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Why do most people fail their New Years Resolutions? - Plus my own failure in the Dublin City Marathon

There’s a scene in a TV show called My Wife and Kids that I watched growing up. The lead character, Michael Kyle (played by Damon Wayans), is getting the dirt from his brother, Ken Kyle,(played by Damon Wayans real life brother, Keenan Ivory Wayans) on why Ken ended a short term relationship with his girlfriend. After a few minutes of talking about how great married life is in comparison to the single life and random girls, the brother says “You can’t have it all,”. He gets a message from his beeper (beeper? how old is this show?) and suddenly he is in a great mood and has to leave. “What happened to not having it all?!” exclaimed Michael. “No, I said YOU can’t have it all,” said the brother. As funny as the scene is… or as funny as I think it is anyway, it’s definitely an anecdote of my own philosophy.

When it comes to laying out a plan for people’s routines, I’m very careful of the exercises I choose. Can they perform it safely? Have I truly taken into account previous injuries and exercises they should avoid? Is it suiting their goals? Is there long term sustainability in the programme? Is it realistic, taking into account their day to day lifestyle? Will they even enjoy it? They can’t do it all. There’s a lot of variabilities.

However, for me? Well there’s times I throw common sense right out the window. I can do it all. And there’s no greater example than my attempt to do the Dublin City Marathon a few months ago. I had signed up for it in January of 2017 as something to tick off the bucket list. I felt it would be nice to have one under my belt and widen my fitness experiences. Besides, two of my friends, Elaine and Eric had also signed up so there was motivation there. At the time, I wasn’t much of a runner (spoiler alert: I’m still not). The truth is, I’m not even a big fan of running (don’t worry, I’ll get to why this is actually a major factor in a minute). The longest I've had ever ran was 10km, and I never had any desire to run more. But if I could dedicate just 16-20 weeks of my training to a marathon, I could complete one… in under 4 hours

It was always going to be a one and done situation. Running 4 times a week for 20 weeks and that would be it… on top of 3-4 weight training sessions a week… and two American Football training sessions a week… and having to actually be active and teach classes in-between. If this was a client telling me this I would have told them they have to knock off at least two of those activities and since one of them pays the bills, American Football or the idea of running a marathon (and I cringe as I type: under 4 hours) had to go.

Playing American Football, as much fun as it can be, was very taxing on the body on a normal team. Unfortunately for our team, we were down on numbers. 16-17 of us staring across at squads of 35-40. Which meant that some of us played offense and defense (iron man football) against bigger, stronger and more fresh players, due to the rest they could take. You might not realise what all this means but I can tell you what it resulted in and that’s a man perfecting the limp jog all around Maynooth when it came to attempting my marathon training the week after a game!

This is not going to end well...

This is not going to end well...

Mercifully, the season ended near the end of June but, as one of the Coaches once put it, I was held together by tape for the last game. I was useless. This was despite recording my first in game interception which coincidentally was a result of my slow limping into the right position that the quarterback couldn’t have expected me in that spot to intercept the pass. What little joy I had in intercepting the ball was ruined by the fact that a big, slow line man could quickly catch me and take me down. After that game, I couldn’t even think of running for at least the next 2-3 weeks.

2-3 weeks turned into 6 weeks. Admittedly, this was more of a combination of not wanting to run and laziness more so than injury. Running in plus 20 degree heat on some days? Way too warm for me.

I slowly started running again in August around the time Eric and Elaine were off to Vietnam for 3 weeks. “We’ll run over there every day” they said. “The hell you will”, I reassured them. Holidays in Paradise and train for a marathon while you’re over there? You can’t do it all.

By September, they were struggling. So was I. I had not been running as much as I should have been. Motivation was needed. So myself and Eric (or is it Eric and I… or are they both right?) signed up for the half Marathon in Kilkenny. Eric had ran a marathon over the course of two days earlier in the year. Me? I had barely broke 8 miles in training… ever.

After the first mile in the Kilkenny Half Marathon, it gets more lonely going on those back roads. A small few behind and in front of us, and fairly hilly at times, it was gruelling for me. I was ok until around mile 10, averaging to come in at around 1 hour 35 to 1 hour 40 minutes. Well on track for a 4 hour marathon. And then I started to slow down and struggle. Eventually clocking it at 1:55 for a half, I knew there was work that needed to be done. I was on holidays the following week while also doing a Strength and Conditioning course in Orlando, Florida. But I will run. I’ll be doing it while studying. Easily getting 3-4 runs in to build up towards the marathon. I just completed a half marathon, I was back on track. I can do it all. Yes, I am that hypocritical, yet stubborn.

I actually felt good finishing this half marathon...

I actually felt good finishing this half marathon...

I did one run in America. I’d say it was roughly… 2 miles. Half a mile in before I almost died in 34 degree heat. I couldn’t catch my breath in the dry heat. I don’t do well on Irish hot days and I am not a fan of sunny beach holidays so I felt like I was cooking on that road while running. I felt very close to just laying on the ground in the middle of the street. Turn me over I’m done on this side.

Besides, there was too much sightseeing after the course to be done, besides running

Besides, there was too much sightseeing after the course to be done, besides running

Of course, when I came back from holidays, jet lag was a clear reason to take a day off. Which turned into another week off, completely understandable.

The following week, I was driving out of my estate, slowly hitting the brakes at a T-junction. Nothing happened. The truck just kept rolling. The brakes were gone without warning. It was a very scary feeling to sit behind the wheel of a vehicle that you have no control of. I was just thankful it was not during the day and no one was crossing me. 

I left it late in the night, when no cars were around, to drop the truck down to the garage at the far side of town. A great excuse to take the long route and jog the way home. 

And that’s when I got my first real, legit excuse to not do the Marathon. 1 mile into my run and I felt a sudden tear in my calf. I was back to perfecting the limp jog for the next 50m before stopping and walking back to the house defeated. 

I tried jogging once more before the Dublin City Marathon but the calf was too tender and I didn’t want to risk further injury. Now had a client told me this? ‘You’re done, there’s always next year’. You can’t do it all. But I’m stubborn and I’m not going to tell me I can’t do it. Besides, I’ve told too many people I was doing. I was flattered the night before with the messages of support from people in my classes. It was pretty cool. But it also meant there was no way I wasn’t completing the Marathon the next day.

Oh it was all smiles before the race started

Oh it was all smiles before the race started

Race day in Dublin and sure haven’t I carb loaded with a load of pasta the night before, drank a ton of water and got my foam rolling and warm up in. Sure, I’m good to go. Who needs 16 weeks of training. I’ve got this. 4 hours was out (well, I was 70-30 on not being able to complete it under 4 hours, because: stubborn). I knew it was a big event but I could not comprehend the thousands of spectators. This was insane. There was no way I could fail in front of all these people. 

One mile in and jogging up towards Christ Church Cathedral, I felt a small “poof” in my calf. But we were taking it slow as there was a lot of runners around us. Really just taking in the atmosphere. If I kept this pace I could jog for days. The calf was very manageable. By the time we got to the Quays we had a little more breathing room when running. Every time we were approaching a big crowd, I would up the pace only for Eric to pull me back and tell me to conserve my energy. He was right. And we were doing great. Were doing great.

Around mile 10, just like Kilkenny, on the way up a steep hill after Chapelizod signalled the beginning of the end. By the half way point, we were somehow still on time for 4 hours. But that wouldn’t last long and soon the walking and jogging started. Taking a good 5 to 6 steps in anticipation for the pain that would follow, I would force myself into a jog when I would see the big crowds ahead of course. Thankfully I was jogging the few times people recognised me and shouted words of encouragement, giving me Lucozade, water and even jelly snakes! That was a pretty cool feeling, I must admit. 

run dublin city marathon 2017 event

There was a point around mile 30 that I’m walking and I look up to see a camera looking at me. I just look up at the camera and say ‘next year’ as I thought about what brought me to the point that I am walking during the Dublin City Marathon. (I really wanted to link the video here and use it on a YouTube series but the site was down this week and I never saved the video. Gutted).

I was surprisingly calm about it. You win or you learn. I knew I was still going to finish. Nothing was going to stop me from finishing. But I knew under 4 hours was no longer a possibility. I also knew that I had not put the work in. I had set a plan that would have got me close to 4 hours. But I didn’t execute. Looking beyond the petty excuses. Why was the question. There are no excuses.

The why is the same reason I have seen over and over again on why people fail their New Years Resolutions. Yep, that’s what this blog is about it just took me a helluva long time to get here. Why do people mostly fail in their New Years Resolutions? 

Where did they go wrong and what lessons can be learned so that you can set yourself up for the best possible chance to succeed in your goals in 2018

1. They make too big a jump from no training to all in 24/7 training before burning out quick.
I had plans for 4 training sessions a week (two at 6am on Tuesdays and Thursdays when I would sometimes have to be showered and out of the house for work before 7:30). One long run on a Saturday morning which I would always time badly with doing it before my class in the Park and only get 60-70% of the targeted distance in. And that is on top of everything else I’m doing. It was way too big of a jump. People plan to go to the gym every day. No excuses. Every somewhat available time on the schedule is instantly filled with a fitness session. 

2. Transitioning your body for what you are currently doing to what you will be doing.
If you have previous injuries, they need to be addressed before jumping straight into the programme you’re doing. If you have issues with your shoulders then maybe aiming to go straight into heavy bench pressing or multiple push ups without gradually easing yourself in is not the best idea. If you’re not used to swimming, 60-90 minutes doing lengths as fast as possible is not going to work long term and you will set yourself up for injury. I certainly had my own issues before embarking on a Marathon training plan that needed to be addressed first.

3. Being Realistic.
Can you set aside x amount of hours to something while still having free time and recovery time as well. Life gets in the way. You can’t always make the workout. Do not set your training schedule in the morning if you are not a morning person. And do not schedule training sessions for holidays, enjoy them. You also need time to recovery. The body adapts when it is healing. If you do not give your body a chance to heal then you will be run down sooner than later. I could not keep up with all the extra training I was putting myself through.

4. Take enjoyment out of what you are doing.
I’m not a runner. I don’t even like running. How am I going to maintain a 16-20 week training programme at something I don’t like? Do exercise that you enjoy doing. Or have a training partner. Go to a class where you enjoy the company of the other participants in the class. Don’t just do a class based off it’s benefits alone. If you hate it, you will not last. And that’s regardless of it’s benefits. The hardest part of training is walking through the doors to train. If you dread walking through those doors and know you will get zero enjoyment out of it, you will not last. 

5. Set realistic, defined short term plans.
Losing weight might be the goal. But what’s the plan? How are you getting there? What is the first step? Maybe it’s losing a dress size. Maybe it is an achievable short term milestone in running… running 26.2 miles in under 4 hours is not one of them. That’s the long term goal. The very long term goal.

I got very stubborn in those last 2 miles, the head went down and I was fully focused on the next step. I was not stopping again I told myself as I came on to Merrion Road and heading straight towards Ballsbridge and towards the finish line. I went into that ‘dark place’ I had heard others warn me about. And I did not stop. I ‘finished strong’. It was something very positive to take from it all. I was proud of how I finished.

I was honest when people asked how I did. And I told people of my struggles. I did not enjoy the process and it made me ill prepared for the event. This blog is not meant to be a list of excuses of why I did not do as well as I felt I should have. But how poor planning can set you up for failure. The plan it’s self could have been great. But not great for me. 

However, I thoroughly enjoyed the day. The crowds, the atmosphere. The fact it was a beautiful day. It was fantastic. There were crowds every 500m, large crowds cheering in support. It was so unbelievable to witness that somehow I can not articulate my words, despite a college diploma in Fitness, to do it justice. I never recommend marathons to people. I would joke before it that they only reason I am doing it is so I can expertly tell them why they should not run a marathon. I’m not even sure they are beneficial to your health and I know there’s better ways to train. It’s incredibly sore on the joints. I mean, I actually could not walk after I finished. I was in awful pain. I slowly limped through the baggage area that took me 10 minutes alone after I collected a finishers medal that truly didn’t mean much to me. And that’s because I feel i did not actually RUN a marathon. I completed it. I enjoyed it despite the fact that there was too much stopping and starting in the second half that I can’t justify saying I ran a marathon. And I am ok with that because of what I learned. I did not run a marathon. Not yet anywhere.

Oh, there’s one more marathon in me. I’ve already told too many people after the last one that I would do one more. And that’s where part 2 comes in. A different approach to running the marathon that will suit my schedule and allow me to run one effectively… or crash and burn in phenomenal fashion. 

dublin city marathon 2018 entry form confirmed lets go

You can’t do it all.