Today I am sharing a guest post by Jane Grates.

Maybe you don’t want to race a triathlon or a marathon with me but maybe you would like to start running. Aiming for a 5k is a great way to jump start into the sport.

If you’re like most people, by now the new year’s resolutions you set for yourself back in January are probably long forgotten. Maybe this was the year you were going to start eating right and exercising regularly, but for whatever reason, those audacious ideas fell to the wayside… again… this year. As we begin to slowly creep toward the holiday season, you may be already regretting all the unhealthy decisions you’ll surely make and the weight you’re inevitably going to gain, and yet again, come January, you’ll decide that next year — for real this time! — will be the year that you at long last get your act together and start living your best and healthiest life.

Sound familiar to you?

I’ll tell you a little secret, an observation that I’ve come to over the past decade or so about health and wellness. When you decide you’re going to recommit your life to making better and healthier decisions, the nice thing is that you can start making those decisions right now. No, really! Even if you downed an entire large supreme pizza for breakfast and haven’t exercised in you can’t remember when, if you want to start making healthier decisions, you can do so immediately.

Even though 2017 is already almost over, there’s still plenty of time for you to begin making better and healthier decisions. One of the best ways I think you can do this is by setting a goal to do your first 5k race by New Year’s Eve in 2017. That means that you’ll have all of December to both train for and complete a 5k, approximately 3.1 miles. Even if you’ve never run a step in your life, you’d be surprised at what you can do when you put your mind to it.

Below, I’ll detail some suggestions that’ll help get you on the path toward completing your first 5k by the end of 2017.

Get the OK from your doc first. Before jumping right into things, and especially if you haven’t had a physical in a while, go talk to your doc and make sure everything’s in tip-top shape. Just because you think you may feel or look healthy doesn’t mean that everything is ok on the inside. Plus, you’ll want to get your doctor’s blessing before starting a new fitness program for the first time. Just play it safe and go see him/her.

Begin really slowly and without much expectation. If you’ve never run before, or if you haven’t run in a long time, it may be tempting to think that you’re going to put your pedal to the metal right away and go out, guns blazing, right from the start. That’s a great way to injure yourself, so I can’t suggest not doing that enough! Instead, start conservatively. Go out for a walk and try to run for 10 seconds. See how that feels, and begin walking again. When you first begin training, expect that you’ll actually spend more time getting ready to go run than you will actually running. It may be frustrating, but the reality is that many runners injure themselves because they do distances their bodies are incapable of handling or because they run much too fast too frequently. Particularly when you’re beginning, remember that you’re new to this. You won’t be an expert right away, and that’s okay! You may think you’re slow as molasses, and that’s ok, too. Just be patient with yourself.

Get properly-fitting shoes from someone who knows the sport. Runnings nice in that it doesn’t require much “stuff,” but you’ll benefit from having a good-fitting pair of running shoes. I’d highly recommend going to a physical, brick-and-mortar running store in your area to talk to a salesperson — who’s also probably a runner — who knows the latest and greatest and can recommend a make and model (and size) of shoe for you. It can be tempting to go pick something pretty off the shelf, particularly if it’s on sale, but again, many runners get injured because they get shoes that don’t fit their feet very well or that don’t offer support like they need. Talk to a professional to get an opinion about what you need first.

Consider hiring a coach or using a C25k plan online. If you’re cautious about your training and making sure you don’t overdo things or injure yourself, you may want to consider hiring a coach for your first 5k or minimally, finding a couch to 5k program (often called C25k) online. Working with a coach will bring added costs, but coaches are trained and seasoned professionals who have worked with thousands of athletes over the years and can help ensure that you arrive to the starting line healthy and ready to rumble. Training plans online can also do a similarly-good job, but unfortunately, most any plan you pull from online will be more cookie-cutter in design and not account for your individual strengths, weaknesses, and idiosyncrasies.

Remember to have fun with the process! It can be tempting to want to make your new C25k goal the driving force in your life, but remember to have fun with your new challenge! Some days your training will feel fantastic, and other days it’ll probably suck. That’s the nature of training: lots of ebbs and flows. Remember no workout will make or break your race; instead, it’s the totality of the experience and your training regime that will have the greatest influence on your race performance. It’s great to have goals, but I think for your first race, it’s most important to have fun and to finish with a smile on your face. You will literally not have a first time again, so enjoy it and revel in the memory you’re creating.

As we embark on the final month of 2017, it’s important to remember that there’s still time to make good on your fitness goals that you may have set in January. One of the best ways to help stay on track through the holidays is by getting into a training schedule, and with all the holidays coming up around the corner, training for your first 5k in December is a great way to help guide your workouts through the often harried holiday season. Give yourself a chance during this final part of the year, and I bet you’ll be surprised at what you can do when you really go all-in on a fitness goal for once. I’m rooting for you!

JANE GRATES: Nature lover, doer and record lover. Loving the sweet spot between beauty and function. I make random things with friends.