New Year, Better Yous

The Trail Sisters discuss their 2016 New Year’s resolutions.

By on January 6, 2016 | Comments

From Liza:
I love writing New Year’s resolutions almost as much as I love belt buckles. My husband’s birthday is December 24th, then it’s Christmas, and then the 26th is my parents’ wedding anniversary. But after that, my thoughts are consumed with self-improvement schemes. Sure, I could resolve to be “new and improved” any day of the year (I’m sure Eliot and my kids would’ve preferred if I’d started improving back in June), but in the same way running a nice round 50 or 100 miles is satisfying (or 50 and 100k), and running 100 miles in less than a day makes numerical sense, or breaking three and four hours in a marathon is pleasing, starting something on January 1st is seductive. And this year in particular, thinking back on 2015, coupled with the sudden death of a fine acquaintance, I’d like to turn over a new leaf this year. A lot of my resolutions are running related, but only because I’m hoping they’ll help with the leaf turning.

I’m going to train to drop four minutes from my marathon time. That will be terrifically hard and gut-wrenching–which will be good practice for dealing with other terrifically hard and gut-wrenching things more gracefully. Practice is everything, right? It’s also a nice, straightforward goal with an objective measure of success. I’ve thrived on “Great Job!” stickers since first grade.

Great Job sticker

I’m also going to schedule time each day to work on Trail Camp for Team RWB. I’ve been part of a team of volunteers that puts on this trail running camp for the past four years. We’ve tried to create and strengthen bonds of friendship and camaraderie between veterans and non-veterans by opening doors to the trail running community. I’d like this year to be more valuable to the veterans, non-veterans, and volunteers who attend than the past four years combined. I’d also like the fish at the final camp BBQ not to be frozen solid–and to get the thank-you notes out on time. Honestly, this camp is what makes all my running feel useful and worthwhile, and I want to give it even more thoughtful attention.

And last, I’m going to make more time for my husband’s running. With two young kids, a job, and lots of miles on my training plan, I tend to hog the family’s free time. Hog, monopolize, control, devour… I also love running more than Eliot does, so he doesn’t advocate for himself like I do. Anyway, I’m going to make sure he has an hour before work to work out. I know that doesn’t sound wildly generous, but little hog steps are better than no steps at all.

Eliot and Liza Howard

Eliot and Liza Howard. Photo courtesy of Liza Howard.

Anyway, what about you ladies? Are you January 1st resolution makers? What changes are you planning for in your running lives in 2016?

From Gina:
WOOT WOOT for ringing in the New Year! And I say that literally because I was the loud crazy at my apartment complex ringing all the cow bells I’ve acquired from 2015 races.

Although I’m pumped for 2016, I don’t normally get into the whole resolutions thing. It might be because I can never actually stick to them… or because I get all “high and mighty” about people needing a select date to dictate when they start their new pledge. Why not start your new commitment on December 2nd if it strikes your fancy? To each their own I guess!

Though I’m not into resolutions, I’m all about yearly goals. Some might say these are the one and the same, but for me, they are not. My goals are things that I don’t do every day, but work toward throughout the year as a whole, or hold specific time frames for.

In 2016, I plan on following my heart for adventure. At times in the past I’ve found myself getting caught up in racing just to race, or because I’ve felt like I had to. (I like to manifest things.) What’s worse is doing specific training for an event I don’t even want to do! But being the committed runner I am, I’d just suck it up and get it done. Sorry Uncle Jim, can’t go on that four-day deep-sea fishing trip with you off the coast of Virginia because it’s not conducive to my Western States training… Grrr.

Part of this year’s goal will help challenge me to be okay with not running every day, and to embrace the benefits of non-running specific sports. A little love for the mental and the physical.

And before I end my rant, I should clarify that I do love racing. My 2016 schedule includes a handful of races I’m excited for, but for the first time it also includes dedicated time for mountain adventures.

From Pam:
I don’t think I am as gung ho about resolutions as Liza, but setting days like New Year’s or my birthday as a start date often gives me a kick in the pants to get more serious about things. January marks three months since being diagnosed with persistent asthma and since then I have been working on base mileage and slowly testing out some up-tempo paces. But January 1st marks the “official first day of training.” After multiple disappointing races in 2015, I am looking forward to a clean slate for 2016!

Rather than specific resolutions, my training partner got me on to the idea of a theme word for the year. It seems fitting that my word for 2016 is: BREATHE. Obviously, this has a literal meaning relating to asthma and needing to manage the disease so that I can get all the air I need to run and live at my best. But BREATHE also means taking a breath before letting the little things stress me out. And saying “no” to a few more things to keep from getting stressed out. BREATHE also means taking time to stop and smell the roses. I have spent my whole life very focused on getting things done and doing them on a schedule. But my kids are at a great age where they are eager to see the world and learn new things and it was great to put more time into nurturing their development this past year. They help to remind me to appreciate where I am at right now, which was a very good thing after some setbacks. BREATHE means letting go of some of the pressure I put on myself to do well, especially at races. I love to compete, but I need to be realistic about my expectations this year as I try to get back into high-level racing as I figure out what these new diagnoses mean. But mostly BREATHE means enjoying the breath of fresh air that comes with the start of a new calendar year.

From Liza:
Well, it seems like the three of us represent the resolution-maker spectrum pretty well: heart-on-the-sleeve zealot, thoughtful moderator, and spontaneous non-observer. Is there anything that you think will help you achieve the goals you described? (Besides making them public on a popular running website?) For me, logging my progress publicly on my blog is helpful. I feel more accountable when friends and strangers are watching. And bundling the more onerous activities with pleasurable ones helps, too. A 12-mile marathon-paced run fueled by donuts instead of gels. Trail Camp lesson planning coupled with a fancy coffee–that I wouldn’t buy otherwise. Getting up early and prioritizing Eliot’s workout time coupled with… something really, really dang good.

From Gina:
Corny or not, I like to tape/tack photos to an inspiration board hanging in my bedroom. I’ve always been more of a visual learner, thus, seeing something over and over is much easier for me to digest and process. You should have seen me trying to keep concentration during lectures in college… Anyhow, everyday at some point I pass by the inspiration board and find myself pausing and then picturing myself in the adventure. The constant visual reminder helps me to stay focused and excited, thus making sure I complete my goals.

From Pam:
Training (as opposed to just running) for me means having a plan. When I want to get serious about my running goals, I map out my workouts on a calendar. Things get changed and tweaked as life happens, but having something written down helps me to stick to the plan. Some years big races have called for the plan to be on an oversized wall calendar on my bedroom wall so I have no choice but to see it every day when I wake up. I know Liza is a big fan of the poster-sized training plans, too. As silly as it sounds, putting big X’s over workouts as they get done is quite satisfying and I like seeing my line of X’s grow.

In terms of “breathing,” well… I need to take my meds every day. That seems simple, but I am still having a hard time remembering. Plus, I don’t love being on them and I have a tendency to try to see how things go without them. So far, that hasn’t worked too well. So the meds are staying on the bathroom counter. It’s not pretty, but I know I need visual reminders for everything.

Earlier this year we instigated a family calendar to help us keep everything in check. This is another visual cue to keep me on track (and yes, I love my calendars!) and make sure we don’t get too over scheduled. As for taking time to smell the roses, well, we are already tossing around ideas for family vacations for this year–ones that don’t involve races or tons of obligations, but rather just a lot of time to relax and enjoy time as a family.

From Liza:
Thanks so much for indulging my enthusiasm for resolution writing. Writing with the two of you has been a highlight of 2015. Should we end with a goal or resolution for this column in 2016 (asks the zealot)? Finding topics that resonate with people and are useful to them? Getting people excited about engaging in a conversation? Better writing and composition? More unflattering pictures?

From Gina:
I’m down for a Trail Sisters resolution! I want to keep tackling subjects that are near and dear to our sport. That could mean stating the obvious, but also discussing topics that might be a bit tougher to negotiate. I enjoy hearing reader feedback and hope we can continue to inspire more readers to get involved with current, past, and future issues. Thanks for being my partners in crime, ladies!

From Pam:
Sounds like you ladies have it covered! Can’t wait to see where 2016 takes me and the Trail Sisters!

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • If you would like to share your own resolutions for 2016, do so in the comments section! We can form a group-accountability ring and encourage each other toward our personal missions.
  • Do you like making New Year’s resolutions? Or do you prefer to center your resolve in more discrete ways?
  • Since resolutions can be notoriously difficult to keep, how do you hold yourself accountable to them?
Trail Sisters
Trail Sisters is a group of three women, each with unique opinions, ideas, and attitudes toward all things trail and ultrarunning. Pam Smith is a mom, physician, and lover of running who lives in Oregon. Liza Howard is a mom and 100-mile specialist from Texas. Gina Lucrezi is a Colorado-based short-distance speedster exploring the realms of ultrarunning.