Reboot your running
February is a cruel month. Christmas is a fading memory and spring seems ages away, which all adds up to doom and gloom if you’re trying to stick to your shiny new running resolutions for the year. Fear not, we’re here to help! Alice Palmer has put together 20 easy ways to reboot your resolutions and ensure you fulfil your potential in 2014...
Make it a milestone
Whether it's your very first race, the decision to tackle fells, a marathon, an ultra or a triathlon, make 2014 a year to remember by challenging yourself to completing a huge milestone of a race.
Big targets will give your year a structure as you build up to the big day, replete with smaller targets to tick off. Think of the pride you'll feel as 2014 is marked out as 'the year you…'.
Tackle a mileage challenge
If you don't have a big race in your sights, it can be hard to stay focused. Challenge yourself, or join others with weekly, monthly or annual mileage targets. By setting yourself a mileage challenge you can combine the motivation of having a target with total flexibility in terms of how and when to clock up those miles.
Online running community fetcheveryone.com has monthly mileage groups, which are great for motivation. You could even run the year – 2014 miles works out as 38.7 miles per week!
Start a training log
...and keep it up all year! Plot your improvement over 2014, and just think how proud you'll be when you look back in December.
A training log is unbeatable for motivation – it'll help you focus on long-term goals, and you'll notice improvement as it happens. You can also customise your log in line with your aims for the year, whether you want to lose a specific amount of weight or get set for a new distance.
The best way to get into the stretching habit is to do it whenever you have a minute. Whenever you boil a kettle, do neck stretches or hoick your foot onto the worktop and stretch your legs. If you find yourself in a queue, do some more neck stretches or work those arms.
Get kitted out
Use the sales as an excuse to kit yourself out in the right gear – appropriate running shoes, a technical top or two and gloves and hat for the wintery months ahead.
If you're running in bog-standard cotton, sweat will stay on your skin and make you chilly. Technical tops, in contrast, are made of quick-drying fabric, which cleverly wicks sweat away from the skin. Psychologically, covering your head and hands makes you feel warmer too so keep toasty in chilly weather with a fleecy hat and gloves.
And last but certainly not least, don't delay – get your gait analysed at a specialist running shop and make sure you're wearing the right trainers for your running style.
Take someone under your wing
Training a newbie runner or an improver can do wonders for your own running self-esteem. And it's much harder to shirk off training if missing a session means letting your pupil down.
Love your cross-training
It's great that you love running, but balance out time on your feet with other training and your favourite sport will benefit. Take up yoga, for example, and as well as benefiting from improved posture and zen-like calm, you'll be getting in quality stetching time too.
The British Wheel of Yoga takes the healthy attitude that, "The objective in asana (posture) work is not how far you can stretch or contort your body, but to combine stability (stira) with ease (sukha)." Visit www.yogapages.co.uk for a searchable directory of independent yoga teachers and studios covering yoga from ashtanga to vinyasa all over the UK.
Listen to your body
If you're feeling tired, don't push things. Make 2014 the year that you tune in to what your body's telling you rather than just following instructions from a training log written by someone else.
Forget that old nonsense 'no pain, no gain' – your body's pain mechanism is there for a good reason. If you're feeling more than the usual stiff muscles, make sure you pay attention and respond to what it's trying to tell you.
Make your lifestyle match your running
You work hard with regular running, so why make it harder for yourself by slowing down your body with booze and junk food? Get to grips with nutrition basics, start a food diary and let a new lean, mean runner emerge.
With the right mix of all-important carbs, protein, good fats and greens inside you, you'll instantly notice how much more energy you have, and in training, you might just surprise yourself. But don't worry, there's still room for treats – nutritionists suggest a ratio of 80:20 'sensible' food versus naughty treats.
Train yourself fit
If you've been sidelined by injury, there's no point sitting at home feeling frustrated. Try to view your physio exercises just as you would a training schedule – if you were in training for a big race you'd probably follow your training plan to the letter, so why is rehab any different?
Rather than something extra to do when you have time, view your rehab as your number one training priority. Whether you're plugging the gap with cross-training or not, it's the exercises you've been given for your injury that'll get you back out on your feet.
Join a club
If you take the plunge and join a club, you'll get the benefits of great coaching, a bunch of like-minded teammates and company on chilly winter days.
If you're already a club runner, give something back and help out with races organised by your club, or even bigger events. As most runners already know, enthusiastic marshals can turn a race from fine to fantastic. And it's a two-way street: without marshals, it would be impossible to stage races.
Leave the roads behind and get back in touch with nature. Running on grass or trails, as well as getting you pleasingly muddy, will do wonders for your leg strength and core muscles as they adapt to the uneven ground.
Even if you're a committed urbanite, cast your net wider than the usual pavements, and leave the city streets behind with a run to your nearest park.
Be kind to the planet
Swap your wasteful plastic bottles for a classy reusable one. And if you're practising using gels on a long run, don't drop litter – unlike on race-day there aren't any helpful people to pick up your discarded packets and bottles. Plastic bottles and bags are made using oil and take hundreds of years to degrade. They can also cause damage to the eco-system of the area where you drop them.
It's still hard with sportswear, but endeavour to buy environmentally friendly kit as far as possible. Fabric recycling banks for your worn-out tops and tights can often be found by the more familiar newspaper and bottle banks.
Spread the love
If you say hello to every runner you pass, it'll lift your spirits as well as theirs, and make the mean streets feel a bit more friendly. Smiling has been found to release the 'happy hormone' serotonin as well as endorphins – so it's good for you too.
Don't forget that if you're running regularly, you're doing an awful lot more for your body and health than the six out of 10 British men who don't reach the government's target of 30 minutes' moderate activity five times a week (and don’t forget that 'moderate activity' includes walking, gardening and hoovering).
So don't feel unworthy if you miss a session here or there, or if you don't feel up to ultras (yet!). As you complete another block of tip-top running (such as a month, or preparation for a race), reward yourself by doing something that makes you happy. Go to the theatre, book dinner at a fab restaurant, go wine tasting – whatever it is, give yourself a pat on the back for staying active.
Finally... enjoy yourself
Sometimes it's good just to forget about PBs, paces and targets, relax into your stride with a smile and enjoy that 'runner's high'!
You'll probably know and love those endorphins by now, but just a reminder: running triggers masses of happy-making endorphins, as well as keeping you fit and trim, relieving stress, helping you achieve amazing feats of speed, endurance and determination… and of course, getting you from A to B.