Whether you're a total newbie or an experienced runner who wants to kick it up a notch this race season, understanding the "why" behind your race training will help you stay motivated. Knowing the "how" will give you the tools and knowledge you need to actually reach your goals.
To start, I have one question for you: What do you want to accomplish?
Possible answers: Cross the finish line of my first race. Compete in several races this season. Make this a long-term sport.
There is no right or wrong answer. But make sure it's your own answer, because as days turn into weeks and weeks turn into months, the reasons to quit, give up or postpone your training will only pile up. Trust me.
Once you have your "why," it's time to learn the "how," which I provide below in four simple steps.
Step 1: Compile a Personal Inventory
Are you currently active in any sport? Do you have any injuries or weaknesses? Assess your conditioning. Are you struggling to maintain a pace, or are you able to run and hit your targets? The answers to these and other questions will determine how much work you need to do to up front, before you commit to running. If you're not starting from ground zero in terms of physical fitness, join a local running group. Chances are it will have coaches and trainers who can quickly step up your training when the time is right.
Step 2: Set a Deadline
Pick your running race and outline a schedule. Base it on your fitness level and degree of skill in the sport. If you're new, maybe commit to only a few runs a week at first and gradually build up. If you're an exerpienced vet, load up your schedule with challenging runs. Meet with other athletes and find out how they prepare. Once you decide on a deadline, stick to it. No exceptions. Be smart about setting your goals. Set them up in a way that motivates you. Then stick to them.
Step 3: Schedule Your Training to Maximize Accountabilty
You may find that although you are setting time aside and dedicating yourself to your training, others are not. They may bail on their scheduled training times. If it's a friend or casual training group, anticipate last minute cancellations and have a back-up plan. Others may quit, but you will not. Unless you're being held hostage by the flu or pinned beneath a fork-lift, you should always make your scheduled training sessions.
Step 4: Partner With Someone More Experienced
I could not have reached my goals for competing in the obstacle course circuit this summer without help from more than one trainer and mentor in the sport. So if you're a total newbie, find someone. Having someone more experienced alongside is invaluable for navigating blind corners. There will be parts of your race prep you will not consider, simply because you didn't know. You don't know what you don't know. But your mentor will.
There you have it. Four steps to success for participating in your next race, whether you're a beginner or a seasoned vet looking to up your game. At the end of the day, when schedule conflicts, bad weather or unexpected distractions come up, all the planning in the world won't save your training program. Only you can.
Ready? Set? GO!
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock