Need some motivation and inspiration for a fitter, healthier 2014? Here are 18 simple things you can do!
1. Take a 30-Day Challenge!
Aim to move in a meaningful, purpose-driven manner for 30 minutes every day for a month. If you start with a simple but consistent program for a full month, you’ll be able to create a baseline of fitness to build on through the rest of the year. Once it becomes a habit—and that includes making time for it even when you don’t think you can—it will become part of your lifestyle. Consider it your own personal training camp for what will be your fittest year ever. Photo: www.shutterstock.com
2. Register for a Race Today!
Nothing will get you motivated quite like signing up for a race. So do it today! Consider the registration fee—whether it’s a $20 5K or a $400 ultra-distance run—an investment in your health and well-being. Photo: www.shutterstock.com
3. Travel to a New Place to Race
Planning a getaway around a race in another state or even another country can be instant motivation. Just make sure any sightseeing happens in the days after your race. Consider skipping some of the local races you do every year and splurging for a running vacation in 2014. Photo: www.shutterstock.com
4. Dream It, Do It
What’s at the top of your list of ultimate endurance pursuits? Whether it’s something on your bucket list or just a matter of thinking outside the box, you’ll never get there unless you go for it. It might mean finishing your first half marathon, running a grandiose trail race like the Pikes Peak Marathon or finally tackling your first 140.6-mile long-course triathlon. Maybe you’ve always wanted to run from rim to rim to rim across the Grand Canyon and back. Or qualify for the Boston Marathon. Or fastpack the John Muir Trail. Or run a 100-mile race. Or, heck, even run with the bulls in Pamplona. Your dream event or adventure might fall later in 2014 or in 2015, depending on how much planning, training and expense it entails. But whatever your epic endeavor might be, this is the year to start having your endorphin-fueled fantasies become a reality. Photo: www.shutterstock.com
5. Drink More Water
Replace one 12-ounce can of soda with water every day and save about 51,100 calories per year, or 15 pounds annually. Photo: www.shutterstock.com
6. Log Your Miles
One of the best ways to maintain your consistency, ensure adequate recovery, track your progress and adjust your workouts along the way is to develop a training log. You can do it old-school style in a spiral notebook or on a wall calendar, but you’ll be better served by doing it digitally—either through an online software platform like TrainingPeaks or via a smartphone app like Strava, Endomondo, Moves Count or MapMyFitness. Photo: Competitor.com
7. Hit the Trails
Softer surfaces are easier on your joints and muscles, and a departure from the gridlock of humanity can be both a mental and spiritual escape. For those reasons and more, it’s much easier to do long runs on trails, even if the terrain can sometimes be more of a challenge. Plan a long weekend run in an epic local destination (like a regional open space area or a state or national park) and immerse yourself in the relative wildness for a few hours. But remember, when running on trails, focus on the amount of time you’re out there, how you feel and the natural challenges and obstacles you endure, not a specific per-mile pace, heart rate or structured workout goals. As Micah True (known as Caballo Blanco in the best-seller “Born to Run”) always said: “Run free!” Photo: www.shutterstock.com
8. Clean out Your Closet (or Garage)
Yes, you can mow the lawn in your old running shoes, but you can also donate old kicks, shorts and shirts to someone who will be able to get more miles out of ’em. Check with your local running store (which might have a collection program) or send them to an organization like One World Running or Shoes 4 Africa. For more info, go to competitor.com/oldshoes. Photo: www.shutterstock.com
9. Eat Better
You can become a vegetarian this year, if that’s your intent. Or follow a lactose- or gluten-free diet. But a complete overhaul of your daily dietary structure can be hard to do. However, most of us can take small steps every day toward eating better. All it takes is small, conscious choices. Get the side salad instead of the fries. Snack on a piece of fruit instead of chips or a cookie. Rely on natural sources of energy instead of sugar and caffeine. Have two pieces of pizza instead of five or six. Skip dessert except for a once-a-month (or week!) reward for a race or hard workout. Photo: www.shutterstock.com
10. Volunteer at a Race
Being a race volunteer may seem like a thankless job (even though dozens of appreciative runners will likely thank you), but it can be pure inspiration. Watching (and helping) others overcome race-day challenges and make it to the finish line will fire you up and put you more in touch with your own efforts. Photo: www.shutterstock.com
11. Get Stronger
One of the main keys to becoming a better runner—both a faster runner and one who’s less prone to injury—is to become stronger. That doesn’t mean you have to bulk up and improve your beach muscles. Much the opposite, in fact. If you’re already a runner, the larger muscle groups in your legs—namely your quads and hamstrings—are likely sufficiently strong. It’s the smaller muscles in your feet, legs and core that control the microadjustments your body makes to ensure stability and maximize efficiency on every single stride that need attention. You can achieve that through a gym-based program, but you can also do it with Pilates, yoga, core work and other basic bodyweight exercises in the comfort of your own home. Photo: www.shutterstock.com
12. 15-minute strength routines
Even spending just 15 minutes on a core strength routine as soon as you wake up in the morning or before you go to bed at night will do wonders for your running.
Old School: No need to be fancy, just get down on the ground and alternately crank out sets of pushups and sit-ups. Do three sets of 20 to 40 reps, depending on your fitness and ability.
New School: The pedestal routine has become a strength staple among elite distance runners. It engages numerous core and leg muscle groups with more than a dozen variations of directional plank poses. Pick six of the poses and hold each for 30 seconds to 2 minutes with brief rest periods in between. Photo: www.shutterstock.com
13. Run Without Music Once in a While
No doubt about it, music can help make the miles fly by. But running with tunes jamming through your ears can also force you to tune out and prohibits you from being totally present during your run. If you always run with music, consider leaving your iPod or phone at home once in a while. Hearing your breath, your footsteps and the sounds around you—especially on the trails—will add to your sensory experience. Photo: www.shutterstock.com
14. Skip the Scale
Who cares what you weigh? It’s just a number! And it’s not where you are, it’s where you’re going. Instead of weighing yourself, focus your energy on doing things to improve your health in 2014: Eat right, get plenty of sleep, increase your activity, break bad habits. And if you have the inkling to hop on a scale, drop and do 100 crunches! Photo: www.shutterstock.com
15. Hire a Coach
You can only do so much on your own. Sure, you can download a training program or learn how to train from a book, but who can you reach out to when you have questions? There are plenty of great online coaching services that offer personalized coaching advice and many local running clubs and running stores employ part- or full-time coaches who can help give you some direction to reach your goals. Photo: www.shutterstock.com
16. Do Something Different
Variety is the spice of life and, when it comes to endurance pursuits, doing something different every once in a while can provide inspiration, rejuvenation and motivation. Consider doing a mud run, an obstacle course race, a long-distance relay race or an untimed fun run with a color, neon, 1980s, zombie or prom theme. Yes, they’re almost the complete antithesis of traditional running races, but they’re a blast. Photo: www.shutterstock.com
17. Don’t Run Alone
OK, sometimes you have no choice but to run alone, but running with friends or a group fosters motivation through a collective inspiration and your own personal accountability. Plus, running partners—whether they’re good friends, neighbors, co-workers or once-a-week running group acquaintances—can gently and subtly push you to new heights. Photo: www.shutterstock.com
18. Go to Camp
It used to be that running camps were only for kids prepping for a high school cross-country season. But in recent years, dozens of adult running camps have popped up, offering group runs on idyllic trails, personalized instruction from advanced runners and top coaches, and insights for racing, nutrition, injury prevention and general fitness. Vacation destinations, postcard-quality scenery, deep-tissue massage, yoga classes, healthy meals and new training buddies are added bonuses. For a vacation with purpose, check out one of these running camps and give your training a power boost.
* ZAP Fitness Adult Running Vacations, Blowing Rock, N.C. Located in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, ZAP Fitness, a training center for aspiring Olympic hopefuls, offers interactive adult running camps with four- and six-day retreats for all ages and abilities. zapfitness.com
* McMillan Running Getaways, Flagstaff, Ariz. At these three-day adult camps, you’ll run spectacular trails, get training insights from elite coach Greg McMillan and undergo a video running gait analysis. mcmillanrunning.com/getaways
* Active at Altitude Trail Running Clinics, Estes Park, Colo. The majestic Rocky Mountains provide an inspirational backdrop for four days of intense trail running training, drills, technique clinics and form evaluations. activeataltitude.com Photo: www.shutterstock.com