Do you want to lose five pounds, get rock-hard abs or revive your running this year? You’re not alone. Use these three action plans for the New Year to stick to any one of these perennial runner resolutions.
Lose 5 Pounds
What it takes: Whether you want to shred the last 5 pounds or the first, this seemingly universal resolution takes considerable commitment. You’ll have to curb more than your appetite. Keep your impatience and desire for a quick-fix solution in check, because drastic diets (however trendy) are impractical and unsustainable. Alicia Shay, Run S.M.A.R.T. Project nutritionist and elite runner, says most runners, whether they’re motivated by the potential performance boost associated with losing unnecessary body fat or improving your general well-being, just need a balanced approach.
Expert advice: “Start gradually and don’t drastically cut back on overall quantity,” Shay recommends. “Eating too few calories can trigger your body to slow down its metabolism and make it even more difficult to lose weight.”
- Cut out calories: decrease between 250 and 500 calories per day.
- Focus on plants: meals should include satiating vegetables and fruit with a modest amount of lean protein, healthy fat, and carbohydrates.
- Hydrate: drinking enough water is “absolutely imperative for an athlete trying to lose weight,” says Shay. Drink a 2-3 cups first thing in the morning, sip throughout the day, and hydrate after training.
- Log it: keep a (honest) nutrition journal to encourage mindfulness. What are you really eating throughout the day? Little nibbles, enormous servings, and caloric juices, sodas and alcohol add up.
- Follow the 90 percent rule: Focus on healthy, nutrient-dense foods 90 percent of the time. With a little wiggle room (10 percent) an occasional indulgence or small serving of desert, you can still enjoy yourself.
Get 6-Pack Abs
What it takes: To get visibly ripped washboard abs, you’ll need to lean down. Chris Cloyd, fitness director at the Performance Training Center by Julia Mancuso in Truckee, Cali., says runners with this goal likely need to reduce their body fat percentage to under 10 percent for men, and under 18 percent for women. Although a healthy, clean diet and training program with high intensity workouts can make 6-packs an achievable reality, general strengthening of a runner’s core muscles—abdominal and back muscles—will help any runner by increasing the amount of force that their bodies can generate with their legs. A stronger core will make you a faster, more balanced runner.
Expert advice: Abs are made in the kitchen, says Cloyd, a triathlete. “You’re going to need to cut down pretty sincerely on sugars in particular, cut any excess carbohydrates of any kind out of your diet,” he says, “And stay consistent about your dietary discipline—no cheat meals, cheat days, or ‘It was Christmas, and you can’t skip Grandma’s pies!’ excuses.”
- Up intensity: add more intervals and hill sprints to your training regimen.
- Eat clean: focus on what you can have—complex carbs and whole foods.
- The best core exercise:
- Get into a plank position with your shins on a Swiss ball and your hands on the ground. Draw your abs tight to your spine. As you exhale, crunch your knees to your chest; get compact. Inhale and extend back to the starting position.
- Exhale while piking your hips toward the ceiling, maintaining straight legs and trying to reach a 90-degree hip angle. Inhale and return to the starting position.
- Next, shift your body weight backwards and rotate your shoulders back while keeping your arms straight: roll out to a fully extended position, making a straight line from your ankles to your hands (the ball will roll towards your hips). Exhale, and return to start. Repeat complex 5-10 times for one set. Do 3-4 sets.
Revive Your Relationship
What it takes: Like any relationship, the runner-running relationship can get stuck in a rut. When your relationship with running has gone stale, soured, or withered, elite athlete and coach Melody Fairchild, of Boulder, Colo., recommends three ways to accomplish this resolution: tuning in, slowing things down, and shaking things up. Not unlike couples’ therapy.
Expert insight: “My relationship with running has improved, and endured, because of self-care,” says Fairchild, a member of the U.S. Mountain Running world championship team who sparked her relationship with running by Cortical Field Reeducation training. Now, as a youth cross country coach, she points to kids for inspiration. “Look at children running,” she says. “They’re always doing something different.” Her athletes hop on logs, jump over obstacles, and chase curiosities.
- Try non-judgment: don’t take yourself so seriously.
- Switch it up: vary your routine. Run down an alley you’ve never been down, or run inside on a treadmill—backwards, sideways, or with steep inclines.
- Find balance: do something to counteract the hard, often painful work of training and racing. “Otherwise,” she says, “your nervous system is on constant alert.” Simply lie on the floor to pay attention to what you feel in your body, meditate, or practice yoga.
This article was originally published in Competitor Magazine.