Much of running and training comes in the form of preparation for something. Whether it’s something as specific as an upcoming race, or as general as preparation for a healthier life, you’re preparing for something. Setting the right goals in the right fashion to focus and aim that preparation takes a bit of thought. Anyone who has set, and promptly dropped, New Years resolutions knows first-hand how hard completing set goals can be. The same is absolutely true for running and fitness goals. However, if approached the right way, and maintained the right way through the entire duration, you can set and crush all of your dream goals time and time again!
*Remember these tips can apply to any goals, not just running. However, as a lifelong runner and coach, my brain often, for better or worse, defaults to running examples.
Keep it specific and controllable
Broad, general goals are not going to do you any good. They allow for easy outs and little accountability. Keep your goals specific and well within your realm of control. If the goal isn’t within your daily grasp, and is controlled by an outside force you may often find yourself saying, “whelp, can’t do it, but it’s not my fault,” and that’s too easy of a way out. If your goal is to complete a 10k race, set a month to do it in, a goal time to stay under, and maybe even register for a specific race right then and there. This will give you that much more investment and allow mini-goals to be set based on the details. This will ultimately keep you on track and hold you accountable. Specific is much better than simply saying “My goal is to run a race” or “My goal is to become a runner.”
Specific doesn’t necessarily mean small. You can have a small, broad goal like “I want to drink more liquid,” or you can do it right and have a BIG, specific goal like “I want to finish my hometown ultra-marathon in the top 100 and under 8 hours!” While a small goal may seem safe because you get the satisfaction of completing it without too much work, it allows you an exit before really achieving something of personal note. If you don’t really have to work to get it, is it worth getting?
Have a clear “Why” for your goal
You should always be able to tell yourself why you’ve set this specific goal. What will it mean to you upon completion? What is it leading to? Why now? Tying a goal to your specific values helps make it more personal and increases your buy-in, therefore making it all the more attainable. If you’re someone who truly believes in the value of giving to your community then tie your goal to a charitable cause. If you value the importance of family, get your loved ones involved in the goal. Keeping your goal close to heart and having a pure, simple reason why you’re doing it will keep you going even when things gets hard.
Set check points/manageable steps
Allow yourself little victories as you build towards your ultimate goal. Setting check points or steps that will get you from your starting point to the finish line will keep your engagement high and limit how grand and daunting the overall goal may be. If your ultimate goal is finish a 5k in under 30 minutes, set a few manageable goals that will build upon each other on the way. Set a mini goal of running 1 mile with walk breaks, then 1 mile with no breaks, then 20-30 minutes with breaks, then just 1 mile in 10 minutes, so on and so forth. Breaking it down into bite-size chunks will help you digest your grand goal and keep on track.
Give yourself an accurate time frame
Having a deadline is important in goal setting but only if it’s a realistic deadline. If you’ve never run a step in your life it’s not a good idea to set a goal of running a marathon within a month. Cutting your time frame short will only promote stress and an impending sense of failure which is likely to push you off course. Almost equally as destructive is setting too long of a time frame. This allows for far too much flexibility in starting your steps and completing them in your trek towards your goal. Set an accurate and realistic amount of time for your goal, one that works with your schedule AND works for what you hope to achieve, and then stick to it!