A friend recently sent me a panicked message telling me that a charity she supports had accepted her application for a place in the London Marathon. I can understand this feeling of intimidation and impossibility; 26.2 miles is a long way and seems even longer when as a task it’s to be completed on foot.
It made me think back to when I accidentally entering my first marathon. My previous experience of this distance was watching a friend run the London Marathon and thinking what a tortuous thing it looked. Who would want to put themselves through it? Well the answer to that question turned out to be me, and I had given myself just over three months to go from part-time jogger to marathon runner.
Amazingly it happened. I had great support from a local running club and I had a schedule. And slowly but surely I found myself running further and faster than I had ever run before. Here’s what I learnt along the way.
Setting your goal
If you set yourself a fitness goal and work towards it consistently, you will get there and it will lead to experiences that you might not even be able to imagine right now.
First set yourself a goal: to run a marathon, to lose weight, to meet the 10,000 steps target on your Fitbit, to lift weights, to walk a mile. Whatever it is, do a double check to make sure you want to do it. If you’re not sure ask yourself “why?” a couple of times until you get there.
Second, put in place a plan or training schedule and maybe work with a club, a coach or a personal trainer. If you have a deadline such as a date for a race, work backwards from this when you start planning. If you don’t have a date, work forwards to establish a target date. Either way you will have a point in the future when you can pause, review, and see how far you’ve come.
Time for another reality check: life carries on. You might have events, work, travel, all sorts of things that get in the way. Don’t stress it, but make sure the balance is right. If there’s too much life, you may have to re-prioritise or re-focus your goal. Maybe you don’t want it enough, or it’s just too big for right now.
My third piece of advice: hold yourself accountable. Either to yourself – write your training sessions on your calendar, in your diary, plug reminders into your phone – or to other people – tell them about your goal, tell them when you’re going to do a training session and expect them to ask about it.
And then off you go!
Monitoring your progress
I’d go easy on the monitoring. You might not notice much progress day-to-day or even week-to-week, but check in after a month and see how you’re getting on. When you reach your target date, almost certainly you won’t feel “ready” for whatever your challenge is, but I promise if you’ve followed the steps above you absolutely will be. And you’ll have had a lot of fun along the way.
Tanya is a marathon runner, sports massage therapist, space geek and coach who inspires people to do things they thought they never could. In particular, she works with people who feel stuck in their successful lives, looking to find some oomph.