Let's face it, things are going to get in the way of your run. That's OK. But you can be successful more time than not if you have a contingency plan.
- Treadmill. It’s not always ideal, but a treadmill can be a useful training tool. Even going for a brisk walk while watching your favorite show is an easy way to sneak in 10 minutes.
- Second session. When you create your schedule, keep your eyes open for days when you might have the option of a “back-up” workout. Perhaps you were scheduled for a morning run, but the kid’s school was delayed and your schedule shifted by a few hours. These things happen, so map out an alternate workout ahead of time to keep you on track during the days surprises pop up.
- Plan for more than 12 runs. The best laid plans can always go awry, and you don’t want to come up short in the challenge just because you ran out of time. Intentionally over-book your training schedule, so that you can still complete the challenge even if you miss a day or two of training.
“Running outside becomes harder in the winter, wearing more clothing is frustrating, and preparation for each day takes more effort,” Stump says. “How much someone cares about their habits will deny these circumstances as a reason to give in.”
Stump suggests trying a reward system for your workouts. For every good decision or habit you want to begin, take note of it and reward yourself accordingly.
Start creating tiers of rewards—a new pair of running shoes or GPS watch in the top tier, or a new pair of the best running socks in the bottom tier. Then assign a point value to each action or habit. At the end of the month, add up your points and splurge on the reward you earned.
Keep Your Head in the Game
Staying focused on the goal can get you through the finish line. Keep your mind engaged by staying positive and reinforcing your good work.
- Motivational mantras. Positive self-talk works, and having a mantra to motivate yourself can be an effective method to get you up and out the door. Maybe you’re excited for some sweet prizes at the end of the challenge, or maybe you just want to keep your hard-earned fitness level high. Do a little soul searching to uncover the real reason you are participating in the challenge, and develop a mantra around it.
- Intrinsic/extrinsic rewards. Whether it’s checking boxes, getting cool prizes or wanting to cultivate healthy habits, we all have our reasons for staying consistent during the cold winter months. It’s important to not lose sight of these things. Write a reminder on your training calendar, or stick a note to the bathroom mirror. Having a physical reminder of the “why” behind the “what” has been shown to be more effective than simply keeping your reasons in the back of your mind. Do keep in mind that when building habits immediate rewards far outweigh long term rewards.
- Don’t let today ruin tomorrow. So what if you missed a workout? There are 31 days in January! Even if you get off track or fall behind your proposed schedule, don’t let that keep you from getting back on the horse. The past is the past. Forget about it and move on!
“Mental practice is crucial for consistency,” Stump says. “The messages I tell myself are the ones that determine my ability to succeed athletically and personally. The voices and messages choose I listen to are so valuable for development. As an athlete, there are times when I know I must do things that I honestly know will be hard. I know that I must push myself to new thresholds in order to become better than I was previously.”
[Want to know more? Check out the Fleet Feet x Saucony Winter Dozen Challenge on Strava to get started.]
By Timothy Lyman. Timothy is the director of training programs at Fleet Feet Pittsburgh and an ACE certified personal trainer. With over a decade of experience in the field, his education ranges from sports psychology to exercise physiology. He has coached runners at all levels on every surface at any distance, with an emphasis on economy, injury-prevention and functional fitness.