It’s hard to believe that we’re already in the final quarter of 2017, and for many of us, we may feel like another year has gone by where we have failed to hit — or even try to hit — any of our health or fitness-related goals. Plus, many folks describe Halloween now as being the beginning of the holiday season — what with all the Halloween sweets abounding from practically every direction, at every store — and before too long, it’ll be Thanksgiving, and then the endless holiday season, and ten pounds later, we’ll all be heavier, crankier, and less healthy versions of ourselves. Sound familiar?
The good thing, of course, is that it’s never too late to start making smart decisions to help take care of your health. In fact, I’d even argue that October is a great time to start! It takes a good 28 days or so to establish a habit, so as we enter what is the busiest and most stressful time of year for many of us, it’ll be awesome to have a great exercise and health-related habit in your back pocket.
This is also a fantastic time of year to be a runner. With the seasons changing and the air cooling — for most of us, anyway — this is the time of year that runners live for. There’s no shortage of races, either, especially with the fun, themed ones like Turkey Trots, Santa Runs, or Jingle Jaunts, and the distances range from neighborhood 5ks all the way up to and beyond the marathon.
If you haven’t yet already, I’d encourage you to make 2017 the year you run your first race, and by starting your training in October, I bet you’d be able to safely run a 5k or 10k by December 31. Below, I’ll describe some reasons as to why you should finally pull the trigger and run your first race in 2017. They include:
You’ll be going into the three-month-long holiday season with a healthy habit in place. Halloween-New Year’s can be hell for nutrition and wellness, so it’s even more important that we all take care of ourselves during this busy and stressful time of year. It takes about a month to develop a habit, and you may find that there are plenty of “couch to 5k” programs out there that last about that long, plus a few extra weeks. It’ll behoove you to take extra good care of yourself and your health during this time; why not do it by working toward a goal, like a 5k?
Having a race date on the calendar will give you some accountability. Accountability and motivation can be two really tough challenges for runners of all abilities and years of experience, and many of us attest that having a race on the calendar — something for which we are actively training — can be what gets us out of bed in the morning every day, even if we’re tired, hungry, grumpy, not wanting to run in the cold, (or insert any other excuse here). You don’t have to feel like you must train for your first race like you’re going to win the thing; aim to just complete it! That’s a great goal for your first race.
Doing something new is exciting and challenging. As adults, so infrequently do we ever have the opportunity to do something new. New things are inherently exciting and challenging, and for many of us, we may have never run an entire mile in our lives before, leaving us questioning our ability to both train for and complete a 5k between mid October and December 31. That’s ok! Give yourself the opportunity to do something outside your comfort zone for once, and you’ll be surprised at what you can do, as long as you give yourself a chance. We often implore our children to be brave, to take chances; it’s high time that we begin to heed our own advice.
You’ll build a ton of mental toughness and strength from training. Running is inherently hard work — no doubt about it — but I’d argue that it’s precisely because it’s so hard that it’s also really, really gratifying. As you train to complete your first 5k before the end of 2017, you will likely have moments when you wonder if you’re even capable of doing this in the first place. That’s great! It’s wonderful to have these moments of self-doubt; it’s what makes you human. Showing up to each run and workout that you have, ready to go, ready to try to do your best, is an excellent trait that’ll carry over to other aspects of your life. Sometimes life throws us curveballs and challenges that we seriously question our ability to handle, and yet more often than not, we persevere. We navigate stormy seas and work through challenges that test every fiber of our being, and in the end, we often come out the other side stronger. So, too, is it with running. Some days you’ll have runs that leave you gasping for air, wondering if you can pull off another rep, another interval, another mile — whatever — and I bet you’ll be surprised what you can pull off. The resilience and mental conditioning — what I lovingly refer to as “mental callusing” — that you get from training you’ll be able to effortlessly transfer over to other aspects of your life.
You’ll be surprised at how much fun you can have in the process. Finally, having a race on your calendar will give you opportunities every week to have more fun than you could have ever imagined. Seriously! Running is a very versatile sport, simply because you can do it by yourself or with others, and runners are typically very welcoming and social people. If you’re looking for a way to meet other like-minded people, joining a running club, or attending a running store’s weekly fun run events, is a great avenue. Not every run has to be totally exhausting and serious, of course, and it’s usually community fun runs that running stores organize that become huge social outings each week. It’s a win-win proposition: not only do you do something positive for your health, but you also get to see some friends — and possibly make some new ones — and have a good time in the process.
Don’t be too alarmed that it’s already nearly mid-October, and definitely don’t think that whatever health and fitness goals that you have yet to realize have become completely unattainable by now. Instead, check out an online race calendar, pick a 5k between now and the end of December, and get training! You will have so much fun in the process, you’ll be doing something great for your health, and who knows? Maybe you’ll make some wonderful new friends in the process. Remember, first, to talk to your medical professional to get clearance before beginning a new exercise routine. Provided that he/she says you’re good to go, go ahead and get moving! Make the final quarter of 2017 your best one yet!