Monday, January 10, 2011

Going long - Have a Plan

Over the next few days I’m trying to pay back you dear readers for following my antics last year with tips on how to achieve your long term goals by sharing some of the things that I learned last year. You know, 2010... the year I ran and wrote every day... yeah, there you go.

If you’re coming in in the middle, no sweat, you only missed one day. You can jump to the start... ready... set... jump.

Hey, you’re back. That was fast...

Ok, so we’ve set good goals, now what.

2) Have a Plan

Goals don’t just magically happen. Those are called "miracles". Goals take effort.

You're here.

You want to be there.

If you don’t have a plan, you aren't gonna get there.

When I decided I would run every day in 2010, one of the first things I did was think of all of the things that might cause me to miss a day. Injury, sickness, travel, darkness, forgetting my gear, just plain forgetting to run.  Then, I listed ways to keep each of those from stopping me from my goal. Then, I implemented them.

The first thing I did was buy a head lamp so I could run in the dark. That was easy. But, I know myself, and I knew that the biggest threat to my goal was my own absent mindedness. So, I devoted a single bag to hold all of my running essentials that I could take anywhere. If I wasn't using it, it was in the bag. No forgetting my watch or hunting for my phone carrier while I'm trying to get out the door in the morning.

I also used the bag as a failsafe reminder. When I got home from work, if I'd run already, the bag went on a door handle. If I hadn't it went on the bed. If I tried to go to bed without running, I'd see bag, freak out, and get a quick run in. I know, genius, right?

I set rules as to what counted as a run, and what didn't, and mapped out routes close to home and work that met the minimum requirements and would be runnable no matter what the weather was like.

Those are just a few of the things I did to prepare myself for the year before it even started. Without taking a few minutes to think through a plan, I wouldn't have been nearly as prepared.

Let's start a plan for our goal...

First, write your goal down, perhaps at the top of a piece of paper, and think about what you need to have, and what you need to do, to accomplish your goal. Perhaps you could create a list.

Let's try it and see what happens... Write down your goal...

"I want to run a 5-K race before June 30th."

That’s great. Excellent start.

Now I suppose you could just go about your business until around June 15th, sign-up for a 5K, and suffer through it, brute force style. If you did that, you would be a douche. And you wouldn't, or at least you shouldn't, be proud of that "accomplishment". What would you have "accomplished", aside from a heart attack, stroke, shredded hamstrings, and/or a really awful looking finish line photo?

Instead, let’s actually train for this 5K. That’s really kinda the point, right? The race is symbolic, a reward for being committed to a regular training program, and presumably a springboard to even loftier goals.

The miracle that is Google will cough up 17-kajillion 5K training programs. Here are some good examples: this one, and this one, and this one.

Pick one that seems doable and looks like it fits your style. Then print-it and stick it on the wall by your desk, or on the mirror in your bathroom, or on the fridge, somewhere where you will see it, often.  Maybe put a highlighter on a string next to it so you can mark your progress.

You might then pop over to Google Maps and map out some routes that you could use for training runs, ones that are close to home, or work, or both. You could also search for any group runs that you could join to liven up your training.

Next, ask the Google-gods for one more favor... links to some local 5K races. Try searching for "5K" and the name of your city and state. Look for a 5K that's roughly the same number of weeks out as your training plan is long. When in doubt, give yourself an extra week or two of training. If you can’t find a 5K, you may be in Antarctica. If you don’t think you’re in Antarctica, drop me a note and I’ll help you find some races. Eventually, you’ll find one.

When you do find one, sign-up.

Don’t wait, do it now. Procrastination is the devils waiting room.

Wait... that didn't make sense. Regardless, putting off any steps in your plan just put you behind and give you an excuse to feel sorry for yourself and maybe quit. Every day you should do something, anything, that moves you closer to your goal.

Sign-up. Now! I mean it! Put your money on the virtual barrelhead.

Good. Now, wait patiently for you confirmation email. Should only take a minute or two... refresh... Hey, look, J.Crew is having a sale!... sorry... refresh... ah, there it is. You're in! Write the date of your race at the bottom of your training program. Oh come on, that's your goal, not your weight... write it big, and in red.

Next go get some shoes, if you don’t have any. Go to a running store. No back talk. A real running store.

Finally, deep breath... aaaaaannnnd... start your training.

Your plan is your path from where you are to where you want to be. Own it, respect it, make it a priority, and stick to it.

The toughest part of any run is the first step. The toughest part of anything worthwhile is summoning up the courage to start. At least with a plan, you'll know you're going in the right direction.

More soon... until next time, take a few minutes and write out your plan. Remember, it doesn't have to be about running. If you have insight, or if you're stuck, head to the comment section.

Good running,