We’re a few days into 2015, which means that a lot of us are really starting to get going on our New Year’s Resolutions. Maybe your Resolution is to get into better shape. And maybe you’ve decided that you want to give running a try. Great! Let’s talk about how to make those Resolutions stick.
I’m not a huge fan of New Year’s Resolutions. Fitness is not a number on a scale, and it isn’t some obstacle to be overcome. Resolutions, in my opinion, put fitness on a pedestal instead of making it a part of your life. They make it a task to be completed, not a change to embrace forever.
Let’s set that aside for the moment. If you’re a “Resolutionary,” you don’t need a lecture on how it’s such a bad approach and you’re setting yourself up for failure. What good is that doing anyone? Let’s work on the premise that you’re interested in a lifelong commitment to better health. Becoming a runner is a great way to do it!
Set real-life goals
Yeah, I do mean that you should set realistic, achievable goals, but that’s not what I’m really getting at here. At least for me, gratification comes from something tangible. A few years ago, before I’d started getting fit, a friend and I were dealing with a train commute from hell the night before Christmas break. There was a lot of running up and down stairs in Newark Penn Station. I had my work bag and was carrying a six-pack — and I was completely winded.
Being able to deal with that was a much bigger deal for me than doing a 5k or losing X number of pounds. And I have to say, when I did start slimming down, I got a lot more satisfaction from counting belt loops and eventually having to buy new jeans than from any particular number on the scale.
Yeah, it’s hard
We all know there’s no magic bullets, no miracle pill, no easy way to be fit. If you’ve gotten this far, I’m probably preaching to the choir. Losing weight is all about creating a calorie deficit. And unless you’re on a very restrictive diet, that means getting your heart rate up. This is science. But the trick is to figure out what works for you — what your hard is. Try the talk test: At least some of your running should be rigorous enough that you’d have a hard time speaking a full sentence. Don’t worry about the speed or incline on the treadmill, or the time on your stopwatch. Get that heart rate up a couple times a week, and keep it up for 20 to 30 minutes.
This article on endurance-race pacing might help. Don’t worry about the race-strategy stuff, but focus on the yellow-orange-red guidelines. If you’re looking for more specifics, do some Google research on V02 max. But ultimately, you simply need to get that ticker pumping if you’re serious about creating a calorie deficit.
You can’t just start where you left off
One mistake I made about a decade ago in an aborted attempt to get into shape was assuming I could just go. When I was in high school, I did a cross-country mile in under 6:00. So I laced up my beat-up sneakers and took off. Two blocks later, I was completely winded. And I gave up, assuming that fitness was simply outside of my reality. Then a few years ago, when I started run/walking again, I realized I had no fitness. The first couple of times on the belt entailed a lot more walking than running — and I made myself be OK with that.
It didn’t take long before I could go 20 minutes without a walking interval, and within two months, I could do a 5k without walking. So don’t dive in at the deep end. You’ll get there soon enough.
Three months of 80 percent is better than one week of 100 percent.
What does that mean? If 80 percent of the time, you eat the “right” foods and are good about portion control, and you’re able to sustain that, it’ll make a difference. If you beat yourself up over every cookie, you’re going to be miserable — and fail. Same goes for running: Let’s say you want to hit the road or the treadmill five days a week. You know what? If you get to it four days a week, on average, you’re going to see results. And maybe that extra day of sleeping in is what gives you the energy to keep it going over the long term, or maybe not having that fifth day of wear and tear on your legs will help you avoid injury.
Save your money (for now)
Everyone is different, and first you need to figure out what works for you. You’ve chosen running, which is a great way to burn calories. But you’re just beginning, and you have no idea whether this is really the exercise regime for you.
What do you need to start? Shorts, a T-shirt, a sweatshirt for colder days and a good pair of running shoes. (Don’t skimp on the running shoes.)
What don’t you need? A home treadmill, a fancy GPS watch, a hydration vest, compression gear, high-end running apparel…
If after a few weeks, you still think running is your thing — the thing that gets your heart rate up and that you’ll do regularly — then start thinking about the kind of gear you’ll need to make a bigger commitment.
Talk about it
I’m going to be honest here: Most of your friends aren’t interested and some may even get annoyed. I know someone who quit Facebook because he’d tired of reading about people’s fitness updates. Don’t be that guy whose entire life revolves around miles and splits. But you’ll also find that you do have a ready-made support structure out there. I sure did. There were plenty of friends who’d experienced the same challenges and were willing to offer support or a bit of advice. There are lots of online groups, too — communities like Run Jersey!
I think putting it out there for the world is a great way to learn, and a great way to keep yourself accountable.
Remember, results don’t come instantly, and setting unrealistic expectations is a recipe for disaster. Don’t worry about the guy doing crazy intervals on the treadmill next to yours. Don’t compare yourself to the photos in Men’s Health or any other fitness website. And most importantly, don’t get discouraged!
Featured image courtesy of: olap.com