If you’re ready to be your greatest in 2019 and set yourself the goal of an event, visit greatrun.org/events to sign up now, your finish line is waiting!

Six years ago, at the age of 35, Susie Chan was a completely inactive smoker and regular drinker. Now a seasoned endurance runner who takes part in races from one to 100 miles, she has completed some of the world’s toughest ultra-marathons. In partnership with Great Run she is sharing her top tips for getting to where you want to be in 2019. 

Ahhh New Year 2019, all shiny with possibilities! If you’re anything like me and many others it would be no surprise if you were already planning on setting yourself some well-intentioned but potentially hard to achieve goals on the first day of the year. 

This is especially true if the only exercise you’ve managed in the last four weeks is a wobbly ten minutes on the dancefloor, or the aftertaste of all those Christmas treats is turning into something that feels like heartburn tinged with guilt.

Weeks of indulgence paired with an onslaught of “New Year, New You” messaging everywhere you look means it’s only natural to think the answer to all your problems is a punishing New Year’s resolution - which may or may not include extreme cardio and vegetable juice penance. 

Well, it’s not. The festive season is meant to be fun, so give yourself a break.

It’s well documented that in the quest for quick results many people set themselves completely unrealistic goals in January, only to end up ditching the good intentions in less than two weeks, making them feel even worse about themselves than when they started. 

As someone who has gone from a single mum who was prone to regular drinking and smoked daily, to someone who runs ultra-marathons all around the world, my heartfelt advice is take the pressure off yourself this New Year, instead ease yourself into a sustainable routine you can maintain year-round. 

When I started my fitness journey I was in a terrible rut, with no confidence in myself or my ability, and no background in running at all. I was 35 years old, and I wanted to try to get fitter and to be a better example to my daughter. 

In all honesty, the first few times just getting out of the door felt like a huge effort and achievement. And it was! Just getting out of the door itself and not sitting on the sofa smoking was a win. I can vividly remember trying to run around a football pitch and having to keep stopping to catch my breath. It wasn’t easy, those first few weeks really are not. Some days I felt more unfit than when I started. Some days it was raining. Some days I didn’t have the time. Some days I just couldn’t be bothered. 

But some days I made myself, knowing 15 minutes was better than nothing. Some days I found that it wasn’t as hard as the day before. Some days I found myself enjoying it. Then one day I ran around the football pitch several times with no trouble at all and realised how far I had come. 

The thing was, that every day after being active, I felt better. This still holds true now, six years and all these miles run, cycled and swum later, I have never regretted training.

So how do you make these fitness changes? They need to be realistic changes which will last and grow with you. Here are my tips on getting fitter in 2019:

TAKE THE FIRST STEP 

The first step is the most difficult one. It really is. And when I say the first step, I don’t just mean the very first one, which is hard enough! The first 2-3 weeks are the toughest. These first steps should be baby ones. You just have to find something that works for you. Knowing you can stick to something once a week for a couple of months will do wonders for your confidence and help you get into a routine. Remember you don’t have to do it alone. I find that embarking on these things with friends can be a huge help. I joined a fitness group, which really helped me realise I wasn’t alone in taking the plunge, but there are many online communities that will also provide support and accountability.

SETTING REALISTIC GOALS 

Expecting to suddenly start smashing a hard-core class three times a week when you can’t remember the last time you stepped foot in a gym is setting yourself up for failure. Setting a long-term goal, like signing up to an event, means you’re much more likely to keep going. I took part in the Simplyhealth Great North Run this year and it was a truly inspiring experience. Taking on the challenge of a half marathon with so many others who were all there to complete their own personal challenge. Whether it’s a new P.B. or just getting to the finish line, the only person you’re really competing against is yourself.

Start with small achievable goals, that could lead to completing a bigger one later in the year. When I first started running I decided I wanted to run a half marathon, but I knew it wasn’t going to happen overnight. My first goal was trying to run once around the football field. Then it grew to twice or three times before stepping up to 1 mile, 2 miles, 3 miles… each longer run edging me closer to my goal.

Each time a new lamppost is reached, a further road or an extra mile, it should be acknowledged and celebrated; another achievement ticked off the list. Each time you make training. Well done you. Try making little weekly goals for yourself, for example the number of days you get active but make sure you take the time to rest in-between.

DON’T LET ONE SETBACK DERAIL YOU 

Another benefit from taking things steady and incrementally is helping your body to adapt to the extra exercise, to hopefully avoid getting injured.

If you do get injured, don’t worry, this happens. It’s happened to me, it happens to elite athletes and it’s an important lesson in dealing with setbacks. It’s best to rest until it’s cleared up and stay positive. You will be surprised how much easier it will be getting back to training than when you first started.

And do you know what? Life can get in the way. Family, work, time can slip away. Things crop up, I’m a terrible fair weather runner and something as simple as rain can put me off going out for a run. It’s ok though, because I know that not getting in a planned run isn’t the end of the world, I just need to reset and get back to it as soon as I can.

CELEBRATE THE LITTLE WINS 

My main takeaway would be don’t be hard on yourself, be kind. If you miss a session, it’s ok! Don’t dwell on the bad feelings, focus on the good. Anything you do is better than not doing it. 10 minutes, 15 minutes, they all add up. Sure, it can be tough when you’re in the middle of the training, but once it’s done you’ll feel great!  Before you know, 10 minutes feels easier and the next thing you know you’ll end up at a finish line with a great medal around your neck… and who knows where that will take you.

If you’re ready to be your greatest in 2019 and set yourself the goal of an event, visit greatrun.org/events to sign up now, your finish line is waiting!