We’ve just inched past January, but it feels like you made those New Year’s Resolutions decades ago. Time to recommit to your miles, runner, as springtime—and race season—is just around the corner. (We’re right about that, Ma Nature, aren’t we? No more Polar Vortex jokes in March, right?) Here are ten ways to minimize the slack as we wait out the rest of winter:
Put a number on it. Write down a specific training goal—100 miles in a month or five hours of sweat a week, for instance—and then record each step of your progress towards it. There’s something so crisp and rewarding about notching regular progress towards a goal. One tip: go old-school with pen and paper, and hang it on your bathroom mirror or fridge, where you’ll be reminded of it frequently.
Do the workouts you love. If you love hills, eat ‘em up. Or if there’s a route that always makes you smile, run that baby until you carve a path on it. Unless you’re on a strict, scientific training plan, there’s no reason to force yourself to do runs you’re unenthused about.
But challenge yourself. Introduce one new running-related thing every week, whether it’s intervals on the treadmill (10 x 1 minute at a fast-for-you pace, with 1-2 minute recovery); trail running (watch the ice!); setting your Garmin to beep if you drop below a set pace; or gunning race-pace for the final mile of a midweek run. (Hey, that’s a month-full right there!)
Get into heavy metal. Strength training will benefit your running in myriad ways. You don’t have to go all “WOD”. Planks, one-legged squats, hamstring curls on a Swiss Ball, push-ups, and bridges are all excellent moves that build solid (read: injury-free) running strength.
Better yet, mix miles + muscle. Here’s a multitasking, tough workout; do it either on a treadmill, track, or, if you’ve got warmer temps and dry surfaces, on the road. Warm up for a mile. Stop, do push-ups for a minute, walking lunges for a minute, plank for a minute, then continue on for another mile. Repeat the strength circuit. Continue the pattern for as many miles as you want.
Go long. The mentally- and physically-challenging long run is the backbone of most training plans, regardless of the distance, so get in the practice of doing them now. Start where you are, not where you think you should be—your first long run may be 3 miles—and gradually increase the distance. (To sidestep injury, your total weekly run mileage should increase no more than 10% a week.)
Realize prehab > rehab. Take time now to iron out any muscles that are still angry from your last half-marathon and strengthen the ones that need it. Shore up your core in a Pilates class, foam roll, take a yoga class, do your prescribed physical therapy exercises. (Yes, we know your intentions are always good, but intentions don’t always translate to action: get on the floor and clamshell like your life depended on it.)
Don’t sabotage yourself. Two golden rules of February: 1. The season of eating officially ended with the Superbowl. 2. Nothing (really) good (usually) happens after 10 p.m.. So eat like you know you should—heavy on fruits, veggies, lean protein, whole grains—and get plenty of shut-eye. Heeding those rules keeps your wheels spinning, which leads to rule #3: Momentum is a good thing.
Be a team player. Speaking of momentum, group runs are excellent antidotes to the running blahs. Not only do they provide entertainment along with miles, they also give you the opportunity to push yourself. That guy in the red shirt beat me today, but just wait until next week…
If all else fails, jump into a 5K. Still got some, turkey stuffing, sugar cookies, and guacamole hiding under your waistband? A solid 5K effort gives you a reality check—and a good baseline to build on when your spring season really blooms.