The time is almost here. The magical moment on December 31 when the clock will strike midnight, the slate will be proverbially wiped clean, and we can begin another year afresh and dive into reinvention mode.
The optimist in me loves this. I not only love New Year's Day but also new days, new weeks, and new months. Every day presents an opportunity for a new beginning and a fresh start, as long as you remember you can't just erase the past. We can learn so much from our past successes – and even more so from our past failures – if we are open enough to see the lessons.
Running goals in 2017: Start where you are
New Year's Day or not, I think it's most important to start where you are. Maybe you're a brand new runner. Maybe you're an elite. Maybe you are coming back after an injury. Perhaps you're returning to running after many years off. These are all valid starting blocks.
It's also important to realize who you are and how you operate, both physically and mentally.
A leopard can't change his spots, so keep your resolutions realistic. Resolutions are supposed to motivate your to change the things you do not like about yourself, or to inspire you to push yourself to achieve more than you thought possible. Resolutions are NOT designed to make you feel bad about yourself. This said, make sure your goals are challenging but achievable: think of applying enough pull on a rubber band to make it stretch without snapping.
Whether you are a newbie or an elite runner, I've listed 15 running resolution ideas below that you can use as you finalize your 2017 running goals. (Need help? I'm a USATF-certified running coach and can help you achieve any and all of your 2017 fitness goals.)
15 New Year's resolutions for runners
Become a runner. This goal is for newbies, but it's an important one. The first step is getting out there and running – whether it's for a block or a minute. The next step is to make it a habit. And to get comfortable calling yourself a runner and thinking of yourself as a runner.
Set a PR (personal record). Or two or three. Pick several goal races that occur 3 or 4 months from now – and start training for them specifically. For example, if your goal race is a 5K, going on 20-mile long runs will not help you achieve your goal as much as doing regular hill sprints or 1K intervals will.
Set a distance goal. Many people like to try to log in X number of miles by the end of the year. Say 500. Or 1000. Or 2000! Like I said, start where you are.
Qualify for a competitive race. Qualifying for the Boston Marathon (eg, "Catching the Unicorn") is probably the most popular race-qualifying goal. But keep in mind some races have even tougher time qualification standards, like the New York City Marathon. Again, remember to train specifically for your race.
Run X number of races. Racing is never easy – that's the point, right? But the more often you race, the more normal it becomes. Maybe you'd like to set a goal, such as run 10 5ks in 2017, or run 5 different races in 2017.
Run your first race. This is a variation on #5 for newbie runners. Perhaps you want to try your first 5K or 10K.
Win a race. Yes, win. This goal is obviously difficult and is for more advanced runners. But to achieve big, you need to dream big. You'll have to work very hard, and you will have to improve your speed and mental agility. You'll also have to choose your course wisely. If you want to win a 10K and hills are not your thing for example, it's probably a good idea Ito pick a flat course for your goal race. Luck also comes into play here: winning can sometimes depend on who else shows up on race day. Picking an appropriate goal race also depends on your level and experience as a runner. If you are more advanced, winning a local 5K with only 100 finishers does not carry quite the same caché (both personally and within the running community) as winning a competitive 5K with 500 finishers. Be honest with yourself about where you are and what constitutes a real "win."
Podium or top 10 (or top 20 or top 30, depending on your level) in a race. Easier than #7 above (easy is relative) but a good goal to help you up your race game and see what you can achieve if you put your mind to it. You will have to train hard and remain focused.
Win your age group in a race. Winning your age group can be very rewarding and life-affirming. Depending on the size of the race field, this also constitutes a certain amount of luck in terms of who shows up on race day and it requires a definite amount of hard work.
Podium in your age group in a race (or top 10). A variation on #9, above for less advanced runners.
Learn to enjoy running more and be less competitive about it. This is the counterbalance goal to the first 10 ideas, mostly for type As like me. If you are competitive by nature, there may come a point where you focus only on the end goal and forfeit staying in the moment and enjoying the life-affirming experience of running.
Cross-train X times per week. Most running injuries are repetitive stress injuries that occur as we exert the same wear and tear patterns on the same muscles/joints/ligaments day after day, step after step, mile after mile. This is why triathletes tend to fare better in the injury department than us: they are essentially cross training and are using all their muscles. Cross training can help runners strengthen opposing muscles and improve strength and flexibility. Choose runner-friendly activities like yoga, cycling, spinning, swimming, power walking (incline helps) or the elliptical machine.
Revamp your diet. Any step you take to up your nutritional game is a good one. You may decide to go all plant-based, or eat more protein, or consume at least 7 servings of produce each day. Or cut out most sugars or processed foods.
Run without music. Running while listening to music or a podcast certainly helps pass the time and mask out the sound of your breath. But it can also become a crutch. I try only to run with music during races or during part of those painfully long 22-milers while marathon training.
- Improve your running form. This one is tricky but if done properly, can help you become a more efficient, less injury-prone runner. This is not a DIY goal: It's important to consult with a certified running coach or a physical therapist to achieve this goal.
Running books to help inspire your goals
These books can help with the above goals. All are excellent.
- The New Rules of Marathon and Half Marathon Nutrition by Matt Fitzgerald is a great read on nutrition – from training and recovery to what to eat pre-race during the race and post race.
- 80/20 Running by Matt Fitzgerald. Details how spending most of your time running slowly (80%) can help you become a faster runner. I personally try to abide by this principle.
- Meb for Mortals by Meb Keflezighi. Details the champion marathoner's "prehab not rehab" lifestyle and mental and physical tricks to get faster and run smarter.
- Running: A Love Story by Jen A Miller. A must-read for type As who need to get back in touch with a pure love of the sport.
- Run Fast. Eat Slow. by Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky. A cookbook chock full of runner-friendly recipes by Olympian and champion marathoner Shalane Flanagan and her chef/runner co-author.