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  • Writer's pictureErin Colebatch

How to create a winning strategy for nutrition and running goals?

Updated: Jan 23


Setting goals is key to better health and nutrition, essential for both casual joggers and seasoned marathoners. It's not just about big goals like weight loss or personal records, but also about daily efforts and nutritional choices. This guide covers setting achievable goals, staying committed, and optimising nutrition for top performance. Embrace simple goals, daily actions, and the joy of achieving your personal milestones. Ready to embark on a health-focused running journey? Let's begin!



Step 1: Recognise the need for change


The first step in transformation is acknowledging the need for change. Assess your current situation, including commitment, knowledge, resources, and abilities. Reflect on your running performance: Are your times off target? Are longer or uphill runs challenging? Constant fatigue may indicate underfuelling, while frequent soreness suggests a need for better recovery nutrition.


It's essential to understand optimal nutrition and training. Consult with health and exercise professionals like Accredited Sports Dietitians and running coaches for guidance. They can pinpoint areas for improvement, providing a clear starting point for your progress.


Step 2: Set clear and meaningful goals


Setting clear, challenging goals is essential for personal growth. If you're committed, knowledgeable, and confident, aim for achievable yet stretching goals. Otherwise, start with learning goals, such as mastering fuelling strategies for training. This foundation enables progression to more ambitious running goals.


Goals should be specific and demanding. Replace vague aims like "improve my running" with precise targets, such as "increase weekly running distance by 10%." Instead of "eat healthier," try "add two new plant-based meals weekly." These concrete goals promote personal development.


Break down larger goals, like completing a marathon or achieving a personal best, into smaller targets: enhancing energy, maintaining pace, optimising sleep, adjusting carb intake, hydration, and balanced nutrition. These short-term goals are crucial for long-term success, with nutrition playing a vital role in daily performance and well-being.


Embrace positive goal framing. Instead of "stop eating junk food," opt for "nourish with whole foods post-run for recovery." This positive approach fosters a mindset of continuous improvement.


The Distance Runners Performance Academy Performance Pyramid illustrates this strategy, focusing on training nutrition, fuel and recovery, supporting performance, sleep, mood, and focus. Progress to race nutrition and hydration, developing detailed plans for pre-race and in-race strategies. This comprehensive approach equips you with lifelong nutrition management skills.


Step 3: Write it down and plan


The harsh truth is that while many begin the year with strong intentions, as time passes, a significant portion drift away from their goals. It is known that although half of Americans make New Year's Resolutions, fewer than 10% maintain them throughout the year. This drop-off often stems not from a lack of desire, but from the absence of a realistic, sustainable plan.


To stay on track, it's essential to document and structure your goals. Begin by defining your main goal and breaking it into smaller, achievable sub-goals. For instance, to increase energy levels, plan specific actions like adjusting carbohydrate intake or improving sleep quality, and set these as regular milestones.


Commitment is key to success. If your goal is to reduce afternoon fatigue, plan for energy-boosting snacks and anticipate potential challenges, such as social dining. Develop strategies to maintain your diet, like consuming protein and fibre-rich snacks to manage appetite. By strategically planning and constantly reminding yourself of your goals through phone alerts or notes, you can turn these ambitions into lasting habits.


Step 4: Gather your support crew


Research highlights the critical role of a supportive network in achieving goals. Building a support circle with family, friends, a running club, or a coach can greatly increase your likelihood of success. Additionally, consulting with an Accredited Sports Dietitian provides personalised advice to align your diet with your training objectives. This team approach not only bolsters your commitment but also makes the journey more enjoyable. Sharing your goals publicly and working towards them with others, like joining fellow runners for an event, creates a powerful sense of shared purpose and motivation.


Be mindful of negative influences, such as unrealistic expectations from some social media influencers or unsupportive individuals, which can hinder your progress. Focusing on positive support and steering clear of discouragement helps keep you on track towards your goals.


Step 5: Self-monitor and adjust your approach


Self-monitoring is crucial in goal setting and achievement. Regularly evaluate your progress by tracking training metrics like heart rate data, post-training recovery, time trials, and perceived effort.


In nutrition, compare your diet to established guidelines from trusted sources such as government health departments or Accredited Sports Dietitians. Monitor mood, sleep quality, gut function, appetite, energy levels, body composition, and mental focus to assess how your nutrition is working for you.


Be flexible and ready to adjust your strategies based on your body's feedback and performance. If certain foods negatively impact your running, modify your diet as needed. Continual monitoring and adjustments ensure your approach is personalised and effective for your goals.


Step 6: Reward your progress


Incentives are key to maintaining progress. Establish a reward system for reaching interim goals, like treating yourself to new running shoes after consistent training, a massage post-race, or planning a dream run-cation. Using a calendar to track and celebrate these milestones visually can greatly motivate you, making each small achievement towards your final goal feel significant.


Sharing your successes with friends or family further enhances the joy and sense of achievement, providing additional encouragement and recognition for each step taken towards your ultimate target.


Summary


Ultimately, your journey towards health and nutrition goals is a marathon, not a sprint. It requires setting actionable, clear goals, committing to them with a well-thought-out plan, and nurturing your body with the right fuel. By acknowledging the importance of interim goals, rewarding yourself for small successes, and seeking support when needed, you're not just chasing numbers—you're building a lifestyle. As you lace up your running shoes and plan your meals, remember that each step and each bite is a stride toward not only achieving your goals but also creating a healthier, more vibrant you.


For personalised guidance on optimising your nutrition to enhance both your health and performance, I'm here to assist! As an experienced distance runner and an Accredited Sports Dietitian, I have the expertise to help you fuel effectively for peak performance. Understand the journey we'll share together – click HERE to arrange a complimentary 30-minute Performance Strategy Call. We'll discuss your objectives, identify any obstacles, and outline a practical action plan tailored to your needs. If you're eager to begin your journey towards achieving your running goals, click HERE to book an initial consultation with me today. Let's start this exciting journey together and work towards realising your running aspirations!


Download my ebook on carbohydrates to fuel for a PB here!


Check out the Distance Runners Performance Masterclass here!


References


Epton, Currie & Armitage 2017, 'Unique effects of goal setting on behaviour change: Systematic review and meta-analysis', J Consult Clin Psychol., vol. 85, iss. 12, pp. 1182-1198.


Oscarsson et al 2020, 'A large-scale experiment on New Year’s resolutions: Approach-oriented goals are more successful than avoidance-oriented goals. PLoS ONE , vol. 15, iss. 12: e0234097. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0234097


Pearson E 2011, 'Goal setting as a health behaviour change strategy in overweight and obese adults: A systematic literature review examining intervention components', Patient Education and Counseling, vol. 87, pp. 32-42.


Rozen M 2023, 'How committed are you to your New Year goals?: A quantitative study on the connection of commitment and performance with new year resolutions', Open Journal of Social Sciences, vol. 11, pp. 415-428.

Shilts et al 2004, 'Goal Setting as a Strategy for Dietary and Physical Activity Behavior Change: A Review of the Literature', American Journal of Health Promotion, vol. 19, no. 2, pp.81-93.


Swann et al 2023, 'The (over)use of SMART goals for physical activity promotion: A narrative review and critique', Health Psychology Review, vol. 17, no. 2, pp 211-226.

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