As runners, we’re constantly setting new goals, whether it’s signing up for a marathon or just moving our feet a bit more each day.
But it’s one thing to set a goal — it takes smart strategies and hard work to achieve it. So we spoke with some first-hand experts: The North Face Runners Dylan Bowman, Rob Krar, Hillary Allen and Rory Bosio as well as HOKA ONE ONE athlete Magdalena Boulet, Altra runners Ian Sharman and Charli McKee and Salomon athlete Cat Bradley.
Here are their top tried-and-true tips to help you achieve your running goals.
Schedule time to run
It might sound silly, but practically every athlete recommended setting time aside in your schedule. “The less I have to decide, the easier it is to get out,” explains Bradley. “I stick to a similar run plan week to week and month to month, so I don’t have to even think about getting out the door, I just do it.”
Sharman, the Leadville 100 Trail Champion in 2017, agrees: “Create a routine and stick to it unless you have genuine reasons not to. After a couple of weeks, the routine will become the norm and will be much more self-reinforcing.”
Even when you’re traveling, find a window to run
“For me that involves morning runs/activity to get me out the door and to kickstart my day,” Allen says. “When I travel and don’t know where I’m going, it can seem overwhelming, but if I’m committed to [it], I can have a general plan to explore and it usually works out in the end.”
Sign up for a race
“Find an event to sign up for that is just a little bit outside of your comfort zone,” suggests Boulet. “It will help motivate you to get out and train if you’ve paid your entry fee and declared to your friends and family (some of whom will hopefully join you!) that you will do this event.”
It helps if the race is in a beautiful place or somewhere you’ve had on your bucket list for ages, adds Bradley. “It makes it a lot easier to stick with it when everything starts to fall apart when you are in love with the project, race or goal.”
Hire a coach
While a few of these athletes are paid to run (and do it full time), many juggle full-time jobs with their passion for running. One commonality is the insight a coach can provide. “Not only does it take a lot of the strategic guesswork off my plate, but it also gives me another person to be accountable to,” Bowman says.
A coach can give you an added layer of support and take some anxiety off your plate when training — especially if you’re a newbie. “I have a coach that designs my weekly training schedule and it helps keep the stress of planning under control,” notes McKee. “Having a second set of eyes and ears on my run training has greatly improved my running.”
Look for support in running groups
Coaches can be expensive, and that might be out of the question for you. There are other options to hold yourself accountable. When Boulet doesn’t feel like running, she reaches out to her network. “I have an extra cup of coffee and call a friend to schedule a running date,” she says. “Making a commitment to meet someone always works for me.”
Get out the door
Mental toughness is something that these athletes have in spades. They head out on practice runs that dwarf my measly 20- to 30-mile weeks. But if you don’t feel you have it, don’t fret. “Toughness is not something you’re born with, it’s a skill you can gain with practice,” Boulet says. “Practice being tough in regular training or it won’t be there on race day,” Sharman adds.
If you don’t feel an urge to get up and run every single day, that’s okay. “I like to get out the door even if I’m feeling tired,” Allen says. “I tell myself to see how I feel for the first ten minutes and I go from there.”
Listen to your body
Sometimes you’ll jump up out of bed and hit the road. Other days, you might feel lazy and not want to go. Do it for your mental health, or bargain with yourself. “I remind myself how much better I feel after running than I did before,” Boulet says.
But remember to take rest days, too. “A common mistake for newer ultra and trail runners isn’t that they aren’t training hard enough, it’s that they aren’t training smart enough and respecting rest and recovery,” says Krar. “Remember that a single run or single race does not define you. There will be bumps along the way and they’re to be expected. Most importantly, run with a purpose. Show up and do your best.”
Do a little mental prep
Everyone needs a little help to get through a long-distance race. The monotony of one foot in front of the other can use a spike. “I’ve used mediation apps like Headspace and Calm,” says Bowman. “These apps cultivate mental and emotional poise, so when adversity inevitably arises, I’m less likely to be overwhelmed by it.”
Running is a journey (literally), so “don’t aim for the stars, aim for the trees,” Bosio says. “Make resolutions that are reasonably attainable. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t stick with it 100 percent. Tomorrow is always another day!”