Updated: Apr 16, 2020
How to identify the barriers to achieving your running goals and put plans in place to overcome them.
What are barriers? Barriers are obstacles that make achieving your goals more difficult, but they are not impossible to overcome.
What barriers will you face?
“I never worry about the problem. I worry about the solution.” – Shaquille O’Neal
I love running....most of the time. No matter if you've been running for years, or you are just getting started, we all have things that stop us from getting out the door. Sometimes it's a matter of the mind: not feeling motivated or wanting a night in to watch the television. Sometimes life gets in the way: deadlines at work or family commitments. We all face some form of obstacle during our training no matter how dedicated we are. What we don't all do, however, is pre-empt these obstacles.
When deciding upon a training plan (whether it's for your first 5k or a 2.30hr marathon) think about the barriers in advance. These will be different for everyone, but might include:
- Working long hours
- Children at home
- Rainy weather
- Getting injured
- Feeling too tired
- Getting bored of running routes
- Losing motivation
- Night shifts
- Busy social life
- Other sporting commitments
- Studying for exams
- Caring for relatives
- Lockdown (!!)
- Not having somebody to run with
It might be that lots apply to you, it might be that none do! But write a list of any barriers that could possibly affect you and throw your training off track.
Why bother identifying barriers?
Once barriers have been identified, plans can be made to overcome them. Think of this as always having a 'Plan B'. It might seem unnecessary to do this ahead of the event happening but 'cope ahead' strategies will make your training more successful.
Let's say you've got an interval session planned for a Monday evening after work. Work is stressful, you finish a bit late and by the time you come home it's dark and raining outside. How is that running session looking? You're probably tired and a bit miserable at the prospect of going outside. You don't really have the energy to think about what you can do to make this situation better right now. But, what if you'd planned ahead for this type of situation and had the following 'plan B' options?:
- Invest in proper running lights and reflective gear so it's still safe to go out.
- Have a list of running friends you can arrange to run with to keep safe.
- Identify safe routes that are well-lit and busy with people in advance.
- Invest in a lightweight waterproof jacket.
- Keep a pair of older running shoes that you don't mind getting muddy.
Feeling tired after work:
- Create an upbeat playlist, or better yet get a friend to create one for you so each song is a surprise on your run.
- Plan ahead with an afternoon tea or coffee if you find that helps you to stay more awake for your evening run.
- Run commute home so you don't get a chance to feel sleepy on the journey back from work.
- Commit to running with a group or some friends.
- Keep some gels or energy bars in your work bag.
- Switch runs to the early morning before work if its going to be a long and stressful day.
- Save some workout videos on YouTube so if you really can't bring yourself to get out the house you can at least get some cardio or strength work into your routine.
- Set a reminder on your phone at the time you are due to go on your run listing what motivates you to run and why you love it so much.
- Text your running buddies. Help them keep you accountable! Maybe they aren't feeling a run either, but agree to both go out and update each other with how it was afterwards.
- Can you switch up your training? A long and steady run is often better for stress relief, so if you can't face the speed session you had planned for tonight, why not swap around two runs on your plan. It might not be ideal, but it's better than not going out at all.
These are all just examples that I find useful for me. Having everything ready means that I'm less likely to skip out on a run when I'm not feeling up for it.
How can I overcome my own barriers?
The plans to overcome a barrier have to be personal to you. Take time to list all the things that could stop you from training and all the things you could do to make sure the barrier doesn't get in the way of achieving goals.
Having a physical list is great, but make sure you act on any 'plan B' ideas you have. If run commuting is on the list - get a decent commuting bag. If playlists and podcasts are on the list to help get your out the door - download some good episodes, create a playlist with your running group.
Remember though - life happens! Skipping one run isn't the end of the world, self-care is important too. But adjusting your training to fit around your life is a better way to ensure you keep up with your running and enjoy it too.
- Barriers are easier to overcome if you plan for them in advance.
- Write down a physical list but make sure to put your Plan B ideas into action.
- It's okay if training doesn't always go to plan, but don't give up!