Grab a magazine off the rack in the next few weeks and you are likely to be greeted by a trimmed, toned, transcendent-looking beauty, clad in spotless spandex, hovering over a neon headline reading, “New Year, New You,” or “Lean and Mean in 2013.”
These resplendent rhymes tap into a primal urge to improve ourselves with the turning of the calendar page (as if our 2012-selves were such monsters). They lay out in perfect detail our every flaw and how to fix each, often in as few as five easy steps. The pictures of euphoric exercise enthusiasts make it all seem so easy, and we bite on the hook year after year, at least for a few weeks.
I have never been a fan of resolutions for one reason. They are never fun! I have never read a magazine that encouraged me to watch more football on Sunday, eat more barbecue potato chips, or spend more money on fly fishing tackle in the coming year. I used to make a half-hearted attempt at a resolution every year, and every yea, I would make it a few days, a week, maybe even a month before slinking back to my old ways with a healthy dose of guilt and self-loathing. It comes down to a fundamental rule — we don’t do things we don’t enjoy (no matter our best intentions to “Have a Banner Year in 2013”).
So how do we make running fun? As many of us will recommit ourselves to a running routine with the dawn of the new year, there are a few things I have learned (often through miserably failed resolutions) that may help to make your runs this year more enjoyable and thus more likely to last longer than last year’s resolution to give up sweets.
Do not plan to run every day. This is a sure-fire resolution saboteur. Between work, kids, the house, the snow, the arrival of dusk at 2:37 p.m. there will be a day when you just can’t squeeze that run in. A day off is not a bad thing (this is a lesson that took me years, age, and injury to accept). In fact, the days of rest are the days when you get faster, since your body rebuilds during these docile moments. Rather than shooting for a decade-long streak of daily runs, resolve to run more days per week than you don’t.
Change the route. In speaking with new runners, one trend is virtually universal. They run the same 2-, 4-, 5-mile run from their front steps every evening at 5:23 before dinner and Jeopardy. While this may play to our habitual nature, it certainly lacks the excitement for self-sustainment. These old standby routes are great, but sprinkling in a new loop, a new trail, a meandering run through a different neighborhood you, can reinvigorate our stale old running routine and sustain us for months.
Page 2 of 2 - Forget the watch. In suiting up for winter running, I often feel more like RoboCop than a runner. Between the base layers, wind shells, GPS watches, iPods and streaming audio, it is easy to forget that running is supposed to be “low-tech.” Once a week, leave the watch and iPod at home. Don’t worry about how far, how fast, or how long you’ve been running. Just run. If it’s shorter than normal, who cares? If it’s longer than normal, great. What it wont be is normal. You’ll find yourself noticing houses, trees, and neighbors you’ve forgotten existed during our winter hibernation. You’ll find yourself replacing your iPod with your own humming (just try to keep this silent, lest people really think runners are crazy).
Resolving to take up the joy of running can be a life-changing decision. Just remember it should be fun, and don’t expect to come in from a mid-February run with the angelic sheen that graces magazines, no one puts frozen eyelashes and sweat stains on the cover.
Chris Compson has run at the state, national and international level and spent several years coaching beginning runners. He would love to hear your comments and questions. Please send responses to email@example.com.