Change happens over time, and the key to successful change is to fuel the motivational fire by achieving bite-sized goals along the way. Boost your confidence by setting new small goals once you've achieved your previous objectives; this will inspire you to continue reaching outside your comfort zone.
In terms of setting running-related goals, it's perfectly fine to reach for a marathon, but if you're starting off the couch, make sure it's a year out to allow time to achieve the mini goals—5K, 10K, half marathon—along the way. We tend to think making one small change won't make much difference in the grand scheme of things, but when you add up the amount of confidence each smaller achievement generates, the total equals a significant, consistent source of motivation.
Take the 2014 Runner Challenge and set a series of 12 small goals each month for the year. This could be training for one race or five, eating a cleaner diet, or being more mindful during the day. The key is to write down one or two small goals for January and when you achieve them, set another for February, and so on.
Here are some examples of 2014 Runner Challenge goals to get you started:
January: Avoid processed sugar; run 15 to 20 miles per week
February: Eat green veggies at lunch and dinner; run a 10K
March: Bring a water bottle to work and hydrate; run a trail 5K
April: Help a newbie runner learn to run; cook healthy food for the week on the weekends
May: Limit alcohol to once per week; try a Yoga class
June: Eat a salad for lunch 3 to 4 times during the week; take a CrossFit class
July: Eat locally; run a half marathon
August: Get plenty of sleep; include rest days
September: Eat seasonally; ride a mountain bike once per week
October: Be mindful when eating and chew food slowly; perform 1-minute planks four times per week post-run
November: Eat dinner before 6:30 p.m.; increase non-exercise activity during the day
December: Keep track of what you eat; set weekly mileage goals to keep on track
Remember to be specific, keep goals small but meaningful, and post your plans somewhere they can be seen by you and your friends to keep you accountable. Good luck!race.