SETTING REALISTIC RUNNING GOALS

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When it comes to running, I can’t emphasize how important goals are.  I mean there’s nothing wrong with running just to run, but goals keep us working towards something and keep us motivated.  The thing I love about running is that there is ALWAYS room for improvement.  Once you’ve reached a goal, then you can set an even loftier goal.  There is always something to work towards.  Even if you are a world record holder, you can still aim to run faster – it’s brilliant!  You never run out of things to strive for, and I love that!

The above pin got me to thinking about running goals and how to choose them so that they are attainable and so that you won’t quit till you get them!  Through the years, I’ve had SO many different running goals.  I’ve reached some and set new ones, and there are some that I am still striving for!  The best thing about goals is that you can’t fail if you don’t give up, so the key is that wonderful saying “If at first you don’t succeed, try try AGAIN!”.  With all of my different running goals, I’ve found some key things that are important in setting them.  I figured I would share these things with you in hopes that it will help some of you to set realistic and attainable running goals.  Here we go!

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1.)  BE SPECIFIC!  This is extremely important.  If you set unspecific goals, you won’t know when you’ve achieved them.  For instance, if you say “I want to be a stronger runner”, that is a great idea, but how do you know when you have achieved that?  What constitutes a “stronger runner”?  And for that matter, if I run strong one day, and feel like crap the next, does that mean I am getting further away from my goal?  There are so many questions that pop up, it is impossible to tell how to achieve this goal.  You want to set specific goals, such as “I want to shave a minute off my 5K time in the next 2 months” or “I want to run x miles a week for y weeks”.  These are goals that you will know you have reached and can gladly reward yourself for.  Thus, when making your goals, BE SPECIFIC!

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2.) MAKE YOUR GOALS SPECIFIC TO YOU!  When setting goals, it is important to set goals that you and only you are responsible for.  For example, if you set a goal such as “I want to win a race”, then you may be setting yourself up for dissapointment no matter how hard you try for this goal.  The reason why this goal isn’t the best is that you have absolutely no control over quite a few factors that will play a role in this goal.  For instance, Who will show up for the race?  What are the other people that will be running this race doing in their own training or what are the other runner’s natural abilities?  You can’t control these things, and they are a huge part of that specific goal.  You want to have your goals such that they have to do with you and you alone, and the only factors involved in achieving this goal pertain to what you put in, not to what others are putting in.  A goal such as “I want to run 150 miles this month” is a goal that only you can make happen — there are no extraneous factors that can keep you from your goal, which makes it much more attainable.

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3.) DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS WHEN MAKING YOUR GOALS.  This ties into #2.  If you set a goal such as “I want to be as fast as so and so”, you are introducing extraneous factors (namely that persons natural ability or training habits) that can keep you from our goal.  While a little healthy competition between runners is fine, your goals should pertain to you.  A better goal would be “I want to run this distance faster than I ran it last time.”  The only person you should be comparing yourself to is the person that you were yesterday.  Not only that, but as a side note, comparing ourselves (in anything) to others is incredibly discouraging.  We are all unique and different, and we all have different strengths and weaknesses — that’s what makes us beautiful and special.  By comparing ourselves to others, we are discounting our own beauty!  I can assure you that while you are busy wishing you had what someone else has, there are a number of people out there wishing they had something that you have – appreciate who you are and how uniquely God made you! 🙂

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4.)  KEEP IT RELEVANT.  Make sure to keep your goals relevant to you.  Your running goal doesn’t have to be a common one – it just has to be one that is important to you.  It should be something that you consider worthwhile and important.  For instance, I’ve coached a few soldiers in bringing down their 2 mile PT time.  Their goals varied in terms of time, but they had no interest in “running a marathon” or “running x amount of miles a week”.  They just wanted to get that PT time down because it was relevant to their life.

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5.)  KEEP IT ATTAINABLE.  While it’s good to shoot for the sky when it comes to your goals, you also want to make sure that your goal is something that you can achieve if you are willing to put in the work.  For instance, I would love to say “I want to run a 4:00 mile”…yeah, that’s not gonna happen, so even though I would love to have that as a goal, I would never reach it.  You don’t want to make it too easy, and you want to have to work for it, but it is important to make sure that it is a goal that is attainable through hard work.

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6.) GIVE YOURSELF A DEADLINE.  When setting a goal, it is always good to keep it timely.  Know when you want to achieve your goal by.  This will help to keep you motivated and give you a bit of a sense of urgency.  If you are setting goals like “I want to run a sub two hour half marathon”, and you don’t say when you want to do it by, then there is no sense of urgency which can lead to procrastinating training.  It is better to have a race, event or date in mind for when you want to reach that goal.  That being said, I always want to use caution with this one, because while you should have a timeline in mind, if you don’t reach the goal you wanted in that timeline – you DID NOT FAIL TO REACH YOUR GOAL!!!  You just didn’t get the goal in the given timeline, so you just change the plan, not the goal and you keep trying!  I said it before, and I’ll say it again – YOU CANNOT FAIL IF YOU DON’T GIVE UP!

These are just a few things that I’ve come across that help to set realistic, attainable, and exciting running goals!  It’s always good to have a goal – it keeps us reaching and moving forward.  What running goals do you have in mind?  Make today the day that you set that goal — go for it, stay focused, and most importantly – DON’T GIVE UP!    Happy running! 🙂

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