By Sarah O'Neill, Jan 7 2018 02:42PM
This time 5 years ago I had just run 12 marathons in 12 days, rounding off a yearlong fundraiser of trail runs, triathlons, marathons, ultras and international bike rides. Since then I have had 2 babies and fitness-wise I am in a very different place. As I puffed through a 5k interval set on the treadmill yesterday I thought to myself how much has changed…There is no way in the world I could complete a marathon now, let alone 12. Does that matter? Well, sort of, to me. But perhaps life is about seasons…and accepting where you are at as opposed to bemoaning where you’re not.
Of course we can be motivated by goal-setting, but it’s important that these goals empower us and make us feel good, as opposed to placing an additional burden on us by being unrealistic. Much as I would love to be back in the pacing team for the London Marathon this year, I couldn’t possibly commit the time, or bodily effort that would be required. However I can set some other, more manageable goals, such as: exercising 3 times a week, mixing up running either outside or on our treadmill, alongside HIIT and weight sets, which can be performed with a toddler hanging off one limb! These workouts may only be half an hour long, but that still counts. They will help me lose weight, get fitter and give me a boost of endorphins. These workouts will also need to be tailored to my energy levels and ability at the moment, so I have to reset myself for gentler workouts.
With the dawning of a New Year so many of us will be setting stretch goals, hoping to transform our fitness, change our body shape or compete in a race or challenge. I encourage you to do this, and piggyback on the motivation that January brings. But I also encourage you to be realistic about these goals. Over-reaching can just cause you to feel despondent and like you’ve failed, whereas you may simply have picked a goal that’s not really appropriate for the season of life you’re in right now.
You may also have set a goal that just isn’t realistic from a fitness or nutritional standpoint. For example, weight loss goals should be no more than 0.5 to 2 pounds a week, achievable by hitting a calorie deficit of 250 to 1000kcals a day – a greater deficit would be unfeasible, unsustainable and unsafe. It’s also unwise to increase running mileage by more than 10% per week (applicable to other sports too) so setting a goal that requires you to up your training volume too drastically is also going to end in failure and/or injury.
By all means jump in on the January health kick. But remember where you’re starting from. Celebrate your successes along the way, and forget the bad days. You may have broken half those health resolutions already but that doesn’t matter! Plug yourself back in. Celebrate your season and find whatever fitness means for you this year.