Tips for the Trail – 21 Day Challenge – Xterra – 2-10-2012

By Rachel Cieslewicz

published in Xterra 2/10/2012

How many times have you heard that it takes 21 days to create a habit?  Arguments occur over how long it really takes, but I know for myself it is at least enough time to determine if something is working or not.  This year I am trying an experiment.  While I have many big glamorous goals and aspirations swirling through my head, I decided to use my end goals to find smaller goals to get myself there in a unique way.  The big picture can seem exceptionally overwhelming. Seeing that you need a lot of change to get from where you are now to where you want to go could make you quit right away.

Rachel CieslewiczWait. Don’t quit, as I have a solution!  In 2012 we have approximately 16 sets of 21 days left!  Can you imagine taking 16 small things you want to change about yourself or your life to create a stronger, faster, happier athlete?  I do! I have so many things I aspire towards.  This year I will share with you the things I am working on.  Feel free to email me with your goals as well.  My big running goal for the year is to cross the finish line at the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship in December as a healthy, strong, grateful, happy champion.  I am prepping for that now!

For my first “21 day challenge” to reach my goal, I am going to get more sleep.  I struggle with this one.  I have so much to do and always wish for an extra 12 hours in a day, but because I want to reach my end goal so much, I am creating a new habit for success in the form of eight hours of sleep each night. Adequate sleep is vitally important for athletic performance. It is when our bodies heal so we can come back stronger and faster each workout.  Without enough sleep, injuries are more likely. We also lose clarity in thinking, are prone to making poor food choices, and the list goes on. Personally, if I am over tired, I struggle to finish my day, let alone my workouts. To accomplish this challenge, I am going to be in bed by 9:30 each night. I wake up at 5:30 most days. This will give me a solid eight hours.  Feel free to do the same as me in my 21 days to a better running me, or choose your own challenge.

Here is another suggestion:  Suppose your goal for 2012 is to become the most efficient runner you can possibly become.  Some of the 21 day challenges you can choose for efficiency are to perform drills for 10 minutes each day. Another could be to aim for a cadence of 180 foot steps per minute which will reduce impact and keep you going longer and faster.  Work on a forward lean “up and out” to let gravity work for you. Or how about running with calm full breaths to keep the blood flowing to bring oxygen and other nutrients continuously to your hard working muscles?

It all matters. Look at your big goal. Brainstorm 16 things you can focus on to get you to your goals and start today! Write it all down. Tell me, or tell someone to hold yourself accountable.  Get excited.  If it gets tough, do it anyway.  I promise it is worth it.  You will be amazed at the end of the year how easily the small goals make your bigger dream a reality!

Rachel Cieslewicz is an elite runner and triathlete based in Salt Lake City, Utah. She won the women’s division of the XTERRA Lake Las Vegas and Santa Cruz half-marathons in 2011, and placed fifth at the 2010 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship at Kualoa Ranch, Hawaii. She is a talented sports massage therapist, Pilates and yoga instructor and is a certified running form coach. She can be reached atrcanyon1@gmail.com  or visit her website atwww.newageathlete.comor follow her onwww.twitter.com/newageathlete.