The first day of each month is my favourite. It is a new start. I carve out 30 minutes to look back at what has happened last month and look forward to what might be coming next.
The busier I am the more I need this little timeout.
It is so easy to focus on what we have not done and put all our attention into what is still left on the to-do list rather than notice and celebrate what we have achieved, no matter how small the victories. This monthly check in can be applied to any area of our life but for starters lets focus on our running.
While traditionally, September is the “back to school” month and a chance to dig out those January resolutions and start over, realistically that’s often too much to fit into a busy schedule where family and work take our energy. Many of us have spent the month of September on the back foot, adapting to the change of routine, alarm clocks, packed lunches and indeed the pining for carefree summer days. My month has flown by without enough attention being paid to my own personal running goals. But that’s where this first of the month check-in helps me enormously. The lessons learned from September make October even better.
The first step is to list your running highlights this September? We often forget the little wins. It may have been a race, new shoes, a personal best, or indeed the discovery of a new route. Maybe it was simply an evening where you didn’t feel like going out but persevered and felt great afterwards. Was it one of those beautiful September evenings where you felt you could run forever? But maybe you feel that there wasn’t enough running in your month to merit any highlights. That’s okay too. We will change that for October.
Now can you look all the way forward to New Year 2020? It may seem far but it really is only three months down the line. What type of runner do you wish to be by then? Are there any races, events or parkruns you would like to complete this side of the new year? Write them down and any other running goals you might have for the next few months. Then take a look at them all again and scribble out those that are not realistic. There is no point committing to something you know you won’t have the time, energy or fitness to achieve in such a short time. Set yourself up for success.
With your new shortened list of running goals, ask yourself what can be done this October to get closer to achieving them. Is it running consistency you need, a training plan, support from a coach, rehab from an injury or an encouraging running buddy? Maybe all you need is a date in the diary of an upcoming race to keep you focussed? We are all on different running paths this October but unless you have some structure as to what you want to achieve you risk the month passing away as quick as the last.
October is a great month to lay the foundations for the winter if you have let your routine run away on you. Remember that later this month there will be plenty of marathon talk as more than 20,000 people will run the KBC Dublin Marathon. You probably know a few of them. At least when they are showing off their medals or indeed when you are on the sidelines cheering, you can avoid that dreaded runners’ guilt and feel like you are following your own path. You don’t have to be a marathoner to be a successful runner, you just need to have your own plan and a little motivation to put yourself slightly higher up your priority list.
Our monthly check in offers something else valuable to a runner. It allows us to see running as part of our whole life and appreciate how other aspects of our life can help or hinder our running progress in any given month. Our running is personal. Our lives are all different and if we set out our plans on paper it is easier to remember where we have come from and appreciate the month-on-month progress as well as setbacks. Otherwise it is easy to get demoralised when we see others’ achievements. Constantly comparing our progress to others and feeling inadequate doesn’t help anyone move forward. It can be hard to see the positives in a running month if we are using someone else’s standards rather than our own.
If you want to keep running and keep enjoying it, you need a little structure and discipline. You know as well as I do that these next three months can be filled up with seasonal preparations, parties and panics. It is hard to carve out a bit of time for ourselves. But we have got to do it if we want to feel better, stronger and more in control. Don’t leave the resolutions until the new year. You have an opportunity now to get a head start. Days of procrastination can turn into weeks and indeed months if we don’t stop occasionally to check we are heading down the right road and moving forward at the right pace for us.
I’m not promising you will stick to all your plans but the monthly checkpoints stop you from veering too far off track or indeed parking on the sidelines.
Mary Jennings is founder and running coach with ForgetTheGym.ie. Her new book, Get Running, published by Gill Books is out now.
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