Setting running goals is the first step to creating a balanced and customized training plan, and that process is one that is best undertaken by the athlete and his or her coach together.
There are many factors that lead you to choosing a goal, a friends suggests a race, you see a race on Facebook, you have a desire to do a certain distance like a marathon etc. There is nothing wrong with selecting a goal based on these things but what does affect you reaching it successfully is your timeline. For example you choose to run the Comrades Marathon in the very next year, but you cannot even run a 10km without walking. The timeline will probably have to be adjusted. Now, just to be clear, this is not a question whether you could ever accomplish your goal, but rather can you you achieve it in the timeline selected.
What can affect your timeline:
- Purpose- What is the drive behind your goal selection?
- Fitness – How fit are you now? How fast does your fitness progress?
- Injury Risk – How easily do you pick up niggles? How easily do you get sick?
- Schedule – How does your family life affect your training? How does your work affect your training?
- Other – Weather, environment etc.
The factors listed above are just a few important ones that I have selected to highlight.
This is in my opinion the first step to deciding on your goal. Why do you decide on a specific goal? Weight loss, just fitness, adventure, fomo, personal challenge and a bunch of others. There is nothing wrong with the above reasons, as long as its good enough when the going gets tough, and the training is going to be hard and you will need something hold on to that provides a solid purpose for what you are training for. Depending on your selected goal, there will be a time when you ask yourself, why am I here? You best have a good answer and that is your purpose. So when you decide on a goal, ask yourself, why am I doing this and will it be worth, the blood, sweat and tears.
This to me is the second phase. You have decided on a goal now what? How fit are you? What is the timeline from now until your selected goal? The answer to whether or not the goal is appropriate lies in your current fitness. You have decided to do the Comrades Marathon next year but you cannot run 5km without walking. You will have to extend your timeline to two years. If you can run walk a half marathon, there is a chance that you will make it but it will be a touch and go situation but your first marathon qualifier will certainly be your decider. My suggestion, be patient, take your time and give your body and mind a good chance to keep up. Give yourself extra time and your body will thank you when it come to race time. So instead of taking 8 – 9 weeks to 5km, take 10 – 12weeks. Intead of taking 1 year to Train for the Comrades Marathon, take 2 or 3 years.
This follows on from the last point. Deciding on taking the extra time to reach your goal is essentially lowering your injury risk. Having the extra time to train means that you can add beneficial strength training exercises into your training and add in essential posture and stabilization exercises. You have the time to fix your form and posture, this will help you run more efficiently. Cross Training can be added comfortably into your training as well. Adding the above make your body stronger therefore lowering the risk of picking up niggles or injuries. You also have time to start and implement an immune boosting regiment to your life. All the time you are adding to reach your goal is making for a stronger happier body and mind.
Adding extra time to reaching your goal also allows you to settle into your schedule more gradually. Your family gets a better chance to adjust instead of just getting thrown into the ‘deep end’. You have a chance to better schedule your training into your work day and social life. I always say that your life should not fit into your running schedule but rather you running schedule should fit into your life.
So you have a bad training week because there are constant lightning Storms, extreme heat or extreme cold. I am not talking about some rain because we can all run in the rain, I am talking about dangerous conditions. Maybe you have to travel for work. Maybe you have scheduled a vacation. There are many other things that can hinder your training for a week, a month and sometimes even longer. Having and extended timeline to your goal allows you to take all the possibilities and probabilities into account. If you out for a week or two and are not able to train, you cannot just carry on with your training, you will have to set yourself back somewhat.
In conclusion it really is about taking one step back and looking at where you are and where you want to go and deciding on an appropriate timeline to get you there. Constantly choosing unrealistic timelines to achieve your goals is going to keep setting you back, you will get injured and/or sick, you will get demotivated and ask yourself why you even bother. If you don’t stop now you will spiral out and hit rock bottom and from there it is an even harder climb to get back to even easy short runs. Take the time to set adequate timelines for your goals and you will accomplish them as planned or even better.
I will be doing talks at clubs about setting adequate goals for your running. The RacePace events page will have the upcoming talks soon so please watch that page.
If you would like to invite me to your club to talk on Choosing Adequate Goals please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or call or whatsapp me on 0824482879. If you would like to schedule time with me where you would get a form & posture assessment, a fitness assessment and a goal setting session please also contact me. This session is R500.