Goal-Setting Advice for Runners
Achieve More With Mini Goals1 of 11
Those who set a series of smaller goals tend to be more successful than those who set one big one. A new runner named Jill set out to lose 40 pounds and run a marathon. She ended up pushing too hard, too fast, and cut her calories drastically. She crashed and burned two months into the program with injuries. Another woman named Sarah set goals to run her first 10K and to focus on eating a cleaner diet by adding one healthy ingredient and removing an unhealthy one every month. When Sarah successfully ran the 10K, she set another goal to run a half marathon. Along the way she shed 8 pounds of fat without dieting.
Learn to Go With the Flow2 of 11
At a minimum, an astute runner needs to develop the skill of having some flexibility in his or her goals. At the extreme edge of the spectrum, one could even consider running without goals. Obviously, it would take quite a bit of intrinsic motivation and a strong sense of self to pull this off, assuming the individual still has the implicit goal of improving as a runner or a person.
There's something to be said about being at least a little less tied to goals, so long as one can remain focused on his or her purpose. Who knows—letting go of your goals for a while may actually help you better achieve them.
Unlock the Secret to Proper Marathon Training3 of 11
The secret to getting ready for a marathon is not contained in one magical workout that you are going to find in next installment of your favorite running magazine. It also can't be found in the distance of any one individual "long run" despite the fact that an informal survey of 10 runners will give you 10 different recommendations for a distance.
The secret to getting ready for race day is simple: Run well and run often.
Focus on the Positive4 of 11
Rather than saying what you don't want to do, write what you do want. Changing "I will avoid eating sweets this year" to "I will eat one small piece of chocolate once a week" has a dramatic impact on your focus and motivation. It allows you to think about the chocolate you can enjoy, not chocolate you can't have.
Strike a Balance5 of 11
Have process goals along with your outcome goals. Western culture tends to emphasize performance and outcome. Did I PR? Did I win? Did I beat Sally? Focus the goals you can control—how much sleep you get every night, how much fluid you drink every day, how long you run on Sunday, and so on. These are known as "process goals," the type you can control. The more process goals you check off daily, the more likely you are to achieve the outcome goals.
Become a Stronger (not Just Faster) Runner6 of 11
Incorporating strength training into your routine can help correct postural deficiencies caused by poor sitting and standing habits that lead to incorrect running form and lower running efficiency. Correcting those deficiencies translates to a more upright running position and more symmetrical movement patterns from each side of the body.
Set Realistic Performance Goals Based on Last Season7 of 11
Evaluating your last race season is an important step to create goals for the next season and structure your training. You need to be honest about what went well so you can keep those training elements in place that helped you run PRs or fast races. You also need to search for areas you can improve—this will allow you to determine what types of workouts or race distances you need to focus on this coming season.
Diversify Your Running8 of 11
Plan a few shorter races in your build-up to your target event (if your goal is a marathon, try a 10K and half marathon; if your goal is a 5K, race a mile), but also engage in 1 to 2 races that are longer than your target distance. It is no coincidence that many of the world's top mile and 5K runners will begin their seasons with longer races such as 10Ks, 10-mile and half marathons as they build fitness for their target events.
Don't Know How to Improve? There's a Coach for That9 of 11
Whether you are a world-class athlete or a first-time 5K runner, it is important to have an objective, outside opinion on your training because chances are that you fall into one of two categories: You need to be pushed or you need to be reigned in.
A coach is like having an extra set of eyes that can see what you can't in your training. There's a lot of "behind-the-scenes" work that culminates in your perfect training plan, such as understanding how to build our anaerobic and aerobic threshold as well as how to develop both our endurance and our top-end speed.
Hurdle Your Mental Blocks10 of 11
A runner draws confidence from a lot of places: past workouts, a full season of uninterrupted training, race times, training with those who have faster PRs than you, etc. A large part of being mentally tough is being confident that you can warp the messages coming in to your brain, and override them to push through the pain.
This confidence is built the longer you run; it's a snowball effect. As with all other rules of running, confidence hinges upon consistency—you have to prove consistently to yourself that you can push through the pain. There are margins for error and, just like bad races, there will be days where you don't do a great job of running and overriding the pain messages.