Meryl McNally - Track
You’ve probably been doing it for years. You’ve made resolutions, you’ve tried a workout routine or two, but you’ve never been able to stick with it. Despairingly you “punish” yourself at some ungodly hour, forfeiting time that could be spent on something more important (like sleeping). But you know you need a change; you know you want something better for yourself, something you know is possible…something you know you can achieve.
Your DNA agrees. Humans are DESIGNED to be runners: our bodies evolved upright with the most efficient cooling system on the planet to be the world’s most sophisticated two-legged ‘persistence hunter’ killing machines that exist. Today there are still Kalahari tribesman who sustain themselves by running down prey...yes humans running down gazelles to feed themselves. However, before you go out and buy a hunting license and try running down a dear of your own, let’s go over some basics.
1) Create goals.
2) Create habits that support these goals.
3) Do it now.
First, set your goals. Before you get started, you need to be very clear with yourself what exactly you are trying to achieve. Set some short and long-term SMART goals.
Smart Goals Are:
Specific – Having a specific goal greatly increases the likelihood of it being accomplished. When setting a specific goal answer the six W’s:
1) Who – Who is involved? Do you plan to run with a friend, a team, or a club?
2) What – What do you plan to accomplish? How fast do you want to run a 5k? How much weight do you want to lose? What races are you going to run?
3) Where – Identify a location. Where are you going to run? Races? Where do you want to see yourself?
4) When – Establish a time frame. Set an exact date that you will accomplish running your PR of a select race distance.
5) Which – Identify requirements and restraints. Which parts of your schedule are you able and willing to sacrifice to make time for running? Do you need to give up that extra hour of sleep on Saturdays to sneak in a long run? (I would not recommend getting anything less than six hours of sleep unless you’re a fan of decreased brain function, lowered release of growth hormone, and pre-diabetes…)
6) Why – Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal. Do you want to become faster, healthier, or finally dust your nemesis at the next Cross Country competition?
Measurable – Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of each goal you set.
Keep a running log and track your progress as well as how you feel with each run. Jerry Seinfeld worked on meeting his comedy writing goals by simply checking off consecutive days on a calendar. Have a calendar in an easily seen location where you can clearly see how many consecutive days you’ve made it without missing a run. Soon you’ll find yourself so dedicated to your new routine you will take the most ridiculous measures to sneak a quickie in before class.
Attainable – Identify the goals that are most important to you and you will always find a way to make them happen. You will develop the right attitude, abilities, skills, and financial capacity to reach them. You will seize every opportunity to drive yourself forward.
Think of the runner you want to be and focus on it so intensely that every aspect of it becomes a vivid part of your own life. Live, walk, and breathe as if you are already this runner. Simple meditation is a proven method of success.
Realistic – A realistic goal represents an objective that you are both willing and able to work towards.
You’ve already identified what you want, but how bad do you want it? To succeed you must be hungry; you have to want it more than anyone else and be willing to bleed for it. It’s not always going to be a smooth ride. There will be obstacles (injuries, illness, etc…). What matters is how hard of a hit you can take and keep pushing forward. (Yes, that was a Rocky reference). When the weather sucks are you going to be like normal humans and stay inside, or will you be that crazy dude running through the freezing rain?
Timely – Without a time frame there is no sense of urgency. Have a goal that you plan to accomplish within the next week (sign up for a local fun-run or stop reading this article and go for a run right now!), as well as a long-term goal (qualify for the state championships, finish a marathon, or finally out-running your neighbor’s dogs.)
Now that you have your SMART goal established, it’s time to put it in action. Make it a habit! Habit formation is a defense mechanism of the brain: by creating habits, your mind does not have to waste oh-so-precious time and energy on processing familiar experiences or information. Have you ever driven for 30 minutes and then suddenly realized you could not recollect the last half hour?
Stage your gear the night before, drink some water, set your alarm, and wake up at the same time each morning for a run. Make sure you are out the door at a designated time no matter what distractions pop up. The best time for any workout is first thing in the morning before anything or anyone else can interfere. Typically it takes about 30 days to fully establish a new habit, but after just a few days you will find it easier to knock out a morning workout and soon it will become difficult to miss a run because doing so would require your brain to respond to what is now a different scenario.
Do it now. Make another habit of doing things now. Procrastination is a habit…just as easy as doing things immediately could be. Often times, getting out the door is the hardest part of the workout. Get rid of negative energy: focusing on how much you would rather sleep in on Saturday instead of smashing an intense ladder routine is a sure way of making sure you miss a key workout. Identify negative energy as well as emotion and immediately replace it with positive reinforcement. “I can’t wait to experience an awesome rush of endorphins at mile six tomorrow while I crush a new PR on that capillary-building ten-miler!”
You have something you want, you know what it is, and you know how to achieve it. There’s no excuse: set your goals, create habits that support them, and do it now!
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