Every year we eagerly make New Year's resolutions to get fitter, eat better and run faster. All too often though, by the end of January those well-intentioned targets have been pushed aside in favour of familiar bad habits.
Failing to stick at New Year's resolutions is by no means uncommon. Researchers at the University of Hertfordshire conducted a year-long study of 3,000 people and discovered that less than 30 per cent managed to stick to goals of losing weight or improving their fitness.
To help you stick to your running targets this year, we've called in the experts. When you're sitting down to make your resolutions check out our list of what to avoid - and soak up sage advice from experts like double Olympian Liz Yelling and nutritionist Trevor Bedding. Here's to 2011 - we hope it's a year of running to remember!
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Don’t: Train every day in an attempt to quickly shed Christmas pounds
It's not surprising that our clothes feel a little tighter in January - party snacks, sugary drinks and selection boxes all take their toll. A recent study has found that the average Briton consumes 4,000 calories on Christmas Day alone.
It might seem a good idea to blitz away the Christmas excess with a few weeks of increased mileage, especially when your resolutions are shiny and new - but our experts warn this is a big no-no.
"This approach can only jeopardise long term running. Any sudden increase in mileage, intensity or frequency can increase the risk of illness and injury," warns Liz Yelling, double Olympic marathon runner and coach (www.yellingperformance.com).
Running experts advise following the ten per cent rule to manage any increases in training. Quite simply, increase your training by no more than ten percent a week to allow your body to adapt and recover. Increase New Year training in line with your existing running regime - and if you're new to running, take it slowly.
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Do: Set yourself a long-term goal to train towards gradually
You'll need a long-term goal to keep motivated past the first few weeks of January and through the bleak winter months.
If you're new to running, set yourself a 5K or 10K target for summer. If you already run regularly why not make this the year to tackle a half- or full marathon - or even your first ultra! You can find all the schedules you need in our training section.
Once you've set a target, it's useful to plan some smaller milestones to help monitor your progress - and to give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back.
"It wouldn't hurt to do something every month, perhaps a short 5K parkrun. You need little markers along the way to keep you motivated," explains Keith Anderson, Commonwealth marathon runner and coach (fullpotential.co.uk).
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Don’t: Detox on a cabbage soup diet
Starving your body or focusing entirely on one food group couldn't be more at odds with the demands runners place upon their bodies.
"Following a cabbage diet will not even supply enough calories to support your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR), let alone an exercise programme," warns sports nutritionist Trevor Bedding (www.sportsnutritionist.co.uk).
"You wouldn't have enough carbohydrate to provide energy to exercise for any length of time and would lack protein to repair damaged tissue. In this state a person could suffer from fatigue, tiredness and dizziness, as well as being more likely to sustain an injury."
As intoxicating as a quick-fix diet may seem, runners need to opt for a balanced diet packed with carbohydrates, protein, fruit and vegetables. Discover the key ingredients you need to keep your body performing efficiently here.
Do: Rethink your attitude to food
If you want to get svelte before summer, then long-term changes to your diet are your best bet.
Try to tackle head on the reason for any unwanted weight - are you snacking late at night, skipping meals or gorging at weekends? We've got top tips to help you break all your bad habits.
Then there's an exhaustive list of healthy but delicious snacks for when the munchies strike.
Food is fuel for a runner and it's important to learn when to eat before, during and after runs to train efficiently and curb hunger pangs. Our quick guide can give you all the know-how you need.
Plus we now have a brand new recipe section packed with delicious and healthy meals from the Runner's World archive - now there's no excuse not to eat right in 2011!
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Don’t: Let excuses get in the way
There's always a reason not to train if you look hard enough: the weather, stress at work or just feeling lazy.
"Find your mojo, your trigger, your reason for running and getting out of the door will be so much easier," advises Yelling. That could be the fabled 'runner's high' after a training session or just knowing you are one step closer to cracking your big goal.
Conquer the lure of your favourite TV programme or aversion to rain with our guide to blitzing common excuses.
If you are really struggling to get motivated, it might be time to mix things up. Add cross training for variety or try racing over new terrain and distances.
"There are so many people out there who do exactly the same races every year, so try something different like cross-country or a multi-terrain event. If you do that you'll keep things fresh and sustain your interest," advises Anderson. We've even put together a range of monthly running challenges for 2011 to get you started.
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