The Importance of Actionable Steps for Improving Your Running

The Importance of Actionable Steps for Improving Your Running

Do you ever have one of those weeks or months where it just feels like your fitness isn’t there? Maybe the same pace feels harder, you fatigue more quickly, or your muscles feel weaker.

After experiencing the ups and downs fill the weeks of recovery from injury, my fitness level is not where I want it to be. There’s no use bemoaning lost fitness – rather, it’s time to take actionable steps to improve my running. 

The Importance of Actionable Steps for Improving Your Running

I’m not saying that to complain, get pity, or to denigrate myself – it’s simply an objective statement.

My weight, my mileage, my pace – at the end of the day, those are objective pieces of data. They mean nothing in regard to what sort of human person I am: whether I work hard or am lazy, whether I am compassionate or selfish, whether I am smart or ignorant. 

My self-worth – yours – is not measured by miles or pounds. Plain and simple. Miles, pounds, paces, race times – those are all external measures of a particular facet of life. Of a hobby and a passion. Self-worth emerges from your recognition of intrinsic dignity that each and every person possesses.

I understand that some people struggle to separate these objective numbers from their self-worth, but I want to preface this post by saying (a) you are worth so much more than your running, (b) running doesn’t define you and (c) I personally strive to keep objective facts from weighing in on my self-confidence.

That’s not to say that I’m not always thrilled or eager to weigh myself, but whether I weight 125 or 140 pounds does not change who I am as a person.

So when I say I want to improve my running fitness, I’m not saying anything negative. I’m simply stating a desire, a goal, an outcome for which I must take actions to achieve.

If you take anything away from today’s post as I think out loud about goals, actions, and running, take that with you. You are far more than any external metric that measures your fitness or health.

So anyway: when I find myself not at the level of fitness I wish to be at, getting upset about it, wishing I was more faster or my endurance was where it was a couple months ago, or pinching my waistline isn’t going to change things.

Action changes things. So when you’re not pleased with something (for the sake of specificity and brevity, running), you take the steps to change it. While life is messy and rarely simple, change can be boiled down to that: if you don’t like something, change it, and to change it, you need to take specific and intentional action.

I do Pilates a couple times a week, although I’ve taper off to really once a week recently, and beyond that I sort of slacked on core specific work as of late. I reasoned, general strength training will work my core, hiking will work my core, so I’m good.

But between our backpacking trip at Goat Lake a few weeks back (when I whined like a baby for having a measly 15 lb backpack for an easy hike) and easing back into running after my sprained foot and a week off due to being overly cautious (which is good!) about my hamstring, I realized that my core strength was lacking based on my personal desire. I felt my core fatigue more quickly on runs this week after a week off, and even if it is simply just getting back into the groove, I didn’t want to wait or complain.

Intentional actions lead to change, so action I took. I snuck in some extra planks after Pilates on Monday, and then grabbed the stability ball and added in some focused core exercises to my strength training on Tuesday night. I wrote it into my training plan, I did the workout, and I will continue to do it to build back up my core strength and improve my running. 

The Importance of Actionable Steps for Improving Your Running

Of course, my training doesn’t affect your life. Who really cares beyond me whether my core strength or mileage meets my goal? I’m one of millions of runners. 

However, how you train does affect your life. If you aren’t happy with some aspect of your running, fitness, or nutrition – take the actionable steps to change it, starting today.

Want to run a marathon? Register for one (optimally at least 16-20 weeks away), hire a coach, and start training.

Want to eat a more nutritionally balanced diet? Go to the grocery store and buy nutritious foods, find some recipes that appeal to you, and eat them.

Want to stop skipping your summer runs because of the heat? Set your alarm early, lay out your clothes, and run in the morning before the heat sets in.

Like my friend Jesica said on her blog yesterday, all it take is 20 minutes. You don’t need a complicated action plan or a huge end goal in mind; just dedicate a short frame of time each day to take those actionable steps. 

Actions, over the course of days and weeks, breed habits. Habits beget change. Change jolts you out of a plateau and brings you closer to achieving your goals, whatever they may be.

What’s a current goal you have for your running right now? 
What actionable steps are you taking to achieve a goal right now?
What prevents you from making a change?


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20 Responses

  1. Oh how I love this post. It sounds like we are in similar boats at the moment. I pretty much hate this boat :), but like you note there are cycles for everything including our training and fitness. I adore your honest and straight-forward perspective! We will be back to where we want and need to be. The hardest part about running is that the secrets are patience and consistency. Two things that can be challenging at times. Especially the patience part 🙂 If we can just stop judging ourselves and just start doing what we can and celebrating small victories, that always helps. Hugs to you!!!

    1. Thank you Jes! I always appreciate your authentic and honest posts as well and enjoyed your vlog yesterday. This boat is not fun, but there certainly is some sense of solidarity in knowing that every runner goes there – whether it’s with running, racing, or strength training. I’ve been on it for a few weeks (months?) with strength training and just need to kick my own butt to do it. The patience part is so hard – but such a valuable virtue for a runner. Hugs to you and high fives on getting your runs and other workouts done, and thank you so much for the encouragement!

  2. such a lovely post. I love discussions like this. if I skip pure barre for a few days (doesn’t happen often but if a full week goes by or even 5 days) I definitely feel weaker during the core exercises! I don’t notice it while I run but man, I feel it during pure barre. maybe its the first fitness strength that goes if we don’t attend to it regularly?

    1. I feel like the core is the first to go! Maybe that’s not true, but it sure feels like it sometimes. I definitely notice if I do just Pilates and not other core work my core goes more quickly when I skip Pilates, so I wonder if it’s the same with Pure Barre!

  3. I would say that my current running goal is to feel confident and capable of doing speedwork again. Right now, it still scares me a little. Also to let go of my pride of the speed (and distance capability) that I have lost since my injury. I think I will be doing a lot of Garminless runs this summer, but I hope that they will encourage me to push myself and recover better.

    1. Fartleks! You’re smart to run Garminless – and I know that your fitness will be back and you’ll be kicking major butt. Just keep honoring that recovery! 🙂

  4. Thanks for writing this. In the end, talk is cheap. I’ve had so many people tell me they wanted to run a race, or do speed workouts, etc… then they don’t sign up, or don’t show up, etc. I think people hate being uncomfortable (and racing, speedwork, new groups of people, heat, etc are all uncomfortable things). Change is hard!

    Our fitness does vary year-round and with cycles of life. Right now I train pretty hard and love competing, but I know that someday that will take a backburner when I have kids or maybe a different job, but I’m sure running and being athletic will always be a part of my life to some extent.

    1. Thank you, Amy – I’m glad you enjoyed it! Talk is cheap when there’s no action. Change is hard because it’s a deliberate step outside the comfort zone. I think it’s good to embrace the ebb and flow of life with running. There’s times for harder running, and times for easier running.

  5. I’ve always appreciated your no-fuss practicality and this post is no exception. We can get all caught up in numbers and pity parties but the only way that anything is going to change is if we accept reality and do something about it. BOOM. You’re a champ.

    1. YOU are the champ! And thank you, Suzy. It makes me happy to hear you appreciate them! 🙂 Sometimes I worry I’m tooooo no-fuss and like a robot, but you’re right – BOOM! just get it done. Hope you’re enjoying Mexico!

  6. This was a great post. I loved your preface about internal vs. external sources of worth. It reminds me of a quote I really like: “you should work out because you love your body, not because you hate it.”

    I’m in a similar boat with wanting to get back into shape. For me, it doesn’t really stem from my paces/distance/etc – I haven’t been tracking that stuff as much and when I do I take it with a grain of salt because I know I haven’t been running consistently and that everything will come back once I do. There just comes a point where you wake up one day and say “I can do better than this.” Too many excuses, too much procrastination, and I really just need more exercise and activity so I feel a little more alive and a little less tired. Having a training cycle looming on the horizon doesn’t hurt, either 🙂

    1. Thank you Hanna! I love that quote also. Exercise and healthy eating aren’t punishment. I think focusing on the bigger picture of running – how it makes you feel, the positive impact on your life, etc – is the key to consistency. 🙂

  7. I completely agree, but I think sometimes the biggest challenge is actually starting or taking that first step to make actionable change – versus the change itself.

    In June, post-marathon and travel, I finally decided to make a major change to my diet! I am loving the benefits and am so glad I finally did it.

    1. Thank you Danielle! You are right – the biggest challenge is the first step. That’s why the actions matter – otherwise change is merely flighty talk. Awesome work on changing your diet!

  8. This is such a great post and SO TRUE!! I am still working on losing some more weight to get faster in running (I have lost about 15, and want to lose another 10). It’s been such a journey but SO WORTH IT especially once you start seeing the positive results.

  9. Current goal (other than finishing the marathon!) is to really focus on the two things I know I don’t really like and therefore wasn’t doing before training, which are speedwork and core strength. Both so critical! And actually take less time in the doing than the easy long runs I love.

    1. Both are so key! And you’re doing an amazing job at putting in the hard work and getting them done. It’s true how we long distance runners would rather do a longer duration of running easy that a short duration of hard strength work – but both have value in our training.

  10. I get stuck with analysis paralysis. I’m much better about not doing it but it can still happen. You just have to take action. Nothing is going to change until you do. This is awesome!

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