As we all know, each new year brings a vigor to take on challenges. As a run and strength coaching business, we have an annual influx of new clients in late December and early January who are eager to train for a race or get into a more stable fitness routine. Their energy and excitement is contagious- it’s a fun time of year!
That said, human nature doesn’t typically embrace behavior change and the odds are stacked against us. Research has shown that 23% of people quit their resolutions by the end of the first week (so - this Sunday…), and 43% quit by the end of January. Only 9% of Americans end up seeing their resolution to fruition. As a run coach, these numbers seem staggeringly low to me - the athletes I work with appear to stick to training for much longer.
I’ve noticed that there are several recurring “types” of people who seek out coaching around the new year. Read the profiles below and see if any resonate with you.
The Deer in the Headlights
Do you have an idea of something you’d like to achieve, but aren’t sure how to go about it, so you don’t do anything? If you’re suffering from paralysis by analysis, know that in many cases, doing something is better than nothing, even if you don’t have confidence that it’s “perfect”.
People suffering from a lack of direction are well served by following a training plan, whether this be something hands-off or through a coach. This takes the guesswork out of what to do and relieves the mental fatigue associated with decision making.
The Aspirational Trainer
If your training feels like a rollercoaster, you might be an “all-or nothing” type of athlete. This might be you if you throw down a 110% effort towards training and execute everything to a tee, but inevitably burn out or quit when faced with a disruption that throws you off your perfectionist routine. You eventually regain motivation or recover from your disruption, then jump right back in at 110%, only to reinitiate the yo-yo cycle. Essentially, you attempt to execute an amount of training that isn’t realistic or maintainable.
In many cases, burnout or “quitting” due to an obstacle can be mitigated by keeping training manageable and flexible. Showing up at 80-90% consistently yields much better results (and satisfaction!) than periods of 110% alternated with 0%.
You know you “should” exercise and may like the idea of completing a race, but you genuinely don’t enjoy training. The “runner’s high” feels like an urban legend, and the gym is an intimidating frontier.
Often, exercise isn’t enjoyable because:
you are trying to do work that is too hard for you right now
you aren't used to the feeling of exercise, and perceive healthy discomfort negatively
you are doing activities that you don’t enjoy, but haven’t explored alternatives
All of these can be addressed with patience, realistic expectations, and an open mind and are absolutely changeable. Finding fun activities that are an appropriate challenge is transformative once you’ve put a bit of time in.
The Busy Bee
You have a packed schedule and you always mean to exercise later in the day, but other things inevitably come up and take its place. We are all guilty of allowing the day to get away from us from time to time, but if this is a recurring pattern, a look at your schedule is warranted. We make space for things that are priorities, and often there is time, it just needs to be planned for. By creating a routine around scheduling training sessions like you would a meeting, exercise becomes much more feasible. It’s also important to be honest about how much time you have - sessions don’t necessarily need to be long, but they do need to be realistically doable within your schedule.
In all of these cases, following an appropriately structured plan, whether it’s custom and paired with the accountability of working with a coach, or if it’s self-created or downloaded off the internet, is a huge asset. Though a plan shouldn’t be overly rigid, having objective direction removes much of the emotional labor of decision making around training . When adapting to a new training regime or creating a new routine, that can be critical!
To all you runners embracing the New Year momentum, my advice to you is: be realistic with your time/energy capacity, approach training with a realistic plan, and be patient while enduring disruptive obstacles, which will inevitably occur.
On top of that, embrace the process! When you’re new to a training routine, you WILL see progress relatively quickly! Enjoy the steep section of the growth curve and appreciate the changes you’ll feel in your ability. At an age where we don’t necessarily see tangible progress regularly, a clear improvement in speed, strength, or how you feel is pretty darn cool!
By Jessica O’Connell, CSEP-CEP, MSc, OLY