Eight Tips That Will Help You Achieve Your Running Goals.

The Only Speed I Worry About Is My Own
And Other Things I’ve Learned Since I Ran My First 5K. 

Last month I started the annual Couch to 5K running program at work for my fellow employees.  They are now in week five and I’m getting positive feedback as they start to realize that having a training plan is the secret to success.  Each week they turn in a sheet that verifies that they’ve completed their workouts.  It’s an accountability method that seems to help.

I did my own run this morning with my marathon runner buddy.  We’re training (again) for the Hot Chocolate 15K in Chicago on November 4th.  Last year we were focused on making sure we could complete the distance.  This year we’re focused on improving our time.  Funny how things change!

Will Spinning Class Make You A Better Runner?

It was not that long ago that I ran my first 5K.  Even though I’ve been a fitness instructor and have taught classes for years, running is a different animal.  So much of what we do in class is based on shorter bursts at a higher speed and the crowd expects to do some butt toning and core work before the class ends which can limit the gains made in the way of cardio endurance.

My good friend and Iron Woman, Mary, often wears her Garmin during class and most of the time she is above her ideal ‘training for endurance’ heart rate zone.  How much teaching – or taking – group fitness classes conditions us for distance running can be debated at another time.

The  years of teaching and taking spinning, stepping, kickboxing, and boot camp classes, certainly made me  fit enough to go out and run a couple of miles, but I was in the same place as everyone else when I decided I wanted to participate in longer races where the energy expenditure is different. Turning your feet over and over at a consistent (and decent) pace for an hour and a half requires both physical and mental stamina.

Now that I’ve been working to improve my pace I always seem to be thinking this should be easier for me than it is.  But then I remember where I started and how far I’ve come, and I’m here to tell you, if I can do it so can you.

Here’s a short list of some of the things that I’ve learned over the past two years since I embarked on my so-called running carrer:

Running speed limit for all of us.

1.  Music – I love music.  I love to run to music.  I’m a fitness instructor so working out to music is ingrained.  When I’m on my morning commute I listen to a top 40 radio station and jot down songs that I want to add to my playlist when I get home.  Having a variety of upbeat songs makes the running easier.  Today I heard the song Finally Found You by Enrique Inglesias.  Tonight when I get home I’ll download it and add it to my iPod.

2.  Friendship – I have a friend that depends on me to run with her and provide motivation so she can improve her running. I do my best to give her the support she needs.  She does the same for me.  I’m not sure how well either of us would do without the other.  If you can find someone with similar goals, make them your best friend forever and hang onto them for dear life.  They will keep you running through utter darkness, icy rain, excessive heat, and an occasional hangover.

3.  I Think I Can – If you are someone that can go out on a run and not have the little voice in the back of your head talk to you about how tired you are or how good it would feel to stop and walk, then you don’t need to keep reading this post.  There is nothing you can learn from me.  If you’re like most of us – normal that is – you have to keep pushing that voice down.  You may have to silence it each time you run. I don’t have a super secret technique for some mental imagery that makes the voice magically go away.  I simply say to myself, “You are not stopping.” “ You will keep running.”  “Keep turning the feet over.”  It’s not fancy, but it works. I know positive self-talk is important, but this is more of a “you’re not stopping so shut the you-know-what up” speech.

4.  Only Compete With You – Occasionally we will add a couple of runners to our group of two.  Most of the time they are people that have been running for years and can go farther, faster than I can. I can stick with them for a few miles, but before long my pace is off and I start to feel discouraged so I let them slip away.  The truth is they needed someone to help motivate them to get started and I was happy to help.  I don’t allow myself to feel defeated because someone who has been running marathons for twenty years is better at distance running than I am.

5.  Synergy – If there is a running club in your area, connect with them for occasional events and group runs.  Being around other runners and listening to them talk about their challenges, accomplishments and even injuries will help you realize how normal your experiences are and that in itself is motivating.  You may even find a mentor or running buddy.

6.  Cross-Train – Do something besides run. Too much running can lead to stress fractures, overuse injuries and burn-out.  On days you don’t run, incorporate strength training, yoga, Pilates and core work.  You’ll be refreshed and stronger for the days that you are out hitting the pavement, trails or treadmill.

7.  Keep Signing Up For Races – Nothing gets me motivated to compete with my own distance and speed more than signing up for a competitive race.  I just signed up for the Hot Chocolate – Chicago – and knowing that it is coming has perked me up.  I’m ready to set a new pace goal and am anxious to work towards achieving it.

8.  Be Patient – Going from Couch to 5K to 10K to half marathon and eventually a full marathon – if that’s your goal – takes awhile.  Depending on how much time you have to train, it may take a couple of years.  Set your goals and enjoy the process of achieving them. “Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success.” – Napoleon Hill

There’s no reason to work to achieve an arbitrary goal because that’s what you see someone else doing.  Figure out what it is you can and want to do, and then get to work on doing it.  The only speed limit you need to break is your own.



  1. Hey I don’t think I tell you enough how thankful I am to have you as my running buddy! I would not have come this far and become a marathon runner if it weren’t for you, Karen! Thanks again! Not only a good running buddy but a great listener too! THANKS FOR PUTTING UP WITH ME ALL THESE YEAR!