January is a common time of year to focus on new ideas, future goals and changes you want to make; but the key factors to making these aspirations stick, is the hard work you put in behind the scenes. It's about being aware of the systems to consider and put in place for when your own motivation dwindles; it's about creating your 'back up' plan so you know you have a support network that can help you if you need it.
Over the last year, I've been listening to numerous podcasts and reading material that encourages better habits - content that helps you to focus on yourself and to do things that make you feel happier. These things resonate particularly as Running Circles continues to grow and develop as a running community.
I've always been interested in the psychology of what brings people together. That connection of new and old friendship groups, the haphazard way of finding a common link with a stranger or the support that people offer to each other during various times of their lives. Extensive research into mental health and well-being has confirmed that one of the basic needs a human has is social connection.
This type of connection is as important as sleeping, eating well, having a routine and exercising. These are the basic needs that keep us balanced in a world where there is so much to knock us off balance. If you think about when you feel run-down or stressed, it's usually one or more of these factors that gets pushed aside. Your routine sleep pattern goes out the window so you feel too tired to exercise. You get so busy at work that you cancel plans with your friends and stay in with a huge bar of dairy milk.
Without realising it, Running Circles has become a tool to help people in different capacities, and is something that seems to be continuing to grow as an online community as well as in-person. Having recently listened to James Clear, author of 'Atomic habits', he talks specifically about designing your environment; about building a tribe around you. He discusses with Dr Rangan Chatterjee in his podcast 'Feel Better Live More #321' how important it is to find people to support you in what you want to achieve; to find or build your tribe who help make the pathway easier so you can reach your goals.
In a running context, the streets are filled in the first few weeks of January with those who are starting to run, or have decided to try running again after a long break, and whilst that's great - many try to do it alone. There are oodles of research theories out there that suggest that if you want something to stick for the long-term, you have to build it into your routine and make it non-negotiable. Turn it from a new habit, to something that is an automatic action to help with what you want to achieve; and whilst some people are motivated to do that alone, others may struggle to hold themselves accountable.
I particularly love hearing people's comments at the end of a tough group run that they have just done something that they would never have done alone. It's usually after a coached technical session - in the case of this week so far - hill repeats for one group and tempo intervals for another! Sure, there are always the runners who would happily smash a hard run on their own, but for many, by sharing the pain, and being held accountable, the pathway is clearer and your tribe steps in to help you.
Those goals that are set in the New Year can be fantastic targets, as long as you work on the right systems that will help you to succeed. All too often, we focus on the end goal or the big picture, but what about the process? What about the importance of building that intrinsic belief that - regardless of the outcome, you are doing something that makes you feel better?
You are doing something for yourself.
This post obviously wants to share the Running Circles community, but not for praise or ego, but to share the reasons why the members are finding that our tribe is helping them.
You could argue that most running groups and clubs offer the same values. It doesn't have to relate only to running, it could be starting your cross-fit journey in a new gym or learning how to crochet or grow flowers in an online group. By finding your tribe you know that you are in it together: learning, supporting, succeeding (and sometimes failing) but doing it together.
Running Circles is not just about the running. We are a tribe. Listed below are just a few reasons why our members are with us - it all boils down to that social connection in one way or another.
To run for physical health to get fitter
To run for mental well-being
To meet new people
To have conversation
To support each other through difficult times
To learn how to start and stay running
To connect online to other runners
To build confidence to enter races
To learn how to vary runs for interest
For social connection
To find your tribe
If you want to be part of our Running Circles Tribe, here's how you can get involved:
Join our online community and tag us in your runs. We love a good running photo, but we equally love a nice sunset or view.
Run with us in person if you are local to Kingswinford, West Midlands. See the website for times and dates.
Get personal online run coaching advice and plans for future goals.
Receive irregular and non-spammy emails about what we're up to.
And if we are not your tribe - find one that is.