Here we are again. The first week of January is over, wills are cracking all over the country and I'm guessing you're busy rattling the last of the Roses in the nearly empty tin, wondering whether strawberry creme counts as a serving of fruit.
- Read the complete FIT magazine fixtures diary for January-June 2014 here.
While around half of us make New Year's resolutions -- and topping that list are the twin goals of losing weight and improving fitness -- January can be a tough time to set lofty exercise goals.
Don't despair though, the very act of making a resolution increases the chance of reaching your fitness goals dramatically over those who don't set themselves any targets.
So how do you further improve the odds of being a faster, fitter person a few months from now? My friend Paula recently started using a personal trainer once a week to give some structure to her gym visits. While we were away on a weekend trip together in November, I noticed how the structure of filling out her training log and reporting back to Justin, her trainer, on her progress made her more determined to complete the workouts, and the diary kept her focused on improvements like using heavier weights.
She was excited to report back on completion of a 5k race and immediately set herself a new time goal for running another 5k in December with the help of her trainer.
While most of us are not lucky enough to have the resources of a lovely Justin, there are easy, cheap ways to increase your fitness accountability. Simply working out what your goal is (maybe setting a date for a road race or triathlon in your diary) and setting out a structured plan, even if it's only to identify what days of the week you will exercise and for how long, is immensely helpful. Now you have a date with destiny a couple of times a week.
When temptation falls your way, let people know your schedule: "I always do my long run on Saturday morning, so maybe we could go out on Saturday instead of Friday?"
It helps to share your plans with people so that they can encourage you when you hit your weekly goals. There is nothing like the satisfaction of simply crossing off each workout on your plan.
January is a great time to join a running club, as many have Couch-to-5k or Fit4Life programmes for people keen to start running.
The camaraderie of these groups is also a way to improve accountability, as once you team up with some new buddies, you'll be keen not to get left behind, and before you know it, there will be a 10k in your future!
To sign up for the FIT Magazine City Series 5k or 10k run, please sign up here.
I headed back to the Marin Headlands just north of San Francisco on Saturday for a 20k trail race. I had run there in November and my aching, battered muscles after that outing suggested that I was somewhat lacking in trail fitness, so I was a little nervous.
Allowing for the challenging 700m of elevation gain, dirt trails, stairs and some steep descents, the course made for some interesting running.
With this race posted in my workout plan, it was acting as a fitness milestone, so if I underperformed, it would be a glaring red stamp in my training log.
It's sometimes hard to predict pace in a trail race due to the changing terrain and climbs, so my goal was to run as hard as I could on feel at half-marathon effort.
My trail fitness just about held out for the end of the climbing, and despite my legs being awash with lactic acid collywobbles, I rolled to the finish in a respectable time. I logged my results into my training diary happily, knowing that it's one step forward on the path to peak running fitness.