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We have only 3 weeks left in 2017.
That’s absolutely insane if you ask me, and you can count me in as one of those people who stumbles through life mumbling “where has the time GONE?“ As we approach a new year, it’s time for people to start reflecting on what they’ve accomplished this past year, and declaring their resolutions and goals for 2018.
If you are a long time runner that enjoys racing, chances are your 2018 calendar has been booked for months now. High five to you my friends, way to take advantage of early registration prices! But if you’re a newer runner maybe you aren’t quite sure what your goals should be for the new year. Or, maybe you’re a long time runner who has burnt out on filling your calendar with back to back races, and now you’re struggling to come up with a solid goal to strive for.
As a runner I go through periods where I just want to run simply because I love it. I don’t want to track my mileage, I don’t want to constantly stress about my pace, I don’t even care about races. If you are also one of those runners, I understand you, believe me I do. Keep doing what you are doing! But for others, there are periods in our lives when we want to better our fitness and running. So how do we do that?
Personally, I am a big fan of the “SMART” goal setting approach. I was first exposed to this method during a personal training course in college, and it simply made so much sense. “SMART” is an acronym for steps you can take to not only set a solid goal, but outline exactly how you plan to achieve that goal. Let’s break it down:
S – Your goal should be SPECIFIC, citing *exactly* what you want to accomplish.
For example, instead of saying “I want to run a half marathon someday”, say “I want to run the Covered Bridges Half Marathon in Woodstock Vermont on June 3rd” (I never have, but I hear it’s an awesome course). Narrow it down to an exact race on an exact date. Think of those “who, what, why, when, where” questions we were taught in elementary school to nail this one down.
M – Your goal should be MEASURABLE.
How will you reach the aforementioned goal? You could just say “I’ll run a half marathon 4 months from now” then show up and do it but trust me when I tell you, tt won’t be very fun if you don’t have an actual plan. Instead, have some sort of measurable way to achieve your goal. You should find a training plan that is tailored towards your goal and your current fitness level, to let you safely build up to your race distance.
Further, how will you track your goal as you go? Miles? Hours logged? Pace? Where and how will you log your progress? Finding measurable parameters to help you track your progress towards your goal will help break that goal down into tiny, manageable steps instead of an overwhelming and looming “big picture”.
A- Your goal should be ACHIEVABLE or ATTAINABLE.
If you are a brand new runner, saying that you want to qualify for the Boston Marathon or run your first 100 miler might not be the best goals to start with. I’m all for dreaming big, believe me. But when goal setting, pick something you are physically and mentally capable of achieving in the near future (or the set, specific parameters). Also ask yourself, is this goal achievable with current time, family, work, and or financial constraints? Sometimes it’s not just a matter of if you are physically capable of achieving the goal, but rather whether or not your current “life” situation makes this goal realistic.
R – Your goal should be RELEVANT.
Is this a goal that YOU want to achieve? Is it something that speaks to you, that you feel compelled to achieve? For example: so many runners use a Boston Qualifying time as a benchmark in their running career. And while certainly admirable, it might not be the right for everyone. Or, some people assume that since they’ve finished a handful of half marathons, they SHOULD move on to the full marathon distance. But the truth is, neither of those ever have to happen to make you a happy, successful runner. Make sure the goal you set is something that YOU want for YOU, and not something you think you should do because everyone else is doing it.
T – Your goal should be TIME BOUND.
Give yourself a start date. Give yourself an end date. Set deadlines for your goal. Leaving a big, open time frame, such as “I want to run a 50K someday” leaves endless room for avoiding your goal. Specific time frames force you to focus and get to work.
So, there you have it. Goal setting 101. This post was obviously written geared towards running goals, but the SMART approach can be applied to any goal in life. Big goals can be scary sometimes, but breaking it down into smaller steps can help you successfully outline an achievable goal.
Do you struggle with goal setting? Are you wildly ambitious or painfully cautious when it comes to goals? Anyone up for sharing their 2018 goals with us?