6 Tips for Sticking to Your Exercise Goals, According to Marathoners

published Jan 22, 2023
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Now that the new year has begun, your social media feed is likely filled with ways to start and keep resolutions, like journaling more or exercising consistently. If you’re committed to getting in more movement, but are unsure of how to keep it going, here’s a good source for perseverance inspiration: marathoners. They commit to the process year-round and are particularly disciplined with their training and movement. I reached out to some marathoners to find out what their tips are for sticking to a goal

Make It Convenient

Whether it is training for a marathon or taking a walk around the block, making these tasks convenient and accessible is a key component of staying disciplined. Ryan Ernsbarger, fitness trainer and marathon enthusiast, says his top tip for “staying consistent on any training plan is to try to workout at the same time that works best for your schedule and find the closest gym and running route to your home. If there are too many barriers between you and training, it is much less likely that you will be consistent, especially when the initial motivation declines.” It’s hard to resist fitness goals if you automate what and when you do a particular activity. 

Define Your Why

Motivation becomes easier if you know your reasoning behind pursuing a goal. Ernsbarger believes most people will skip a workout on bad days. ”You must have a ‘why’ that is greater than your excuse. You will need to rely on your ‘why’ the most for those days,” he says. When there isn’t a “why” in place, Ernsbager says, “There is a high chance that you will fall into the trap of skipping workouts when things get challenging. Those are the most important days to overcome when trying to reach a goal.”

Set Doable Goals

Sometimes it helps to start small because it minimizes procrastination by creating more manageable steps to help you meet your goals. 

Marathoner and NASM-certified trainer, USATF and RRCA-certified run coach and founder of Runstreet, Marnie Kunz recommends “mini goals for short-term success and long-term exercise adherence.” She suggests working out for 120 minutes a week: running four days a week or strength training twice a week. “It sounds simple but it helps me keep on track with my fitness and stay active without the pressure of a big goal,” says Kunz. 

Focus on What You Can Control 

People sometimes forget that a workout is something you can control. And when other things feel unwieldy or uncertain, you can always rely on working out. 

Florida Neurosurgeon and marathon runner Dr. Yoav Ritter says, “Workouts are tasks that are completely in your control. So regardless of how your work day went or your family life is going, this is something you use as a positive accomplishment for the day. A bright light that the athlete can be proud of, regardless of how the rest of the day went.” Keeping this silver lining in mind may help with motivation because it is a choice within your control.

Ask for Help

Sometimes you may feel like you’re out of your comfort zone when it comes to your movement and fitness goals, but it doesn’t mean you can’t ask for help. Running with a group or exercising with a buddy not only helps your individual goals, but it also builds a social connection. You’re more likely to associate your movement or fitness goal with a positive feeling. 

Ultramarathoner Kevin Martin recognized that he needed a coach when he started running longer distances. “Realizing I did not know much about running, I found one of the top ultramarathoners and she agreed to be my coach for a modest fee. She gave me all of the details I needed in regards to training, gear, and race day execution,” he says. He believes that having a coach and accountability partner helped his consistency. 

Schedule Mini Challenges 

Putting something on the calendar can motivate you to work toward goals. Whether it’s 25 kettlebell swings, a walk around the neighborhood, or taking a fitness class, writing it down on a calendar may help in staying consistent. Martin strategically schedules races over an 18-month timeframe to aid in motivation and also allow him to test himself on “gameday.” Rather than focus on the big objective (50-mile run) in the future, he was able to focus on the immediate objective (i.e. half-marathon in two weeks).

“Having something in the near future on my calendar always motivated me to get the run in when I did not want to. If I only had the 50-miler on the calendar in 8 months, I easily would have skipped more workouts,” says Martin.