1. Make it attainable. Don’t expect to run a half marathon in June (unless that’s your goal!). Likewise, don’t expect to run or walk two miles nonstop right off the couch. Start slow and work your way up at your own pace.
2. Be specific. Rather than telling yourself you’ll run 5 miles on a specific date, make a concrete plan. That could be as simple as only walking up one of the hills or as intense as cutting 15 seconds on each mile split. A specific goal will make your workouts more targeted.
3. Make it sustainable. Listen to your body for aches and pains, and adjust your plan accordingly. Stock your cupboards with healthy meals and snacks, with protein being prominent. Recovery tactics are important too. Drink plenty of fluids, stretch before and after each workout and refuel with chocolate milk, protein bars or another healthy snack.
4. Develop a timeline. Find or create a training plan for your body and your goals. There are plenty of online training plans. Once you find one, speak to your doctor about making it fit your current condition and health level. If this is your first race, speak to your doctor about how to start training.
5. Be accountable. Make your plan visible by hanging it in your fridge, setting it as your phone background or writing workouts on your calendar. It may also help to find a workout buddy, such as a friend, significant other or even a child or grandchild to help keep your feet on the trail or road.
6. Make it fun and rewarding. Exercise doesn’t have to be a punishment, and running or walking isn’t the only way to prepare for a race. Create a fun playlist for your family or have your favorite show or podcast playing while you’re on the treadmill or elliptical. Taking family bike rides or having dance parties to get your heart rate up also are helpful in your journey. There’s also no shame in a little self-gratification. Reward yourself for hitting your weekly goals so you’re motivated to keep going.