Tis the Season for Change!

So here you are, approaching the end of another year. Closing the door on one chapter of your life and, moving onto the next. As you reflect, 2013 may have been a pretty damn good year or, it may have just been another year, not that different from years past. Upon reflection, what do you plan to do in 2014, to make it an even better year, a better you?

As runners, we tend to get stuck in a rut, be it a good or bad one. We are creatures of habit and we prefer to stay that way because well, change can be scary. Change is something that offers no certainty and no proof of better days to come. We like to get caught up in our comfortable routine and it is there that we will stay for years to come, particularly when we have settled for what that routine offers.

For runners, this is all too common. We get caught up in our consistency of being consistent and the idea of change just might mess that up and, that scares the shit out of us! For years, you have run the same consistent times in your 5k, your 10k, marathon…..You have found a little hole that you are comfortable with and you have climbed in and built a home. Each week, each month, each year are nearly mirrored images of the ones previous. Sure, you change up a bit of the structure here and there but, in the grand scheme of things, it’s the same ole tempos, speed work, long runs, blah, blah, blah!!!

Nothing changes, nothing varies and you never improve. You keep telling yourself, the next race, “I am going to PR”…I am going to do better but, you never actually do. You spend weeks and months training for the next race, only to find that the next race was another let down. You had such high hopes and they just didn’t play out the way you wanted. So, what do you do? NOTHING!! You go right back into the same routine, going through the motions like a zombie…and so it goes, on and on and on!!!

So what are you to do?? Well, here are some ideas to get you out of that funk and get you moving in a positive direction.

1. Embrace a change – Instead of fearing a change in your routine, embrace it. Don’t be scared to find innovative ways to improve upon your current training. Doing so might just allow the little bit of tweaking you need to get over that hump and discover the best you that you can be.

2. Variety – take a look at your current training and see what is lacking. Find a way to mix it up. Instead of doing the same runs, week in and week out, substitute other means of training. This could be a change in the types of runs you do or, by throwing in some new cross training. Throw in some swimming, a weekly bike ride with some cyclist friends who are non-runners, etc., etc.

3. Become a part of something – Find a local running club, group, or gym and, join them. Finding like minded individuals can be a huge bonus. Having others around to push you, motivate you and break the monotony, may be just one little change that can make all the difference in the world.

4. Get outside your comfort zone – Sure, you have no problem getting out the door and running most days of the week, if not all 7 days of the week but, how often are you really pushing yourself? If you are only running for the sake of running, to log miles and give you a reason to eat that piece of cake, then don’t expect much improvement. Once you have maximized your current fitness, doing the same routine over and over only provides a maintenance effect and does not cause any need for adaptation. In order for the body to make continuos improvement, you must constantly apply small amounts of stress so that the body has a reason to adapt and come back stronger after having adapted to the stress. Doing so will require you to get outside your comfort zone. It’s going to mean that you will have to push yourself a bit but, if you consistently do so, you will continue to see small gains that will, in time, turn into BIG gains and big improvements.

5. Don’t fear regression – when starting a new training plan, realize that it will take several weeks to start seeing any meaningful results. During this time, you are likely to see a bit of regression as your body makes the necessary adaptations to the new changes. You may be a bit more fatigued than what you were use to, feel as if your running has gotten worse, etc. Think of it like detox. If you have basically been doing the exact same thing for the past X amount of years, then your body has gotten dependent on the routine and has grown callused. Once you cut off the callus, there is new skin beneath. The same goes with training. Once you have outline your new plan, give it 6-8 weeks minimum. Your new routine may have you waking up earlier to get in a run before work or, it might include “two a day” runs, maybe some new strength work, etc. Whatever the changes are that you have made, the body needs time to adjust and adapt to a new routine and new levels of stress.

6. Focus on your weaknesses – Maybe you have always been a horrible hill runner, a good marathoner with a less than impressive 5k time, maybe your diet is horrible or you stay up too late. Whatever your weakness, find ways to improve upon them. If hills are your nemesis, implement some hill training into your plan. Throw in some speed work to bring down that 5k time. If you stay up late and eat whatever you want, go to bed an hour earlier and clean up the diet. Little changes and improvement upon your weaknesses, can pay huge dividends in getting you to the next rung on the ladder.

7. Give back – As a human being and as a runner, it is your obligation to give back when you can. As a runner, this can mean many things. This could be volunteering for some races, pacing a friend, become a part of a youth running mentorship program, etc. You’ll be surprised just how much you can gain by giving back to the community that you are a part of. Getting involved will open up so many doors and opportunities.

8. HAVE FUN – this one, particularly for the “Average Joe” runner, is likely the most important. Everyday life stresses with family, work, bills, etc., are bad enough, why make something you love become another stress? Take your running serious but, don’t take it serious! Meaning, running should not become something that owns you. If you have to miss a run for some other obligation, then so be it!! After all, it’s just a run!! One run won’t make you and one run won’t break you! Once running becomes stressful, then it also becomes toxic. Stay focused but, ENJOY THE RIDE!!

So there you have it! A few tips that you can take with you into the upcoming year. Set goals, work hard, stay focused, have fun and, KICK ASS!!

Enjoy the rest of 2013, have some great holiday down time with family and friends and, we’ll see you out there on the roads and trails, come 2014! Happy Holidays and Happy Training!

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