Losing weight is difficult.
So is running a marathon.
I’m not sure that one is more difficult than the other, but I am sure that neither is possible without completely committing yourself to the task at hand.
In the last five weeks, I’ve run a 1/2 (13.1 miles) and a full (26.2 miles) marathon. While both of these races were difficult to complete, I am incredibly proud of the fact that I was able to finish both with new personal record times.
The build up to being able to successfully run these races parallel the effort and determination required to successfully lose weight and keep it off for the rest of your life.
Keep these 6 keys in mind to help make 2013 the healthiest year you have had in a long time.
1. Set Specific, Measurable Goals
Maybe you want to lose 10 pounds. Maybe 50. Maybe 100.
Whatever your goal is, it needs to be measurable.
If your goal for 2013 is to lose weight, how specific is that?
If you set a specific goal, you have something that will help drive you as time passes. If your goal is to lose 25 pounds, you’ll be less likely to give up when you drop the first 10 because you will still have more you want to lose.
I don’t usually make New Year’s Resolutions, but back in January I set a goal to run 728 miles in 2012.
It seemed like a lot, but if you do the math, it is only 14 miles per week.
Which is only 2 miles per day.
All of a sudden, 728 miles wasn’t so far fetched.
2. Plan to Make Achieving the Goal Possible
Without a plan, your goal is unattainable.
Edison had a goal of using electricity to light a room. The Wright brothers had a goal of flying. Columbus had a goal of finding a short cut to India.
Each also had plans to achieve their goals.
Now that you’ve got a goal for 2013, you must come up with a plan to achieve the weight loss you are looking for. Here’s a hint, make sure eating better and exercising are the biggest parts of the plan.
What you eat is the biggest determinant of the success or failure of any weight loss plan. It is impossible to exercise away an abundance of poor food choices. There just aren’t enough hours in the day.
Instead, use a balanced approach to cut some calories and burn a few extra calories by exercising. You’ll be surprised at the impact these small changes have over time.
Even after breaking my 728 mile goal down to 52 weeks of running 14 miles, I still needed to have a plan to make it to my desired total.
There were options available.
I could run 2 miles every day.
I could do one 14 mile run each week.
Or I could do a bit of a hybrid.
I ended up starting the year by running between 3 and 5 miles on one of my days off, and then running 2 miles or so after work.
I made sure to get to 14 miles every week, and soon I was able to start banking some extra miles in case there were weeks that I wasn’t able to get all 14.
3. Do What It Takes–Whatever ‘It’ Is
This is where the rubber meets the road.
And this is where things are the most difficult.
You have to follow through with the plans that you have made in order for your goals to be realized.
If that means getting out of bed to get to the gym, do it.
If that means not buying a brownie mix because you know having it in the cupboard is too tempting, don’t buy it.
Need help getting to the gym? Hire a personal trainer.
Whatever you have to do in order to make success happen, you need to be willing to do.
Because success is hard.
But it’s possible.
Here’s a little secret. I’ve never been a huge fan of running.
Before the start of 2012, I’d run a couple of marathons and a couple of halfs.
I hated training runs, and rarely ran more than once a week even when preparing for a race. I only ran races because they were better than just training, and I only ran at all because I knew it would help me lose a little weight.
Moral of the story, I was a runner that hated running.
But as I made regular running a priority this year, a funny thing happened, I started to enjoy it.
I’m actually now at the point where I miss my runs if I go a day or two without them.
4. Keep the Big Picture in Mind…
Big goals require time to complete them.
If you’re trying to lose a serious amount of weight, it won’t happen over night.
Therefore, when you are measuring your progress, you’ve got to stay focused on the big picture.
There may be some times when the scale doesn’t move. There may be times when it goes in the wrong direction.
Did you know that your weight can fluctuate by as much as 3-5 pounds on any given day?
So if you happen to gain a couple of pounds here and there, don’t freak out. Just keep going forward.
There will be rough patches, but rolling with the punches will allow you to be successful.
When I was training for the marathon, my last long run was an absolute nightmare.
You could even call it a failure.
I struggled home after 23 miles, though I had walked the last 7. My legs were shot, my feet were sore, and it took me as long to do the 23 as I hoped it would take to do the marathon.
I was frustrated, but instead of dwelling on that day’s run I trusted that I was still improving despite that one bad run.
And I was.
5. …Don’t Lose Sight of the Small Stuff
The big picture is important, but so is the everyday stuff.
The small decisions that you make on a daily basis are the ones that will determine your weight loss success or failure.
To be clear, each individual decision isn’t do or die, but the accumulation of decisions determines if you succeed in reaching your weight loss goal. So keeping the little things in check is important.
Taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Water instead of Coke. Parking at the back of the parking lot instead of circling until a close spot opens up.
All of these decisions combine to add up over a period of days, weeks, and months.
Keeping track of my running was important.
I don’t run every day, but by writing on the calendar how far I ran on the days I do run, I am able to keep track of my progress toward my goal of 728 miles.
Monitoring my daily runs helped me to stay motivated as I steadily increased my mileage total.
6. Enjoy the Payoff
Success is sweet.
Buy yourself some new clothes. Reward yourself at the spa. Take a day trip to the beach. Play a round of golf.
Whatever you can do that will be a tangible reward to you for the hard work you’ve put in to achieve your goals, do it!
While I have honestly started to really enjoy running, putting in mile after mile on my own is still not a lot of fun.
But knowing I’d be running races made the training worthwhile!
When I ran my 1/2 marathon, I really wanted to finish in less than 2 hours. To do this, I would have to maintain a 9:08/mile pace for the entire race. I knew from my training that my goal was achievable, but I also knew it would be difficult.
When the race came, I crossed the finish line in 1:57, which was a new PR for me by 22 minutes!
The payoff for the full marathon was even greater.
For this race, my goal was to finish in less than 5 hours. I wasn’t sure i could do it, but half way through my race I knew I had a shot.
Just finishing a full marathon is a great accomplishment, but when I crossed the line at 4:31 I literally couldn’t believe my time, or the fact that I beat my old best by 65 minutes!
The ball is in your court.
If you want to lose weight in 2013, the time to start is now.
Set a goal. Make a plan. Do it. Look at the big picture, but don’t overlook the small stuff.
And when you succeed, enjoy it!
Losing weight isn’t easy.
Neither is running a marathon.
But both are possible.
If you stick with it, you might shock yourself with just how much you are actually capable of achieving. I know I was.
There are no REASONS that you can’t make healthy improvements in your life starting today, but there are EXCUSES.
Don’t let the excuses win.