Runners World Articles: Archives - June 2002
Goldilocks Theory of Goal Setting
To set running goals that are just right, follow these five steps
Running goals can be tricky things. Set them too high, and theyre
bound to frustrate you. Set them too low, and they wont challenge
you. But set them just right (like our old friend Goldilocks), and
they will be a powerful source of motivation and achievement.
To set the perfect running goals, check out my five-step plan below.
And remember: The path you take to reach your running goals is just
as importantand just as rewarding-as achieving those goals.
1.CREATE A LIST
In order of importance, write down two to four running goals youd
like to achieve in the next 6 months. They can be as general as:
to run injury-free, to feel good on almost every run; or to better
balance your running with your family life and career. Or make them
more specific, such as completing a particular race or achieving
a certain time. Youll need to review this list every few months
to make adjustments as needed. For example, as the date of a 5K
goal race gets closer, it will move up higher on your list than
when it was months away.
2.SKETCH OUT A PLAN-IN PENCIL
With your list of goals in hand, you can begin to flesh out a plan
to achieve each one by plotting the key workouts youll need
in a running log, notebook, or on a calendar. If one of your goals
is to enjoy runs more, youll need to schedule social runs,
runs in scenic locations, and runs with your favorite four-legged
friend on a regular basis. Time-specific goals mean youll
need to chart a series of speedwork sessions. And if youre
looking to complete a half-marathon or a marathon, you
have to plan your long-run strategy. Use a pencil to schedule these
runs just in case changes need to be made later.
3.MAKE IT STICK WITH INK
After youve penciled in all the workouts youll need
to make sure you achieve those goals, take an overall look at your
calendar to asses things. Do you have the time and resources to
follow through with your plan as scheduled? Are you willing to make
the sacrifices necessary to achieve your specific time or race goals?
If so, get out a pen and make your schedule more permanent. If not,
scale down your goals, and set up a new program based on your time
and energy constraints. Then put it in ink.
4.BREAK THINGS UP
Big goals are achieved much more easily if you break them down into
smaller goals, which are then used as stepping-stones to reach the
final goal. For example, instead of trying to qualify for the Boston
Marathon before youve even run a half-marathon, you first
goal should be to finish a 10K within the next 2 months. As this
goal approaches, plan your second goal of finishing a half-marathon
in the next 3 months. Finishing your first marathon might follow
4 months later. Write down each intermediate goal in your calendar
or log book, and fill in the long runs and speed sessions needed
to prepare for them. If any of these smaller goals becomes too stressful,
add another stepping-stone goal.
5.DO A REALITY CHECK
So how do you know when your time goals are actually achievable?
By running a 5K, you can predict your potential finishing time in
a 10K, half-marathon, or marathon. These are a number of resources,
such as the prediction charts found in my books or the
Race Calculator on the RUNNERS WORLD Website (go to www.runnersworld.com
and click onCalculators. These will calculate your predicted
race time at a give distance based on your actual time at another
race distance. If your goals are more qualitative (i.e. to enjoy
running more), look over the notes in your log every few weeks to
see if you are on the right track. If not, make the training adjustments
necessary to give you a realistic shot at reaching you goal.
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