New Year’s Resolutions: a marathon, not a sprint

The New Year has begun! I love this time of year because it’s just brimming with possibilities and hope for the future. And while, sure, there are probably a million-and-one articles and blog posts about how to make (or not make) New Year’s resolutions, I hope this one will resonate with you.

First things first: I don’t really believe in New Year’s Resolutions. I feel like bettering ourselves should be a year-round effort and not confined to an otherwise dreary time of year (sorry, January-lovers). But, I do believe in setting goals and formulating a plan to meet those goals. With the craziness of the holiday season behind us, the New Year is as good a time as any.

For me, New Year’s Resolutions (or goals) is a lot like training for a marathon. You have a big ultimate goal in mind (to complete that marathon) and you have a training plan in place to get you to that finish line. You can’t just get up tomorrow and run the full 26.2 miles – that is, unless you’ve already got a strong foundation. That training plan is also filled with a lot of interim goals to keep you motivated and inspired. So whether your goal is to lose weight, quit smoking, or – yes – run a marathon, here are my tips to getting you to your goal:

  1. Harness that newbie energy. Starting anything new is fun at first – you might have recently joined a gym, gotten a new gadget, or formulated a plan that’s now ready to be implemented. But more than that, you have the energy and desire to reach that goal. However…
  2. Don’t blow all your energy at once. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint. In long-distance running, if you go out too fast at first, you can easily burn up all your energy stores. While it’s possible to recoup some of your losses on the run by taking in drinks or nutrients, or even slowing down to a walk at times, it’s really hard to get back to your original energy levels. Slow and steady, while not flashy and exciting most of the time, really does win the race.
  3. Welcome outside help. We can’t do this all alone. Join a group, have an online community, work with a therapist or coach – whatever it takes. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help. In fact, it’s a strength. You know that feeling when you’re in a race and you feel like you can’t go on any further…then you hear the cheering crowd? Those cheers are what carry your feet when your legs seemed to have given up. At the same time…
  4. Know that the strength to succeed exists inside you. Sometimes even the most well-intentioned help can only get you so far. That’s when you’re in the 20th mile, and the cheers are loud but your legs feel like bricks. That’s the time to dig deep, to block out the noise around you, find that strength within yourself, and pull through. That’s true if you’re trying to quit smoking, cut out desserts, whatever it may be.
  5. Celebrate your accomplishments. Not just the big major goal, but all the little ones along the path to success. The first 14-mile training run I did was huge to me because it was the longest distance I had ever done. Or maybe it’s the work happy-hour you happily attended without imbibing because your goal was to cut out alcohol. Each step counts.
  6. The end is just the beginning. After a marathon I feel elated to have finished, but that feeling soon became despair because I don’t know what to do next. I feel the same way after reading an amazing book. Celebrate like crazy when the big goal is met, but also be ready with the next goal in mind. It could be completely different from the first one or somewhat related. Like, if your goal was to quit smoking maybe your next goal will be to put those pink, healthy lungs to use and register for a 5K. For me, after a marathon my husband bought me a FitBit Flex, knowing that the daily goal of hitting at least 10K steps was enough to feed my competitive spirit while giving my body a much-needed rest from running.

Whatever you goals may be in the New Year, please remember these tips and know that you can do it! I’d love to know what you have planned in 2016. Share your New Year’s resolutions in the comments below, and tell me what steps you’re taking to reach them.

 

Published by

Elana Natker, MS, RD

I'm a dietitian, communications professional, wife, mother - just your typical modern-day woman trying to juggle it all.

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