The New Year is a time of renewal, possibility, and expectation. The slogan goes something like this: “New Year, New You!” You fire up a restrictive diet and hit the gym, which is packed with other determined people who are ready for change. Then, within a month, or less, most of those people – maybe even you – are back to their old ways.
The truth of the matter is that it’s “New Year, Old You” – we drag our inertia and self-defeating habits behind us as we move from December to January. However, it doesn’t have to be like that. I am going to recommend that you set some purposeful measurable goals that will lead over time to “New Year, Better You.”
I know that this flies in the face of those columns that will counsel you to let go of the tyranny of the New Year’s resolution. For example, some of you are already committed runners – if it ain’t broke, why fix it?
We can all – all of us – benefit from setting some audacious, challenging goals for the New Year. The turning of the year beckons us to challenge ourselves: we can make positive change, but how? Do you need to make your wellness a priority? Are you fit, but feel sometimes that you are merely doing the same thing over and over again?
The New Year dares us to “change things up.” Changing it up –– relighting that spark of joy that motivates us to seek out what makes us happy –– requires inspiration and setting concrete goals. Avoid, for instance, the trap of non-specificity. Instead of saying “I am going to run faster,” try “I am going to run a 29:15 at the Runnin’ of the Green four-miler on March 29.” That’s a specific goal. If you need to move yourself off the couch and into regular activity, try this goal: “I will walk 50 miles a month for the next four months.” Measurable and achievable goals that require us to stretch a little help us find the path to joy.
Once you have a specific goal, you can work backwards and put some workouts on the calendar to reach that goal. For walkers, that might mean planning when and where you’ll put in your miles. (The Capital Region has great parks and walking trails, but malls and other public spaces offer warm, dry, free opportunities to get in your workout.) For runners, you might need to incorporate some speed work, find a cross-training program that fits into your work schedule, or locate some running buddies to motivate you during February’s nastiest days. (This is easy to solve: join a running group like the Fleet Feet Running Club) Set some benchmarks to assess your progress. Make a plan that allows you to progress every day towards a better and happier you.
The New Year is also a good time to join a distance-specific training group and treat yourself to some camaraderie and coaching. Registration for The Fleet Feet Running Club is going on right now for 5K Beginner, 5K Advanced and 10K, as well as the Half and Full-Marathon Programs. These groups share your struggles, celebrate your victories, and keep you accountable to yourself.
Finally, the New Year can be a great time to rediscover the freedom that accompanies propelling yourself forward under your own power, and to recapture or reaffirm the joy of movement. This year, I urge you to set some goals that take you out of your comfort zone to help you to grow and rekindle that love. Have a Happy New Year and take joy in everything that you do.