How to Crush Barriers and Stick to Your Training, No Matter What
Posted Sep 01 2011 8:09am
Most people think they’re in full control of how much they get done every day. And they’re all full of shit.
People rarely complete things they should. Workouts are skipped. Procrastination runs rampant. Justifications for watching “just one more episode” are made.
The sad reality is that people rarely accomplish their goals because they don’t set up an environment that allows them to succeed. This is true not just of running, but of other things like getting out of debt or advancing a career.
Learning how to crush barriers so you can accomplish your running goals will elevate your training and allow you to succeed. You’ll be able to run more, stick to a training schedule, and actually follow through with your workouts
Okay, my work is done.
But seriously, becoming a better runner is about consistently sticking to your training plan and completing your workouts. There are no magic workouts, mileage number, or training system. The real secret is how to run consistently.
Fortunately, there are specific ways that you can change your environment that will help you change your behavior.
One of the simplest is to make small goals instead of lofty goals. While it’s fine (and encouraged) to have big dreams, you should also have smaller sub-goals that help you reach your final destination. Instead of trying to run 100 miles this month, set a goal of running 3-4 miles per day.
It’s less intimidating and forces you to take a small action every day. These are called quick wins and they help you build momentum.
You can also join your local track club or enlist the help of a running buddy to meet you every morning for your training run. You’ll be less likely to hit the snooze button when there’s somebody relying on you to show up to run. This is a powerful motivation strategy and can help you not only get your runs completed, but perform better than you would alone.
But what if you don’t have a track club or any friends who run? Not a problem! Use an online goal setting program like Stickk.com. You simply set a goal, establish the stakes and referee, and you’re ready to go. People are more likely to accomplish their goals when they’re public and a clear incentive is offered. Stickk helps you follow through by having you sign a “Commitment Contract.”
Some days, you might not have the motivation to accomplish even your smaller, daily goal. Don’t skip it altogether! Instead, commit to a small part of your daily goal. If you have a ten miler on the plan and you can’t find the motivation to complete it, just promise yourself that you’ll start the run and see how you feel. Most often you’ll feel fine and go on to finish your entire workout.
You have to recognize that “trying harder” is not effective at changing behavior. You need to change your environment to change your behavior.
Put your alarm clock on the other side of the room so you have to get up to shut it off
Make your significant other push you out of bed when your alarm goes off
Lay out your running clothes and pre-run snack
Set the coffee machine to turn on automatically if you can
Get enough sleep so you’re not dead tired in the morning
Don’t drive home and change for your run after work. Instead, drive straight to a park, trail, or another route that you like. Have your clothes with you or change at the office so you don’t have an opportunity to sit on the couch and skip your workout
Don’t let your significant other serve you dinner unless you’ve run after work (harsh, but it works!)
Accountability is a huge theme with all of these behavioral change suggestions. When you’re “trying hard” to get something done, you’re the only one responsible if you fail. But when you pull in friends or others to help you accomplish your goals then you’ll get more done with less resistance.
That’s why it helps to have your partner encourage you to hit your training goals. Or by using Stickk.com to make small bets that you’ll succeed. Joining a running club or running with a friend make your goals public. If you fail, others will know about it. You may even want to put together a “running board of directors.” This group can offer training suggestions and motivation when you need it.
Another option is to get a coach. Your coach makes you accountable for your workouts and more motivated to reach your potential. Runners who have coaches are more consistent because they have a tangible plan and someone to report back to.
But does every runner need to hire a coach? I don’t think so – although, it certainly won’t hurt. I know that the runners I coach are more likely to do their workouts and PR in their next race than if they weren’t coached.
But full coaching isn’t for everyone. It’s a two way street that requires communication on your end as well as your coach’s. As a coach myself, it’s funny to say that most people don’t need me. Those who do – runners who want to see just how good they can be and enjoy a challenge – will benefit. Not everyone will, though.
If you’re not ready for a coach, the next best thing is a personalized training plan. The custom workouts and volume tailored to your ability and running history will definitely put you on track to run your best (pun ABSOLUTELY intended). You’ll also know that you’re starting at the right place, have workouts that you can handle, and are less likely to get hurt.
However, psychology teaches us that the most powerful part of a custom training plan is the act of actually paying for it. People value what they pay for and are more likely to stick with their workouts. It’s an investment, not just some free cookie-cutter plan that was pulled off the internet.
The same is true for wine – in blind taste tests, people can’t tell the difference between expensive wine vs. cheap wine. But when the price is known, wine aficionados will claim the expensive bottle tastes better. They value what they pay for.
If you want to make an investment in your running, you can learn more about my coaching or custom race plans on my coaching page. To your running success!