Run a Marathon by the end of January?

Run a Marathon by the end of January?

Allen Plunkett, President & CEO of Phoenix Staff

If you have never run a marathon before and you are setting this as part of your “New Year / New You” goal, good on ya’, I hope you make it! I remember when my wife and I lived in Las Vegas, it was New Year’s 2002 and we were about to have our first kid. I bought a jogging suit, new Adidas sneakers and I drove my route for January 1st – 2.5 miles, seemed like a great beginning. I ran it, felt horrible and woke up the next day realizing that the only jogging suit I owned hadn’t been washed, it was too cold to run in shorts. Goal tossed. One day in and the 2002 goal I set for myself was done and gone. Most people make it much longer than that I am sure.

What I realized about myself that day is that I am not good at being an “event driven” person – end of quarter, end of year, specific dates – those are things that happen all the time, they come and go. What I personally need to do is have a mindset that I will improve in certain aspects and then get about making the changes toward improving, not because I turned 40, but because I need to improve.

I have since run 4 marathons, more than a dozen half marathons and now training to be the fastest 44 year old I can possibly be (which doesn’t appear to be quite as fast as I had hoped!). My goals for my company – ensure that I have the right people in the right places, ensure that I hire all the right new people and ensure that all of them are happy and properly motivated for their own success and the company’s success. Plenty more goals that go along with these, but if the baseline goals already described are achieved, the rest will likely fall in place.

If you are anything like me, setting a lofty goal around some life event or calendar event isn’t the game changer, the game changer is to create the end result in your mind and then drive toward that – no matter when you set it. As an example, diets have never worked for me, but I was desperate to lose weight in 2007. I now call what I do a “meal plan” because it sounds easier and people assume I am just allergic to most delicious food. Interestingly, people will stop asking you to eat stuff if they think you are allergic to it. This helps me tremendously around the Holidays when I hear, “Oh, that’s right you can’t eat that.” Nothing to do with a diet, more to do with my “meal plan”.

I no longer set a goal to clear out my inbox, but I do have a goal to reply to all of my emails throughout the year within a few hours. If I have acted on them and they stay in my inbox, I am okay with that. When I tried to clear them I was really just making sure that I had acted on them – now I know that I’ve already done so.

Goal setting for me is very important and I do it daily. What doesn’t work for me though is to follow someone else’s plan for how or when goals should be set. Whatever the time of year, whatever the reason, if you set the goal and it is an achievable one, you are more likely to get there.

Some other things that I just pulled from a Time Magazine article by @ProfSpikerthat are worth mentioning:

  1. Vague platitudes (“lose some weight”) are less effective than specific directives (“I will set my alarm for noon every weekday for a 30-second stretch of my adductor longus muscles”).
  2. Motivation research tells us that three things need to be present to sustain your fire over time: autonomy (you control what you do, rather than letting others dictate it); competence (you have some success the more you do it); relatedness (you share the experience with others). Which means: You can manufacture your own motivation by choosing an action that includes all three elements.
  3. Resolutions often fall into the all-or-nothing category. Therefore, rates of failure increase if you attempt an outright ban on gravy.
  4. The common characteristic of exercise-quitters: Too much too soon. For newbies, three days a week in January will be better in the long run than six. Slow and steady won’t win many races, but it will this one.
  5. Trying to stick to a daily resolution comes with pressure and stress that often leads to midnight lasagna binges. Instead, try weekly metrics. Rather than count daily calories, which can be frustrating and destructive if you miss your mark, give yourself a weekly benchmark to hit. (Note: There is some debate about whether calorie-counting works for everyone, but self-monitoring certainly can be effective for some people.) That gives you some flexibility to stray, incentive to eat well most of the week, and more of a global picture for what you’re trying to accomplish—that is, eat right most of the time. If you want wiggle room in your clothes, you have to give yourself wiggle room in your expectations.
  6. Tweet/Facebook/Instagram/Snapchat your goal so that you canfeelaccountable.
  7. Do not do No. 8 when the reasoning centers of your brain may be compromised, such as at 12:03 a.m. on January 1. #HappyNewYearImGivingUpBreakfastMeatsFOREVER won’t stick.
  8. If you want to rid yourself of your dietary Achilles heel, cold turkey can be a rocky road. But eliminating your most evil temptation can work if you can choose some kind of substitute behavior for the addiction or habit, so that you give your brain something to do in its place.
  9. Do not make the substitute barbecue corn chips.
  10. If your resolution involves a new exercise plan, make a 5-minute backup workout for times you just don’t have the oomph to complete your intended session. It can be as simple as a handful of pushups, jumping jacks, lunges, and squats (no equipment required). The point: Do something that gives you some energy, so that you don’t beat yourself up for missing your workout on days when life gets in the way.
  11. Pick a skill rather than a size. One of my favorite yearly goals came when I vowed to stand up on a surfboard (on a wave). Picking something you physically can’t do right now (run a certain distance, climb a small mountain) requires you to break down the steps that will help you get there—physically, nutritionally, mentally. The declaration of a goal isn’t what gets you to the goal; process is what gets you to the goal.
  12. One of the best goals I heard in 2014 came from one of the spiritual leaders of the Sub-30 Club—a club I started a few years ago for people who wanted to run a sub-30-minute 5K, but includes many folks who were already speedier than that, like Laurie Canning. Laurie had said that her only running goal this year was to run with as many new people as she could, including those she had never met from our virtual group. Between training, new races, and meet-ups all over, she ended the year running with 25 new people. She says, “I have never enjoyed running as much as I have this year—ever.” By the way, Laurie also completed the year doing 20,000 strict military pushups and crushed her previous best marathon time, running a 4:11. My takeaway: You can use a deeper goal to help achieve other ones.
  13. The best resolutions are also ones that you can share with other people. Recruit a couple of friends to join you (live or digitally). Report your progress, kick each other’s butts, high-five successes, hold regular meetings to discuss ups and downs.
  14. Do not bring cupcakes to those meetings.
  15. Set a date on the calendar, not a number on the scale. Find something—an event, a vacation—that means something to you. That’s where you’re headed. That’s why you’re running or swimming or getting your butt whooped by a boot-camp instructor. That’s why you reach for radishes when you need something to crunch. No, it’s not a finish line in this seemingly never-ending struggle, but it does give you a vision of where you want to go—and a few hints about why you want to get there.

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