (www.grahamrunning.com) to create a plan that is appropriate for you. If you can not consult a coach, create your own plan by reviewing your favorite running book or website and then adapt a plan that fits your needs.
3. Track your progress.
This can be done by having a benchmark race at the beginning of the process and then revisit the same race distance 4-6 weeks later. Tracking can also be achieved by performing a speed work session early in your preparation and then recreate the exact same session again 4-6 weeks later. Obviously the conditions should be as similar as possible; such as heat, humidity and time of day. If you run your benchmark workout in 55 degrees and then revisit 6 weeks later when it is 80 degrees you will not get an accurate assessment of your fitness improvement.
4. Connect with others.
Find a running group or training partners that have similar goals. If you are in the Atlanta area try group runs at Phidippides. Ideally, if you have secured a running coach you will have group workouts during the week. This can be a priceless motivator to a runner. The accountability can have a massive effect. If you know you have a group meeting up that expects you to show it can be extremely powerful in combating the downswing of motivation that might occur during training.
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