While I am now consider myself an avid runner having completed over thirty 5K’s, twelve 10K’s, eight Half Marathons, eight Full Marathons, and a couple Ultra Marathon’s, that has not always been the case.

I started running later in life (I was over 30 at the time) and I remember the pain and struggles I had just making it through that first mile. It took me MONTHS to be able to waddle my way through that distance and then you know what happened? The second mile was even harder! I seriously thought it was impossible.

But what got me through was I had a very good friend that was very patient with me. She motivated and coached me along those months and today I am amazed that there is hardly a day that goes by that I am either not out running or thinking about running.

As I traveled along my journey from hating running to where I am at today, I started reading through many magazines and books on the topic that I could find. Early on I ran across this quote:

“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.”

-John Bingham, Author, Columnist, Comic, RUNNER!

Now, I hear from so many people that say, “I would love to get out and run but I just don’t know where to start.” That makes me believe that they have the COURAGE but just need a little nudge where to start. With that in mind I decided to pull together six steps that I believe are important to getting started. Will what I have include every little detail? Probably not. But I will be sure to include additional resources for you to look into should you have any questions that do come across along your path to Walking & Running for Fun & Fitness.

I originally wrote this as a series of six individual posts but have since combined them all into one longer article. The days/posts/steps are each separated. As you read this, plan to take a day or two between on what you read and put each step into action before moving on to the next step.

-Tom

Step 1 – The first step is to “Decide on what your goal is” and “Commit to it”.

Deciding on what your goal is going to be is setting the tone for your entire plan moving forward and figuring out why you want to accomplish that goal is just as important.

Is it to have fun? To get out of the house and get some fresh air? Will it be to lose weight? Be more healthy? Make new friends? Meet up with old friends? There can be a million and one goals and just as many reasons for them but the most important thing to keep in mind with this is that it is your goal. Your reason for getting out there. Make it personal to you. Ensure it is a goal that is totally under your control to make happen.

Some tips about deciding on that first goal:

  1. Make sure the goal you are working for is something you really want to do, not just something that sounds good or one that someone else is “making” you do.
  2. By all means, make sure your goal is high enough, however be realistic. If the goal is too high, it never gets started. If the goal is unrealistic, it’s too difficult to keep yourself motivated and too challenging to keep moving forward on those tough days.
  3. Be specific about the goal and the reason for it. The more specific it is, the easier it will be to accomplish. The easier for you to know when you made it so you can celebrate your accomplishment.

Examples of good goals, “I will walk 10 minutes three times every week for the month of March because…” is a very specific measurable goal. “Right now I can run 15 minutes comfortably. I will increase the time I run by 10% every week because I want to be able to…” is another easy goal to track. “I will participate in the Harrisburg Days 5K Run/Walk on June 9th 2012 and complete it in under 40 minutes because…” is an AWESOME goal!

Both “I will try to walk or run more often” and “I’m going to complete my first 5K” are too general and too hard to measure success so they are not the best the goals could be.

Once you’ve decided on what your goal is, what your reason for walking/running is, the hard part is done right? Well…

There will be tough days so now we need to commit to the goal. Commit to the reason why the goal is important. (That’s one of the reasons it needs to personal to you.) Commit to it so on those tough days you know you’ve made a promise to yourself to see this through. Commit to it so you can hold yourself accountable.

How do you do that? You commit to your goal by writing it down. By posting it EVERYWHERE – On your bathroom mirror; the refrigerator, the dresser, the dashboard of your car. Anywhere you can see it constantly to remind yourself of it. Commit to it by telling your family and closest friends. Ask them to ask you regularly how it is going. Commit to your goal by reading it out-loud every morning.

That’s it to Step 1. Not too bad, huh?! Now take some time thinking about what your goal is going to be and why you want to accomplish it.

Thought of the day:

“If you set your aim too high and don’t fulfill it, then your enthusiasm turns to bitterness. Try for a goal that’s reasonable, and then gradually raise it.”

–EMIL ZATOPEK (Czech long-distance runner best known for winning three gold medals at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki. He won gold in the 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters runs, but his final medal came when he decided at the last minute to compete in the first marathon of his life.)

So what’s your goal? Write it out here:

— Now that you’ve completed the first step, Deciding what your goal is and committed to it, it’s time to move on to the next step – make a plan to accomplish that goal.

All of us plan differently. Some people wing it while others figure out step by step by the minute what or how they are going to do something. However, when starting out walking and running though, it’s best to be right in the middle of the range. The basics are:

  1. Your plan should be simple. Over complicating it will just make it too difficult to stick to it. If you are having a hard time simplifying your plan that may mean your goal is too aggressive to start out with. Rethink it and see if you can update your goal to help your plan be a little simpler.
  2. Build your plan in small, easy, specific to manage segments – to borrow an analogy, “don’t try to bite off more than you can chew.” Take it easy when you are starting out. Increase your distance, time or pace at a reasonable rate and then know exactly what you are going to do each session.
  3. Be flexible in your plan. We all know life happens. There will be times when something comes up and you can’t do exactly what was on the schedule. It happens. Take a moment and look how you can re-adjust later to get back to the plan. In other words, it is ok to adjust your plan, but it’s just as important to make sure you always get back to it.
  4. Track your plan. Get a calendar. One of those wall or desk ones that has room on each day to write notes. You can also find ones online that you can print out. I do recommend you print it out so you can hang it on your wall. Fill out each day with what your task is that day. Then when you’ve done it, cross it off (ACCOMPLISHMENT! SWEET!). When you are done, it will be motivating to look back on it and see just how many days you’ve crossed off 🙂

How do you make a plan for walking or running? Luckily a lot of that work has already been done for you and instead of me re-inventing what’s already been perfected, here are some great links to sites that have plans all about working from being a couch potato to walking and running for fun & fitness.

5K Plan for Beginners:

*Cool Runnings, Couch Potato to 5K (probably one of the best known beginners plans!) http://www.coolrunning.com/engine/2/2_3/181.shtml

*Mayo Clinic, 5K 7-week training plan for beginners: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/5k-run/SM00061

*Active.com, How to Run Your First 5K: http://www.active.com/running/Articles/How_to_Run_Your_First_5K.htm

Walking for Fun & Fitness

*American Heart Association: http://startwalkingnow.org/

*Spark People: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/sparkwalking.asp

*Healthy Hawaii: http://www.healthyhawaii.com/start-walking/

There you have it, Step 2—Make a Plan. Take a few days, look at the sites above, see which one best fits your active lifestyle and write it out on your calendar!

I’ll leave you today with this Chineese Proverb:

“It is better to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backward.”

Have a great weekend everyone, I hope you get a chance to get outside and take many small steps forward.

First two steps, DONE. You decided on the goal and then you made a plan to accomplish it. Next step is? Find a buddy to work on this with you!

“Research shows that 80 percent of people believe they’re more likely to fit in workouts and stick to their routines if they partner up. Even better, a study from the University of Pittsburgh reports that women who exercised with a pal lost a third more weight than those who hit the gym solo.”

Additionally,

“According to studies, more than 90 percent of people who start an exercise regimen—even those with the best intentions—bail early, before the habit has taken hold. And 61 percent abandon their workouts within the first week.”

As I was reflecting upon the two articles that I pulled those statistics from, I found one more that interested me,

“83 Percent of Statistics Made Up on the Spot.”

HA!

So while the sources of those first two statements are actually credible, you do hear a lot of stats thrown at you all trying to motivate you to get out there and move when it simply boils down to the fact that training with a buddy increases your accountability and intensity. Bam. Done.

“You’re less likely to skip out on workouts, and you’re more likely to tackle intimidating moves and tough out those last few reps that you might have let slide if you were on your own,” says Shannon Yontz, who co-owns True North Fitness & Health in Ventura, California, with her husband (who’s also her training partner). So go out and find someone that has similar goals and plans as you. Someone in your family, a friend, a co-worker, a four-legged walking partner anyone that wants to get out there with you! Another great source of people just like you wanting to move for fun & fitness? Look at online communities like dailymile.com or strava.com. Both are groups of people at different levels of fitness all getting together with one goal. To get moving and to share their joys of it with you!

SO partner up because everything that’s difficult to do is easier with a buddy, friend, partner to be right there doing it with you. Right there by your side.

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”

–Henry Ford

 —

By now you’ve had enough time to read through the first three steps, to think about them, review them and I hope you’ve completed them and today you are ready for step 4.

Even though there are two parts to this step, it really is one of the easier steps. To borrow a phrase from Nike, step 4 is simply “Just Do It”.

  • You’ve got your goal because you figured that out and wrote it down in Step 1.
  • Accomplishing the goal is going to be easy because you determined the simple plan to follow and wrote it out in Step 2.
  • You built your support team by getting a buddy to work on this with you together in Step 3.

All that’s left is to “Do it”, so pick your starting day from your calendar, mark it and go! It really is that simple.

The second part of this step is to make sure you are tracking each step of your plan. You track your progress throughout your plan for a few reasons including accountability to yourself, accountability to your buddy, tracking your progress and learning what does and doesn’t work for you.

Tracking your progress can be as complex or as simple as you want it. There are fancy programs and websites to help you track your progress or it can be as simple as an old-fashioned paper calendar. It doesn’t really matter as long as you consistently track what you do and how you felt doing it.

So I hope you go to that calendar of yours right now. Pick a day and make it happen… JUST DO IT!

“If you want to become the best runner you can be, start now. Don’t spend the rest of your life wondering if you can do it.”

–Priscilla Welch (Once, a pack-a-day cigarette smoker turned Olympic Marathoner – read more about some of her accomplishments here: http://runningtimes.com/Article.aspx?ArticleID=14740&PageNum=1)

Take some time away from this article and get out there! See you along the trails! —

How’s Step 4 been going? Did you get out there and “Just Do It”?

Let’s do a quick review:

  • You’ve got your goal because you figured that out and wrote it down in Step 1.
  • Accomplishing the goal is easy because you determined the simple plan to follow and wrote it out in Step 2.
  • You built your support team by getting a buddy to work on this with you together in Step 3.
  • Step 4 was making it happen—simply getting out there and making it happen – Just doing it! (and tracking your progress of course)

What? You’re feeling discouraged because you’ve missed some of your planned sessions or your progress isn’t quite what you had hoped it would be? Thinking of throwing this plan out the window and sitting back down on that couch?

That’s the whole point of Step 5—remembering life happens. Even though we had a great plan to start off with, there are things that come up. As good as we plan, it’s going to happen. The most important thing is not that something came up, it is not that you and your plan got interrupted, it is how you handle it – adjust to it – and get right back at it again. Besides, believe it or not, one of the best training sessions is actually the rest day – taking a day off to let your body recoup, rebuild and get re-energized—so that little distraction ended up being part of the plan after all 🙂

But, how to adjust to all of those little life things that come up? Be flexible in your plan. After all it is supposed to be fun isn’t it! So look at your plan and adjust.

  • Missed a couple planned sessions? Extend out your “due date” of your goal by a week and keep at it.
  • Knee or leg feeling “wonky” after that last workout? Take some time off of running to recoup but keep moving – get on that Bicycle, go for a Swim, use that Elliptical, walk instead of run – lots of options.
  • Not seeing the progress you had hoped for? Trust me it will come. Maybe set an intermediate goal to work towards first. Break down that big goal into smaller ones and work towards each smaller goal and before you know it, you’ll be right back on track.

Plus, this is a great time to reach out to your support system and to share with them what your goals are, what you are going through and ask for their advice. A couple of great online support systems are dailymile (www.dailymile.com) and Runner’s World Forums (www.runnersworld.com/community/forums/)

“Failure? I never encountered it. All I ever met were temporary setbacks.”

– Dottie Walters

So meet your temporary setbacks — adjust, be flexible and keep on working your plan.

— Here you are. It’s been a long journey. And you’ve made it. Step 6 — CELEBRATE YOUR SUCCESS!

Yes, you saw that right. A great way to keep working towards that goal is knowing that once you attain it, you are going to reward yourself. I hope that that it’s the right kind of reward. If your goal was to lose weight, please don’t reward yourself with a dinner out! Instead make your reward something like a massage or some other day of being pampered. If your goal was to run your first 5K on June 9th say at the Harrisburg Days Walk Run Race (shameless plug 🙂 reward yourself with a new pair of running shoes or items like that.

Have your reward support and strengthen your goal that you just spent months and countless hours working towards.

That’s it! Now you are thinking what’s next?!?!? Well, start it all over again except, make this goal just a little bit more challenging. One interesting point that I came across in my reading came from Men’s Health Magazine. They agree that a key point to the success of any fitness program is working out with a partner but what they’ve found is that after awhile, as you become familiar with each other, it becomes easier and easier to back out or skip workout plans. Eventually, “Close friends and family members don’t always make the best training partners because they may allow you to slack off or cancel workouts,” says Jacqueline Wagner, C.S.C.S., a trainer in New York City. So  to keep this from happening, find a new, less forgiving workout partner every few months and especially as you set higher and higher goals. (Read more: http://www.menshealth.com/mhlists/workout_motivation_strategies/Switch_Your_Training_Partners.php#ixzz1pKrCC9fY)

“Success doesn’t come to you… you go to it.”

                                              –Marva Collins

 

“Success does not come to the most righteous and rigorously disciplined but to those who continue running.”

                                         –AMBY BURFOOT

Here’s to you making it to the success that you’ve always wanted. Thank you for indulging in my six steps. I hope you’ve found it useful and that you end up enjoying running as much as I have.

Keep Running and I’ll See you along the trails!

Tom