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How to Set a Goal You Can Stick To

Goals.  We all have them, right?  I think that as runners, we can easily identify our goals based on our racing schedule and certain times that we want to beat.  While I am writing this specifically focused on training/running related goals, this is a basic tool that you can use for any type of goal you are setting.

I’m also going to take this a step further because I think that it is easy to verbalize a goal.  The hard part of goal setting comes down to your action plan, daily execution, and your strategy to use motivation and discipline to see your goal out to completion.  Here is our road map:

·         Today: How to write a goal you can stick to

·         Thursday July 20th:  Tips for staying motivated

·         Thursday July 27th:  How to use daily discipline to your advantage

What’s a SMART Goal?

Let’s jump in!  Have you heard of the SMART goal technique before?  This is a tool that is used in the business world to write meaningful goals which are both achievable and measurable.  The acronym stands for:

Specific – Name it to claim it!  Your goals should be focused on one outcome/action/event.  This is one instance where multitasking will not be your friend.  When considering this point, you should try to answer the 5 W’s: Who? What? Where? When? Why?  The more specific that you are, the easier that it will be to create your action plan.

For running, this is easy.  Usually you are setting a goal for yourself to run a certain distance or complete a race in a certain amount of time.  Who? What? Where? When? – Done, done, and done!  The key here is the why.  Why is this goal meaningful?  Why do you want to achieve this goal?  Hold on to this thought.  We will revisit this next week.

Measurable – How will I know when this goal is accomplished?  If you can’t easily define your outcome you may have difficulty achieving it.

Once again, for running this is easy.  You will know you have accomplished your goal by completing the race, covering the distance, or by running at your specified pace. 

Achievable – While the goal should be a stretch for you to accomplish, it should still be attainable.  It would be a total downer to set a goal that you wouldn’t be able to eventually accomplish.  At this phase, you should also think about what skills you may need to acquire or what habits you may need to incorporate into your routine to attain the goal.

Now we need to assess our current fitness level.  There are two easy ways to do this.  You can either use a recent race time (where you have a comparable fitness level) or run a one mile time trial.  After assessing our current fitness level, we need to decide how much time and effort we can invest in our training to achieve our goal.  These factors combined will help you to determine if this is a good goal or if you need to set additional incremental goals to arrive at your ultimate goal.

Relevant – Simply put, does this goal mean something to you?  Is this the right time to chase after this goal?  This is really important.  Maybe you have always wanted to run a 3:30 marathon but right now you are in the process of moving and will need to look for a new job.  Adding the stress of training that goes along with a 3:30 marathon training plan may not be a smart move.  After getting settled in to your new routine, it would be a better time to pick you goal race and jump in to training hard.

By this point, you have probably already figured out if this goal is relevant for you right now.  These answers will come from your why reason and your attainability rating.  If you have a motivating why, are currently at the right level of fitness and have the time to devote to your training you can check this box.

Time Bound – Every good goal should have a time limit.  You can help yourself by setting up checkpoints that will continuously move you closer to achieving your big goal.  If you don’t give yourself a time limit there won’t be a sense of urgency to work towards the goal.

Let’s look at an example together

One of my fall goals is to run a sub-2 hour half marathon.

SMART Goal:  I will run a sub-2 hour half marathon on October 22, 2017.

I have already selected my goal race and my goal time which answers most of the 5 W questions plus it gives me a measurable outcome.  For me, this is the next step.  My current PR is 2:08 and some change.  In my last half marathon goal race, I was able to keep up with the 2 hour pace for the first 8 miles before falling off pace.  In my training leading up to that race, I was on track until I got sick and lost 2 weeks of training.  I went out with my best effort that day but came up a little bit short.

For me, this is the next running milestone.  I have chosen to not train for a full marathon this fall so that I can work on my speed and endurance for the half marathon.  Is this achievable?  Based off my 5k race times and my last attempt I should be able to achieve this goal with proper training.  Finally, I have a time limit and a goal race on the calendar.

Don’t forget to come back next week as we talk strategies to stay motivated!

What’s your top goal or two that you are currently working on?  Does it check off all the boxes of a SMART goal?

Need help with your SMART goals or have a training question – comment below or message me directly.

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