New Year, New You: 2012 Running Resolutions

The blank canvas of the year ahead is a great opportunity for runners everywhere. It gives us a chance to shake up our training regime, reboot our psychological/mental hard drive and dip our toes into challenges new.

We can all be guilty of falling into the same patterns year in, year out; running the same races, chipping away at the same PBs and getting frustrated by recurring injuries. That’s why we think 2012 should be the year to break the cycle.

We’ve assembled a team of running heavyweights full of inspiring new ideas; Ralph Hydes is a top running, duathlon and triathlon coach (http://ralph-hydes.com/), whilst Katherine Switzer rose to international acclaim in 1967 as the first woman to run the Boston Marathon (kathrineswitzer.com).

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Old You: Keeps it local

New You: A race in the sun (or at least a different bit of the UK)

There are many advantages to racing close to home; pitting yourself against friends and club mates (or rivals), supporting local charities and avoiding the stress of a long or unfamiliar journey to race HQ. But your motivation can take a dent if you don’t mix things up a little.

“Always running in one area can be boring and you might not be challenging your body in different ways,” says Ralph Hydes.

 At Runner’s World we relish the opportunity to explore new parts of the UK - and further afield - through racing. Check out our race reports covering everywhere from Milton Keynes to Majorca if you’re in need of inspiration. If you’re worried about jetting off alone, why not try one of our exclusive travel and racing packages to some of the world’s most iconic races including the New York City and Medoc Marathon.

We can guarantee once you start racing in a new region or country, you’ll never look back. It’s the perfect excuse to combine a holiday with a thrilling new challenge.

“The world is a beautiful place and it’s never better seen, felt and discovered than by covering it with your own two feet. I can’t remember every painting in every museum but I can remember every race and often the people too,” says Katherine Switzer.

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Old You: Trains until the pain stops you

New You: Targets muscle weakness so you can keep on running

The old adage ‘no pain, no gain’ is exactly that; outdated. Admittedly when you work hard and test your body’s limits you’ll feel uncomfortable; hillwork, speed sessions and tempo runs are all prime examples. But there is a big difference between short-term effort and longer-lasting pain.

“With any niggle or twinge that lasts more than two days, get professional advice as soon as you can. The quicker you get on top of any pain, the quicker you’ll get fixed and back to running,” explains Ralph Hydes. Discover more about when to run through pain and when to listen to your body’s SOS signals.

 For most runners there’s nothing worse than sitting on the sidelines, but fortunately many problems can be prevented by targeting specific muscle weaknesses. We’ve put together the key exercises to tackle the seven most common body breakdowns and five injury-beating stretches to keep you on your feet.

 You can also follow our popular bikram yoga blog to improve your core strength, posture and running efficiency. Katherine took up yoga in the 1960s and credits it as part of the reason she has now been running for 52 years. “People thought I was a nut case but it paid off – we now know that core strength is essential for long hard running training,” she says.

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Old You: Trains on your own

New You: Joins the pack

There’s nothing wrong with training on your own. In fact, for most runners it’s the most practical solution. It gives you ‘me time’ away from a hectic life – and being a lone ranger means you can grab your trainers and head out whenever the mood strikes.

It can be all too easy to become self-sufficient and to miss out on the great British running community. Training with a partner or running group can help motivate you to give it your all during tough speed sessions or to pick up the pace.

Then there are the mental benefits provided by a club. “It can also act as a support group in case you are feeling down or if you get an injury,” says Ralph. Discover more club benefits and how to find fellow runners who share your ambitions, whether that’s booking races or heading to the pub after training.

Even if you don’t want to become a club runner, you can share your training trials and triumphs on the Runner’s World forum. It’s easy to get involved and it’s packed with advice on everything from getting started to taking on your first spring marathon, with plenty of clubhouse banter too. Add a few new friends to your training regime and you’ll discover a whole new side to running.

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Old You: Chips away at the same PBs

New You: Expands your horizons

If you’ve been chasing the same PB over the same distance for a few years, then it might be time to take a step back and get some breathing space. Why not try a new distance or new terrain - we’ve even put together a calendar of our ideal racing year – and it’s packed with variety.

“By broadening your range of events you’re less likely to get injured, will have more fun and you’re more likely to keep improving as you add new types of training. A good example is cross-country running through the winter for middle or long distance runners,” says Ralph.

If you do want to keep focusing on familiar PBs in 2012, then it might be worth tweaking your training if you’ve hit a plateau. Look at your average week to see if you’ve included the key sessions focusing on strength, speed and endurance. Ticking off all these elements will help you to keep improving.

Even if you do take on a new challenge, that’s no reason to let your competitive juices dry up. Katherine Switzer acknowledges that her PBs are far behind her, but she’s still gunning to the finish every time she laces up her shoes: “I take joy in every step and I’m grateful for them, but I will make dead meat of you if you have grey hair and you try to beat me in the final straight.”

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