Recharge Your Body and Mind

January can be tough for runners. The glut of holiday celebrations can derail your training routine. But sticking to a consistent program keeps you fit and energised–and makes injury less likely.

Beth Baker, a coach, says habits are even tougher to regain than fitness. That’s why she suggests doing at least three runs per week, supplemented with two to three cross-training or strength workouts. And shifting your focus away from intense running for a short time can pay off long-term. “Running easy allows you to start [your next training cycle] with fresh legs and a better outlook,” says coach Brendan Cournane.

So go ahead and downshift your running, as long as you stay faithful to a scaled-back routine. Here’s how to make that goal a reality.

Renew Your Motivation

Group runs and workout partners can inspire you to lace up your shoes instead of burrowing under the covers. “You’ll show up if you know another person is counting on you,” says coach Patti Finke. Or join a group challenge, says Baker, who organises a Seasonal Smackdown every year that challenges participants to rack up more workouts than competing teams. “People love getting credit and prizes for each run they do, and they feel accountable for their group’s success,” she says.

If it takes an upcoming race to get you out the door, sign up for something short, easy, and sensational. Runners with disposable income might splurge on a destination race. “It’s a nice incentive,” says Cournane. “Even my marathoners run just the half, because the primary goal is to maintain a base.”

Find Your Magic Time

Just because a 5:30 a.m. run worked in July doesn’t mean it’ll still suit you come Summer. Seasonal and schedule changes dictate a fresh strategy-brainstorming session: Take 15 minutes at the start of each week to plan the best days and times for your runs, then identify what you need to make them happen. Do you require support from your partner or kids?

“Try to find things in your schedule that are cemented in, and build your runs around them,” says Baker. Morning workouts suit many runners because waking up is one of life’s few constants. If you balk at the idea of first-thing running, look for other anchors: Run right after you take the kids to school, or while your partner cooks dinner. Just be sure to assign your runs specific time slots–otherwise, they’re easily bumped by family shopping trips or spontaneous happy-hour invitations.

Rekindle the Romance

If you’ve fallen out of love with running, “make a change somewhere,” says Baker. Mix up your playlist, download a new podcast, or map out a new route. “It’s important to keep your running feeling shiny and new,” she says, because although your body might prefer a familiar routine, your mind loses interest unless you give it something fresh to look forward to.

Motivation can also come from a sense of purpose. “Identify something you want to run for,” says running coach Krista Austin, who has served as an advisor to Meb Keflezighi, among others. Building speed and endurance may not be enough to make your daily runs feel meaningful. “But running is about character, not always about setting a new PB,” says Austin. You might dedicate your week’s workouts to an injured friend who can’t run, to your own heart health, or to setting a positive example for your kids.

Runners can even revive their love of the sport by running outdoors. “You can admire the change of the seasons and the beauty of nature, which is harder to appreciate when you’re absorbed in serious training,” says Cournane. Many summer days actually offer ideal running conditions. And, if you live somewhere that gets very hot, running in those conditions earns you bragging rights. Says Baker, “Even if you can’t be fast, you can at least be hard-core.”

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