New Year's Resolutions: Train Smart, Not Hard

Posted by Kelly Carmichael, USATF Certified Coach on January 7, 2013

The Starting Line: 

How can I keep my New Year’s resolution and step up my training?


A New Year’s Resolution is a promise to better yourself. Many people resolve to lose weight, run more often, or achieve that elusive personal record. Whatever your goals, the best way of achieving them is to train smart, not hard.

One of the most common resolutions is to adopt and maintain a regular exercise routine. Unfortunately, studies show that 33% of resolutions only last one week (Norcross, JC & Vangarelli, DJ). In order to maintain your newly adopted exercise routine it needs to be just that: a routine. Find something that works for you. Maybe you want to run every day and steadily increase your mileage as you go. Maybe you just want to start by running on the treadmill a few days a week. Whatever you are capable of, do it and do it regularly.

Successful resolutions boil down to two important factors: willpower and reinforcement. First, you must have the willpower to stick to your resolutions and carry them out over the year, not just a few weeks. Next, set up a reward system to reinforce your behavior. Maybe you earn an indulgent dinner or a glass of wine at the end of every successful training week. Or, even better, let your increased fitness and energy be your reward! Research shows that holding yourself accountable for your fitness goals leads to a higher chance of long term success.

Maybe your goal is to maintain a “running streak,” or run every day for a set number of days. These streaks are great for establishing consistency in training and proving that you can train through bad weather and soreness. While developing a running routine is great, it is also important to listen to your body. Sometimes scheduled off days can be just as important to your training as running. The last thing you want to do is overwork yourself and wind up injured.

Lastly, and most importantly, make sure to stress the small stuff to remain injury free. Most running injuries result from lack of stretching and lack of strength. Marathon legend Meb Keflezighi credits his long career to stretching, core work, and ice baths as a form of recovery. It may take a few extra minutes, but a short stretching session or strength routine can make a world of difference and help you stay injury free.

The Finish Line:

In order to stick to your New Year’s Resolutions; develop a routine, reward yourself for sticking to it, and take care of yourself to remain injury free.



1. Baird, C. Meb: Little things make a difference. ESPN Endurance Blog 2012 Dec.

2. Norcross JC, Ratzin AC, & Payne D. Ringing in the new year: the change processes and reported outcomes of resolutions. Addict Behav. 1989;14(2):205-12.

3. Norcross, JC & Vangarelli, DJ. The resolution solution: longitudinal examination of New Year's change attempts. J Subst Abuse. 1988-1989;1(2):127-34.

Photo credit: lululemon athletica via photopin cc

 *Note: This general information is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment or advice. Always consult a professional before making changes to your health and wellness practices. 

Feedback or suggestions for future topics? Let us know!