Setting goals helps you to stay motivated and keep track of your progress. For an example of some running and fitness related goals, my personal training goals can be found here.
Using the SMART method ensures that your goals are realistic and can be tracked and achieved.
It’s important to look at what you want to achieve when goal setting; are you more interested in extending your distance, or do you really want a fast 5 / 10k personal best? If long distances are your target, then set yourself distance goals, such as 15k non-stop running, or 20k in 2:30. For speed goals, set yourself targets for kilometre pace, such as 1k in 6 minutes or 5k in 25.
Your goal must be able to be measured – using time, distance, average heart rate, etc. If you are looking at improving your race times then this could be measured using finishing times or average pace. Fitness goals could be measurable in the distance of non-stop running or by being in a lower heart rate zone when training.
Are you able to commit the time and effort to achieving your goals? Do you understand the work that you are going to have to put in to get results? With the best of intentions, I could set myself a goal to run 2 hours every day, but that is not attainable due to other commitments, or realistic with regards to my current fitness level and the time I would need to recover.
It’s important to ensure that your goals are achievable but still a challenge; for example, I could set myself a goal to run 5k in 39 minutes (current best is 39:08) but that would only be an 8 second improvement and isn’t really worth setting a separate goal for. On the other side of the coin, you have to ensure that your goals are realistic – for me, there would be no point setting a goal to run a sub-2:30 marathon because it isn’t achievable and would have a negative impact on my training.
Building on your previous goals is important; for example, if you can run a marathon in 4 hours, set out to be a little quicker next time, rather than aiming for another 4 hour marathon. Try for 3:58 or 3:55, or quicker, depending on the time between marathons and your training. Do remember, however, that just because an event is the same distance, doesn’t mean that the terrain or route will be similar – some events may be muddy and slippery, or hilly which adds another dimension and may affect your overall time. If you are trying to beat your personal best, make sure you read the event details about the route to make sure it’s suitable.
Goals should be time bound to motivate you to get up and work towards them. If your goal has no deadline, where is the motivation for you to get up and train today when you could just do it tomorrow? Having time bound goals also allows for better synergy between short term and long term goals, as the short term goals can act as stepping stones to help you reach your long term goal.
By having a yearly total target of 1000km, I know that every training run counts, no matter how short, and this encourages me to run more. I have found that my average run length has improved and I try to get through as many kilometres as I can to get closer to my target. Monthly targets can also work well, I did a 100km challenge for March, which encouraged me to pick up my mileage, and was my best total so far, which also allowed me to claw back a few kilometres that I was behind on for my yearly goal.
Having a time-frame to complete a goal makes it more immediate and allows you to plan your training effectively; it’s easy to say “I’ll start tomorrow” if you don’t have an end date set, but when you see your goal date approaching, it makes you want to get up and reach it. Short-term goals can be between 3-12 months, and long-term goals are anything that’s further than 12 months away.
Goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound.
A good goal shouldn’t seem intimidating or daunting, but motivating. If you feel like you can’t achieve one of your goals you should look at the reasons why:
- Did you create a plan?
- Did you follow the plan?
- Was the goal realistic?
- Was the target date appropriate?
- Have you been ill or injured?
For me, I like to tell people about my goals, as it makes me feel more accountable. I also like to have them written down so that they are there in black and white, things I want to achieve and I know that there is only myself standing between them.
Goals aren’t the be all and end all though, so don’t overly stress if you set yourself a goal and haven’t completed it when the target date arrives; life happens and sometimes even the best training plans don’t quite get us there. Instead, it’s important to look at your progress, and stop to think about what you have achieved and how you’ve improved; it’s always easier to look at and talk about what we can’t do as opposed to what we can or have done.
“Don’t wait until you have achieved your goal to be proud of yourself; be proud every step you take towards reaching that goal”
Please feel free to comment with your personal goals or goal setting tips below.