Why write goals at all? Goals keep you on track and focused. Without them, it may be difficult to measure how you’re progressing in your training and what steps you could take to get better. Without goals, you may even forget why you started training in the first place. As your running abilities change, your goals will too. Your goals however, will have similar characteristics, no matter what running feat you aim to achieve.
Every good goal has the following features:
- It’s personal. Determine what’s important to you and you alone. Basically, you can’t use someone else’s goal or motivations as your own if you aren’t excited about them. Someone can’t tell you to set a goal to run the NYC Marathon in 2017–you have to want to run that race and you have to be in a position in terms of your training to run that distance.
- It’s achievable, but challenging. Your goal shouldn’t be too easy, and should push you a reasonable amount outside your comfort zone. For example, you could set a goal to take 10-15 minutes off your half marathon time or to run a 10K if your longest race so far was a 5K. But don’t go too crazy–if your longest race distance is a 5K, jumping to running a full marathon may be too big of a jump.
- It’s measurable and specific. You want to be able to measure your goals and know when you’ve met it. If it’s too ambiguous, you won’t know when you’ve achieved it. For instance, instead of setting a goal that says, “I’ll be able to run longer than I do now,” a better, more specific way to word it could be, “I’ll be able to run for one hour straight without stopping,” Or, “I’ll complete a half marathon in less than two hours.”
- It can be achieved in a reasonable time frame. Reasonable time frames vary based on your goal. If running your first marathon is your goal, it typically takes four to six months of training. Don’t leave yourself three weeks to train for a marathon.
- It helps you stay motivated. Write down your goals. Hang them on your fridge. Share them with your sister. Buy gear for yourself to feel good when you train, or whatever it takes to keep you accountable. Remind yourself constantly of your goals to ensure you don’t forget what you’re working towards. And always remember that amazing feeling you get when you achieve a goal!
With these tips in mind, write your goals down and track your progress along the way. Evaluate your progress and edit them as needed. It’s okay to change your goals as you go along. Maybe you realize it was too easy or too challenging, or something came up in your life that changes your running routine (e.g. pregnancy, planning a big life event, caring for a loved one)–don’t be scared or disappointed if you need to change your goals a bit. Life happens!
Goals can be written in a variety of ways, but my personal preference is to write out one long-term goal with several short-term goals that help me achieve it. You can make as many long-term goals as you want, but always have several smaller ones that can help you achieve what your heart truly desires. Here’s an example:
Long-term goal: In 2017, I will run my first full marathon by completing the NYC Marathon.
Short-term goal 1: I will complete three half marathons this year in preparation for running a full marathon.
Short-term goal 2: I will create a four-month training plan for the marathon, which includes running 3-4x/week, one day of rest per week, and 2-3x/week of cross training.
Short-term goal 3: I will run once a week with a running group during marathon training, for a minimum of 4 miles.
These smaller goals will help you to meet your larger one, which is your ultimate focus, even if it doesn’t seem like it, and no matter how “small” your may be. So get a piece of paper, brainstorm, and establish what your goals are for 2017.
To help you get started, try following the format below to help you write and track your goals!