The new year is upon us and so is the season of giddy goal setting. You know that short window at the end of the year/beginning of the new year, when everyone makes snap resolutions about health, fitness, work, family, diet. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of these promises fail long before we remember to cancel that gym membership … but it doesn't have to be this way. You can still set lofty goals for your season and achieve them, but it takes more than a deadline and peer pressure. It takes some quality planning.
More: 3 Ways to Stick to Your Running Resolution
5 Simple Planning Mistakes That Runners Make
If you stop to observe your own running history, or that of your friends, you'll probably be able to pick up a few quick points on things "not to do" in advance of a big year. Here are a few that come to mind; your own list might be longer.
- Too little, too late: Choosing a late-season race that allows you to procrastinate like a professional for so long that by the time the race arrives you have a bigger hill to climb than when you started.
- Too much, too soon: Picking a lofty goal and putting it so close there's not enough time to train.
- Last-minute mixing: Adding spontaneous events to your schedule in such a way as to undermine your overall training progression.
- Goal grabbing: Jumping on the bandwagon of a friend and simply adopting his or her goal.
- Chasing distance, not fitness: Setting arbitrary targets for long run or training weeks regardless of your fitness. This often leads to great training benchmarks but sub-optimal racing.
More: How to Define a Realistic Running Goal
As you consider your goals over the next few weeks (yes, take more than a day), be sure to pick something that is a stretch goal. This type of goal will keep you focused and engaged when it matters most. Setting a goal such as "just trying to finish," for example, won't get you out the door to hit all your workouts. Odds are you'll still manage to finish the race, it will just take a little longer.
Instead, focus on a real target. Examples include:
- Run a sub-4:30 marathon, or a sub-2:00 half marathon
- Run a faster second half of any race
- Don't walk a single step in the last 10K of your race
- Finish in time to earn that special medal
More: 10K Workouts for Beginning and Advanced Runners