It’s that time of year again. All the memes about “new year, new you” and those dreadful resolutions. What is going to make 2020 any different? You are. 

Firstly, we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. You’ve made it this far, however old you are, and you’re still ticking along. Before setting any New Year’s resolutions take the time to focus on what is going well.

When one of my athletes finishes a key race I often ask for “three things that went well and three things to improve for next time”.

Focusing on your strengths isn’t just a vanity project, it will put you in a positive mindset for planning, as well as helping to remind you of improvements you have made in the past 12 months too.

Too often we end up disappointed with a PB because we always want more, instead of focusing on how far we’re come. “I’m not where I need to be” or “I’m fit, but still a long way to go” are common phrases for runners. Where are you going? Olympic marathon gold?

Getting SMART about it

Last year we spoke about setting SMART goals and 2020 is no different, but this year we wanted to remind all the Fast Readers out there that you’re not starting from scratch.

It can help to do this with a pen and paper, writing down your goals can add to accountability and make them seem a little more real. Now think about it. What three things have you done well or improved in 2019.

I’ll start… it’s not as easy as I initially made out. Especially when you’ve been involved in your sport for years and currently have a long term injury you’re trying to sort out. I’m probably in quite a negative mindset at the moment really, I’d be able to list 10 things I’ve done wrong in 2019 quite easily.

Find the positives, they’re there

There has been a growth in my mental skillset since taking on some ultra-distance bike races, I’ve finished a MSc Performance Coaching that has really helped me grow as a coach and this year I really focused on stretching and conditioning work, although maybe it was a reaction to injury than a development.

Even that small exercise whilst writing this has helped highlight that 2019 has been a good year. On paper there has been PBs over 5k and half marathon, more race wins than usual, a Wicklow Way course record and a whole new adventure on the 2VS 1100km bicycle race all alongside finishing my MSc and final research project. Oh and we’ve moved to Italy, bought an apartment and a whole host of other stuff.

Take the time to reflect on what has gone well and it soon all comes back to you. It’s just easier to focus on what you need to change to improve in the future.

Going forward

Now onto the good stuff. What can you improve? Start with three small tasks, don’t take on too much as you’ll chuck it all in.

Use the SMART goals model if it works for you, but just make sure they are achievable first and foremost.

Want to get a new 5k PB? Set one second faster as the first goal, maybe then target the next minute barrier and leave the national record as a long term stretch goal. The have a think about how you’re going to achieve that.

A 5k PB is an outcome goal, but just sticking that to the fridge (which can help) isn’t going to make it happen. Think about the behaviours and habits you need to work on to bring the magic. Focus on the process and the outcomes should come to you in good time. 

A 5k PB should always be a good thing. Photo: Keith McClure

What have you got to do to get there?

The key is still consistent training. If you’re not getting that then it has to be the first target. But what can you do to create that outcome? You can still bring to down to smaller actions. Run five days a week might be the goal you need, or to rest at least once a fortnight if injuries are what stop your consistency.

What stops you taking that rest day or getting out five days a week? A fear of missing out or just not enough time in the day? Is social media making one runner feel they can never take a day off and the next runner lose hours from every day of the week?

I’m getting into semantics, but hopefully you get the point a little bit. Set your goals and then look at what is stopping you achieve them in the past?

Eating too many sweets but you have a box full in the kitchen all year round? Maybe stopping buying too many at the supermarket if you can’t control your urges on an hourly basis. Or buy your wife a lockbox so she can keep her sweets at home without you eating them all… That one might juts be relevant to my home.

Patience is key

Then it’s time to be patient. Everyone wants “instant results” and “15 min workouts that will give you rock hard abs” but running is wonderful because it isn’t about instant gratification.

The rewards come from building a whole wall from individual bricks over time. You get stronger, consistency comes easier, your work on a healthier diet and the PBs drop. When you’ve got momentum everything feels a bit easier and January can often be tough as you need to get the ball rolling.

It’s a lot easier than letting the ball stop completely and trying to get it up to speed a few weeks out from your goal marathon. Maybe time to apply for the Fast Running Performance Project if that sounds familiar. 

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