Hey runner... here's how to set a goal that sticks
It is the time of the year when everybody is setting goals and resolutions for the new year! Everyone is excited, making plans, fantasizing about how things will be different once they finally get that PR or give up fast food or learn how to fuel during the long run without running to the bathroom.
That's awesome. It's great to have goals to shoot for! I'm a big fan of always trying to improve my running, my nutrition, my relationships, and all aspects of my life.
That said, a huge percentage of New Year's resolutions fail... one statistic I read said that 80% of them have failed by February!
You're a smart runner. You have big goals and big plans for the new year. So here are some things to consider to help make sure that you don't fall prey to this statistic!
🎊 Make your goals SMART
To make sure you're getting the most out of your resolution or goal-setting, don't just say something like "I want to eat healthier", "I want to eat more vegetables", or "I want to lose weight."
These goals might not sound vague, but they are. How will you know if you're eating more vegetables unless you know how many you're currently eating and how many you want to eat? 🥦 What does "eat healthier" even mean, anyway?
Instead, make your goals SMART - specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely.
Specific - Get down to the details here; don't allow yourself to cheat and be general. When you're specific, you will be able to tell whether or not you're hitting your goals. After all, what does "eat healthier" even mean??
Measurable - Use numbers to your advantage! When you can measure your goal, you can tell whether or not you've reached it (or you're on your way). "Eat more vegetables" doesn't really mean anything until you've got specific numbers attached to it; after all, you probably don't eat the same number of vegetables right now and you probably won't in the future either.
Achievable - While it is fun to set big and lofty goals, we need to make sure that what we're working is something that we can actually obtain, or we're more likely to get discouraged and give up. If you were drinking 8 bottles of Gatorade per day and never drinking water because you hate the taste, for example, you should expect yourself to never drink Gatorade again starting tomorrow.
Relevant - Does the goal actually mean something to you? Will it make a difference? If you hate Gatorade and only drink water, you wouldn't make the goal to "give up Gatorade", would you?? Timely - Set a date to accomplish your goal so that you've got an end point in mind. You can always set another one once you get there (or try again) - but if you never have a date, you might never get there.
Let's take the goal "I want to eat more vegetables" and make it SMART. This will look different for everyone, but it might be something like "I want to eat 2 servings of vegetables at both lunch and dinner, five days a week, by February 28."
🎊 Plan ahead for obstacles
We'd all love it if everything went super smoothly according to plan all the time, wouldn't we? (Or maybe we wouldn't - there is some fun in spontaneity!) For the most part though, I bet most of us would like to think that everything will go just right when we're trying to make changes.
But if you don't plan ahead for things that could go wrong, you fail to set yourself up for success. Let's take the goal of eating 2 servings of vegetables at lunch 5 days a week as an example. If you don't have a backup plan if the vegetables you got went moldy, or if you're away from home for lunch with limited options, then you're likely going to just revert back to your old habits.
So anticipate obstacles that could come up and have a plan B ready to go if they do. In this example, maybe you open a bag of frozen veggies from your freezer stash or you plan to eat 3 servings at dinner when you get home.
🎊 Don't try to change too much at once
It's great that you have a lot of goals to improve your eating habits and your lifestyle. What's not great is trying to do a complete 180 right away and expecting that you'll stick to these new habits forever.
Let's say your goals are to start eating a post-run snack AND drink 8 glasses of water per day AND give up soda AND eat vegetables at every meal AND start cooking at home 5 days per week AND start taking in nutrition on your long runs AND limit your coffee intake to 1 cup per day. That's a lot of goals! Not to mention any you might have for your running, career or school, sleep, etc.
If you try to work on all of these at once, it can seem overwhelming and daunting. When it gets tough (and it will, even if each individual goal is small), you're more likely to go back to old habits for everything.
You're better off choosing with 1-2 goals at a time, sticking with them until they become habit, and then adding more.
🎊 Hire a dietitian to keep you on track
Changing your diet can be tough - you have ingrained habits, you have emotions around food, you've got your own personal preferences and intolerances, you have to consider your work or school or overall lifestyle, and you have your personal goals too. Not only that, but there's a lot of misinformation out there which can make things really confusing!!
If you want to be a better runner, you've got to eat like one. If you're ready to change your diet to meet your running goals (or just your life goals!), then you need support, encouragement, accountability, and guidance. You need to know you're on the right path. I do that for other runners, and I can do that for you too.
🎊 Don't give up the minute it gets hard or you mess up
Look, it's going to be hard sometimes. You might feel like giving up. You might not want to drink another glass of water, or you'll be sick of your vegetables, or you won't feel like packing a snack for your long run.
Or maybe you had the best of intentions but you forgot, or you didn't plan ahead, or you gave in to peer pressure.
Just because it didn't go perfectly doesn't mean you can't try again and keep after it. If your goal was to eat 5 vegetable servings a day and you ate 3.5, then you still accomplished something! And if you ate zero, then learn from that experience and try again tomorrow.
🎊 Give yourself credit along the way
Making changes takes work and effort. Changing your diet to support your running can be really challenging, even if you feel you're doing it for all the right reasons.
Find something to keep you motivated to keep moving towards your goal, and give yourself a pat on the back. Even if you didn't execute 100%, you probably did quite a bit, and that deserves some recognition.
I work with runners (like you!) who want to make sure that what they are eating works to their advantage to improve their performance or achieve their body composition goals. Who want to feel better about food and their bodies. Who want to be better, faster, happier, healthier runners. Is this you? Schedule your runner's nutrition strategy session to find out how I can help you achieve all your goals.