Three Tips for Setting Realistic Goals
This last year was a big one for me; I ran two marathons, qualified for Boston twice, and set a PR in the marathon, half marathon, and 10K. I worked with a coach for the first time, ran my very first speed workouts, and topped out at 55 miles a week, my highest mileage ever! Needless to say, I rolled into this year ready to take a break, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have some serious goals lined up.
The wonderful thing about goals is that they can be whatever you want them to be. Looking to BQ for the first time? Awesome! Focusing on shorter distances and a new masters PR? Fantastic! Hoping to run 10 miles a week, every week? Great! All goals are worthy ones, and should be specific to you. (Remember, comparison is the thief of joy.)
Tips for Goal Setting
So what are my goals for the new year? I’ll be running the Boston Marathon for the first time, but don’t plan to race or PR; the experience is the goal. Then, I’m taking a much needed break from the marathon and will focus on the half. Goal setting can be tricky, so I used the following three tips to help plan my year:
Set Realistic Goals Based on Previous Performance
If you’ve been following Minneapolis Running for a while, you know that we encourage runners to set big, audacious running goals. But don’t make the mistake of trying to get there right away! It’s important to set realistic goals based on previous performances so that you don’t end up injured or disappointed at the end of the season. (You should also be setting SMART running goals, discussed here.)
For me, my realistic goal for the half marathon is to qualify for the New York City Marathon with a sub-1:32 time. My current PR is a 1:36, which might seem like a hefty jump, but my previous race results show that I have improved my half time by 3-4 minutes every year without any specific focus on the distance. Will my goal be hard and challenging? Yes. Will my goal be realistic and attainable? Based on previous performances, I definitely think so.
Break Big Goals into Smaller Pieces
Remember that bit about big, audacious goals? I really encourage you to set them, but first break them into smaller, realistic goal pieces. If you want to BQ but are still more than 30 minutes away from your qualifying time, it will probably not be realistic to get there in one year (unless your previous performances indicate that you can!) Instead, break up the goal into manageable pieces that won’t leave you feeling overwhelmed. Focus on shaving off time in smaller 5-10 minute chunks, then reevaluate as time goes on.
My big, scary goal is to run a 3:00 marathon, but I’m not kidding myself, I’m no where close right now! To break this goal up, I’ve set realistic time goals for the next couple of years barring any unforeseen time off or injury. Instead of thinking, “Crap, how am I going to shave 24 minutes from my marathon time?” I’m focusing on the 10+ minutes that I hope to drop by 2018. I feel confident that I will reach my big, audacious goal, but first I will need to be patient.
Focus on One or Two Things (don’t try to do everything in one season or year)
Finally, don’t try to do everything in one season or year. Goals, specifically time-based race goals, are really dependent on the little things you do over the course of a training cycle. If you plan to PR in a race by adding weekly cross-training, strength-training, yoga, and foam rolling, plus six runs a week, you may want to take a step back. Doing all of those things would likely lead to a PR, but it may be unrealistic to tack on an extra 4-5 hours of training activities per week. Instead, focus on one or two changes you’d like to make for the season. Perhaps 2017 will be the year you actually cross-train (here’s to hoping I join you), or the year you start running 30 miles a week instead of 20. Just don’t make it the year you double your running, biking, and swimming, and do ab crunches all day, every day until you’re burned out.
For me, I’m really focusing on staying injury-free by doing yoga and foam rolling 3-4 times a week. Sure, I’d love to also add more things to my training regime, but it’s unrealistic for me to do it all at once.
By setting realistic goals, breaking larger goals into smaller pieces, and focusing on one or two big changes to make each training cycle, you’re much more likely to accomplish your goals by the end of the year. Good luck!
What are your 2017 Running Goals?
I’d love to know what goals you’re working towards in 2017! Share them in the comments below.