by John Stanton
To get the most out of your training, you should set an ultimate goal followed by several smaller goals to get you there. Your ultimate goal might be to run a particular race, but before that, you must first train consistently.
It can help to run some smaller, shorter-distance races as targets to test you along the way. Many runners will tell you that the real reward comes from the training, not the race itself.
Your goals can be qualitative or quantitative. A long-term qualitative goal might be to make fitness part of your daily routine. A long-term quantitative goal might be to run a specific destination race.
Set short-term goals that allow you to savour some of your training rewards. Your first goal might be to run continuously for 20 minutes. You can also aim to run for 30 days without an injury, which will force you to listen to your body.
In your program, you will have five kinds of goals:
- A daily goal to get out the door for a run every day.
- A self-acceptance goal to condition yourself that daily fitness is part of your lifestyle.
- A performance goal for a season. This might be a distance goal (such as running a 10K) or a time goal (such as breaking 50 minutes for a 10K).
- A dedication goal or a particular target for a season—something that will motivate you to continue training throughout the year. Dedicate your year to the memory of a loved one, or set out to prove you can do something that others believe you cannot.
- A dream goal—a big race or distance that seems slightly out of reach but achievable.
If your goals are intelligent and realistic, you will be more likely to succeed and avoid getting discouraged part way through your training. To help you with assessment and motivation, start a journal. A daily journal will reinforce your progress towards your individual goals. There is a particular pleasure that comes from recording your workouts and assessing the quality of the effort.
In your journal, record relevant data about the run, such as your distance, route and the type of workout (e.g. hills, long slow distance, speed, fartlek, etc.). In addition, make some personal notes about how you felt during and after the run. For example, what was your stress level on this day? Did you start slow but finish strong? Was it the first run in a new pair of shoes? Were there any unusual weather conditions? These details all help tell the story of your training journey.
Be sure to monitor your training and evaluate your program and goals based on your progress and the other facets of your life. Use your journal to document any changes in your circumstances and the corresponding adjustments to your short-term and long-term goals.
Remember that sometimes your daily goal will be to have a rest day. Rest lets your body rebuild and get stronger. You need 48 hours to recover from a hard workout, so it should be a scheduled part of every training program.
The setting of athletic goals, the discipline of following a regimented program and the recording of your progress will transfer over into other parts of your life. Studies continue to show that people who are physically active tend to be more positive in their approach to challenges, have more energy and eat better. These added benefits and feelings of improved health are some of the reasons that runners become highly self-motivated over time.
Finally, remember that goals are personal, so don’t worry about what others may be striving for. Your task is to compete against yourself.