Preparing for a race requires training for both your mind and your body. Mental training begins with goal setting, and once you do so, you and/or your coach will be able to better structure training to reach those goals. It is common mistake for newer runners to set broad, unspecific goals that don’t have real meaning to them. Without specific targets to aim for, your motivation for running could be lacking direction, which in turn will be a catalyst for negative thoughts during difficult times in training. Setting good, realistic goals is the best way to progress as a runner.
When setting running goals, remember the acronym SMART:
S - specific
M - measurable
A - action required
R - realistic
T - time
Visualize your goals by asking yourself a few questions
It’s pretty common for people to be offput by the goals they set for themselves, simply because they were not aligned with their motivation for and interest in running. An article in Runner’s World suggests the first step in goal setting involves asking yourself a few questions and writing down the answers to begin visualizing your goals:
-Why do I like being a runner?
-What do I like most about being a runner?
-What is the most important thing I gain from my participation in running?
-What do I want to accomplish?
-Why would I like to work toward and accomplish these goals?
It may be that you want to lose weight, or share a hobby with a partner that runs, but by targeting your motivation for running and evaluating your current fitness, you can set attainable goals that will keep you interested. Be honest with yourself. It’s important to be specific by targeting an event or race distance, then you can outline how you plan to achieve it. Vagueness or setting unrealistic targets will not keep you motivated.
A running goal should have personal meaning
There definitely will be bad days and low points in training. It happens. You have to dig deep to keep going. If the end goal doesn’t mean much to you on a personal level, it could make it easier to throw in the towel.
Meb Keflezighi, in his book Meb for Mortals, writes that “Training to reach a goal requires a lot of hard work. When you hit a tough stretch, either physically or mentally, if the goal you’re working toward has deep significance for you, you’ll find a way to persevere.”
Be honest with yourself and set your goals for you.
Set goals that are challenging, but attainable
It would be incredibly challenging and probably unattainable if you decide in January that you want to run a Spring marathon. In Meb for Mortals, it states “Your goals should require you to reach outside your comfort zone while remaining within the realm of possibility.”
Here are some examples of realistic running goals:
-Run an event of choice with Runwell
-Aim to complete a certain number of races in a timeframe
-Run a negative split
-Run a 100-mile race
You’ll need long term and short term goals
In order to complete most long term goals, you’ll need short term goals along the way to keep you motivated and form the foundation of your success. Many runners like to identify new short term goals every week, biweekly or monthly.
Some examples of short term goals:
-Run one speed workout per week this month
-Be in bed by 9:30 p.m. every night this week
-Eat vegetarian every weekend this month
-Run four days and 30 miles per week this month
Reaching these short term goals requires you to take small steps each day that prepare you to attain your ultimate, or long term, goal.
It’s important to set good and realistic goals as a runner, they form your roadmap to success and help you grow as a runner season after season.