Running just for the sake of it is great! Lacing up your shoes and going outside for a run breathing some fresh air, enjoying nature and doing something good for your health is enough for most occasional runners. But others want more, they run to achieve a certain running goal and to keep improving. Setting a goal is one of the greatest and easiest things you can do to keep you motivated. But to set a good goal you need to put some thought into it. Otherwise chances are that a goal is too easy or too hard which can reverse the motivational benefit and the sense of achievement when you accomplished a challenge you set.
In this post I’ve collected some tips that can help you define your first or next big goal in your running career. These tips will work whether you are an absolute beginner or an advanced runner either way.
As every other goal you might set in your life, also your next running goal should be easy to measure. A goal that doesn’t allow you to check if achieved or not is not suitable. For runners that task shouldn’t be too hard. You can for example try to lose some pounds in a time range you define, or finish a specific race or even set a time goal for your next race. In running the time aspect makes goals easy to measure. So pick a date in your calendar where you check your weight, pace, distance covered, blood pressure or whatever the area is you want to improve.
A running goal should also be realistic. If you just ran your first 5k and set a goal to run a sub 4-hour marathon in two months is definitely too much. You most probably won’t achieve your goal and it will just make you feel bad. Just build up from what you achieved in the past and set a running goal that challenges you but is actually achievable.
If you just started running, finishing a 5k race is probably the most common goal. If you achieved this, reflect on your race and try to figure out how to go on from there. You could either try to run your next 5k faster (say in 10% less time) or you can try to tackle the next distance, a 10k race for example.
The more running you did the easier it will be to set a goal that is realistic for you. Every body is different and so are other things going on in your life. Take everything into consideration when thinking about your next goal.
Not every running goal is great for every runner. You not only need to consider your current running abilities but also all the other things that are going on in your life. I hope you also have a family, friends and a job and can’t workout all day long so take that into account in your goal planning process. Also I think it’s important to work towards a goal that is personal and you are really motivated to accomplish. So if you set a specific race as your goal, choose one that you will like according to your personality and preferences. If you don’t like to run in a city, try looking for a trail race. If you don’t like to run up hills, look out for a race in the flat.
Running goals can be very different. The most obvious one being to reach a certain time for a race. But there are much more goals that you could consider. You might choose one from the list below:
1. Lose weight
2. Running further
3. Running longer
4. Log more miles than a friend
5. Discover more of your nearby countryside
6. Reduce your blood pressure or resting heart rate
Nowadays it is easy to measure your running abilities and compare them with others. As this is also a great way for motivation and goal setting I recommend you to keep yourself in the focus. Get inspired by other runners but don’t try too hard to get to the same level as fast as possible. Just listen to your body and do what you are capable of. Improvements also come from small steps!
I try to set several goals at a time and it was helpful to have a longterm goal that is more like a dream at first. If you dream of finishing a marathon sometime that’s a great motivator and keeps you on track to achieve minor goals on the way. I started running with the goal of completing a half-marathon and tried to work towards a 5k and then a 10k finish. After accomplishing a minor goal you increase your confidence level to achieve the big, longterm goal.
Well there are some general goals in running that should always be in your head. For example to stay healthy and injury free and don’t let running impact other parts of your life in a negative way. So if you see on the way of training for a goal that you put too much work on your body or you get overwhelmed with work or family duties don’t hold on to your running goal no matter what. If you’re not a pro, running should be a hobby that complements other parts of your life. So don’t hesitate to adjust your goals if needed.
I’m kind of a slow improver. I don’t double my mileage every year or increase my marathon time by 10% every time I take part in a race. I have specific goals but I know that I’ll have a lot of time to achieve them. Studies showed that the performance potential in running is the same for a 60-year-old as for a 19-year-old! Running is a great activity to do for decades and it is still possible to improve and set goals way after your 30s. So better go slow and do step by step rather than wanting too much too soon and risk injury.
Now I’m eager to read about your running goals and strategies to set them. Leave us a comment below!