Goal setting is one of the most important factors pertaining to the success or failure of a new exercise program. This is especially true when starting a new running program. Whether this is your first-time training for a race or you’re a seasoned distance athlete, setting a goal can be the difference between a personal best and injury.
The most important thing to remember when setting a goal this running season is to be S.M.A.R.T.
Too often we set very general/vague goals. Focus on developing a goal with defined metrics. In terms of running program goals, setting a specific distance you’d like to finish and/or time you’d like to finish in helps to create accountability as you progress through your running program/season. When goals are specific, it’s easy to determine if you are on-track, ahead, or falling behind where you should be in your training.
Part of being specific is setting details which can be measured. Easy things to measure are distance (miles), pace (mph or minutes/mile), or elapsed time (length of time you’re running). GPS devices (watches, phone apps, etc.) make it very easy to track your progress in terms of measurable data. Knowing your numbers help to keep motivated and accountable. Also, it’s a great way to create friendly competition amongst fellow Ahwatukee runners!
While setting difficult goals can give you motivation to work hard, having too lofty a goal can actually be detrimental. You will want to set a goal that pushes you to stay disciplined, but not require complete lifestyle changes or extreme measures. Look at what you’re currently doing and take it a step or two further. If you’re used to running 5 or 10k’s, maybe shoot for a half marathon. If you’re a beginner, running a marathon or six-minute miles might prove to be too much. It may be difficult to stay committed if your goal is too difficult and feels out of reach. Chance of injury rises as individuals push too far outside of their abilities, as well.
Your goal needs be important to you. Disregard the goals others are setting and figure out what will motivate YOU to stay committed. It is your running program goal and no one else’s. Running programs, done the right way, require an ample amount of time to increase distance and this can become a bit monotonous at times. What is it that will get you out of bed on the weekends or to fit in a run after work when you’re tired and tempted to skip?
Setting a timeframe to complete you goal in is a great way to stay motivated and on schedule. It helps if your goal is six-months to a year away as this allows you to set mini-goals to accomplish along the way. If a goal is too near, it may be very hard to properly train to complete and if it is too far away, it can be hard to stay motivated. Signing up for a race is a great way to set a deadline to meet your goal. This way you know exactly how much time you have to achieve success and adjusting the timeframe is outside of your control.
Starting a new running program is a big step and can be a difficult decision to make. Setting a goal is a great way to create accountability, stay motivated and prevent injury. Starting this journey on your own can be difficult. I highly recommend joining a local running group or signing up for a race with a friend. This will give you a support group to help keep you motivated, accountable, and celebrate in your success!