New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Have to Fail

Photo by Emma Simpson on Unsplash

Let’s look at the science of making running goals, and sticking to them.

Written by Laura M. Brenner

New Year’s Resolutions among runners–and would-be runners–usually look at the big-picture. We will quit drinking, start cross-training, eat healthily, and go for a sub-whatever race time. We’re all in for our running goals in the new year. We make big, dramatic statements publicly to hold ourselves accountable for these perceived improvements. And we might even try to convince friends to join us in our crusade for happiness. For decades, this is how people made annual resolutions. But it’s time to re-think our approach.

Studies show that most New Year’s resolutions don’t last. Resolutions usually require some kind of behavior change–adding a stop at the gym on your way home, waking up earlier to make breakfast every day, saying no to alcohol during girl’s or boy’s night. Our brains tell us that changing our behavior isn’t easy. But, according to behavioral scientists, it can be, if done correctly. Using science as our guide, here are a few tips to help you create better New Year’s Resolutions and achieve them.

Think Small to Go Big

Not just around New Year’s, but any time you’re setting big, new running goals, it helps to divide them into actionable pieces. For example, “I want to run faster” isn’t easily actionable on its own. But starting with, “I’m going to add speed workouts once a week” is something you can work into your schedule. Setting New Year’s resolutions isn’t just about the outcome; it’s about the steps you need to take to get there. 

New Year’s resolutions are really behavioral changes we want to make. And this usually means a shift in habits. This is good news, because behavioral science studies show it’s easier to sustain a new habit when you tack it on to an existing one. Humans have hundreds of habits we perform each day, often without realizing it’s a habit. Say you want to start cross-training to build strength and prevent injury…link this new habit with your existing habit of running. Getting dressed for your run is now a trigger to remind you to add that 10-minute pre-run strength workout, or swap your run for a 30 minute spin on the bike trainer. You’re less likely to bail on the new habit when you complete it first, before the existing habit. 

Believe In Your Success

We all have a mental image of ourselves, or our “self-story.” Who we are as individuals, what decisions are in line with our values, and what choices stray too far from “staying true” to ourselves. This self-story helps us build our identity. But it can also limit our ability to grow. If your New Year’s resolution is to eat healthier, you have to believe you’re a person who makes healthy choices. You can shift your mindset by editing your story–literally. Write down your self-story, and be honest about anything that goes against your New Year’s resolution. Then, change the narrative in a way that makes sense in your life. Instead of “my life is too busy to consider how my food choices impact my health,” the story changes to, “my health is important, and finding ways to include more vegetables can be fast and easy.”

Recruit a Friend

It doesn’t take a scientist to know that teamwork really does boost motivation. We all need a little accountability sometimes, and pairing up with a friend or family member, or hiring a coach, helps keep New Year’s resolutions on track. Even if your resolutions aren’t the same, you can provide each other with support and hold the other accountable for their actions. Knowing someone is going to check in with you about your resolution and is there to cheer you on when things get tough is a big boost in sticking to New Year’s resolutions.

If your New Year’s resolution includes improving your fitness, starting to run, and aiming for a new personal best, RUN717 Coaching can help. We want to help you achieve your running and fitness goals in 2022, and beyond. Contact us today to learn more about our coaching programs and let us help make 2022 your healthiest, or fastest, year yet!

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