Setting goals is something I only really started taking an interest in after I started running. Goal setting is one of those things that I enjoy, but also sometimes struggle with.
I want a goal, but I don’t like the pressure. I want to have goals but feel guilty about the time it takes out of family life. I want goals but I don’t want to fail.
All of these mixed feelings are very normal I’m sure. The best thing about setting goals is the motivation that comes with them. Goals, by definition are something we have not yet achieved, and therefore keep us focussed, and keeps our running interesting.
Goals don’t have to be all about PBs and spending lots of money on organised events. Don’t get sucked into thinking other people’s goals should be yours too. Make sure the goal you set is challenging but achieveable and more importantly, means something to you, so that you keep your focus and don’t lose motivation.
A couple of years a go, I set myself the challenge of doing something that pushed me out of my comfort zone each month – I didn’t want to spend a load of money and time going to lots of organised races so instead I wrote a list and these are some of the things that I did;
Set a mileage target for January
I used one of the virtual race sites to keep me accountable and it worked. The target I set for myself meant I needed to carve out another day in the week to fit a run in. This was great as it made me find the time. We can often feel like we haven’t got time but if you have a goal and really want to achieve it, you make it happen. That extra training session is now a regular feature of my weekly routine and it wouldn’t have happened had it not been for that challenge.
Get out on the trails and up some mountains!
Sticking to the same routes can get boring. However, it takes courage to step out of your comfort zone and try something different. I live right next to Pen-y-ghent, one of Yorkshire’s Three Peaks and I’d been eyeing it up for a while. I didn’t go straight from running my favourite flat 4 mile road loop to running up and down Pen-y-ghent mind you. I started introducing more hills to my routes and I really learnt to love the challenge. I remember the morning of the attempt well. There had been a light dusting of snow overnight, the sky was a brilliant blue and the sun was out, and I was sh*tting myself! Not literally mind you – I save that for special occasions!
Join a running club
I have no idea why this is such a scary thing. But let me tell you, I was very nervous turning up to the leisure centre Skipton A.C meet at every Tuesday and Thursday evening. I can be a pretty confident and outgoing person with friends and family, but joining a group of people I’d never met before to run was really out of my comfort zone. All sorts of thoughts go through your head – what if they are all really serious runners and I’m not good enough, will I keep up, will anyone talk to me? It’s safe to say it took me a little time to find my feet and build relationships but I am so glad I did it.
Joining a club has meant that I have pushed myself with races and speedwork. It has given me a fantastic opportunity to coach some great people and it has built my confidence. I think a lot of people assume running clubs are only for the speedy speedsters but in reality there are all sorts of people. Of course there are people who want to push themselves and improve but there are also an equal amount of people who love the social side of running and just want to have a chat and talk about the latest episode of ‘I’m a Celebrity’.
There’s a lot of things running clubs can offer;
- They can be great if you want to improve your times
- Have access to a coach and regular speedwork sessions
- Run in a group in the dark nights
- Meet like minded people or to use a club to keep you focussed whilst you train for your first marathon.
Whatever it is, make sure you are getting what you want out of it.
Joining Skipton inspired me to start my own running club closer to home in Grassington. It’s almost a club for people too worried to go to a ‘proper’ club! But in 2020 I want to change that, I want to keep the focus friendly and fun but my goal is to make it an England Athletics affiliated club with team t-shirts!! It’s all about the kit!
Set a new personal best
This is typically what runners think of when they want a new goal – the pressure can build on social media making us believe that we all need to show we can get faster and go longer. This is dangerous I think, not only because you can end up pushing yourself to achieve something you might not yet be ready for and become injured or disheartened if you don’t achieve it. But also because running should ALWAYS be fun and bring you the joy you felt when you first caught the bug. If you lose that, you risk losing the love of running altogether.
Although I say all this, it really is a fantastic feeling when you work towards a time goal and you smash it. Just be kind to yourself, set sensible and achievable targets, and get advice and support from a Running Coach if you need to.
What goals should you set?
I can’t answer that one.
Think of something that excites you and scares you all in one. What is it that you want badly enough that you will get out of bed come rain or shine?
Remember your goal shouldn’t feel like a led weight forcing you to go running but something that makes you WANT to go. We are all capable of so much more than we think so start that journey today and take it one day at a time, making sure you are kind to yourself along the way.