Goals, most of us have them, or have had them. We target losing weight, saving more money, or learning a new skill. Running and exercise are often items that we use to try and achieve weight loss, but whether you are a brand new runner or walker, or a seasoned veteran marathoner, goal setting is an effective tool to help you push forward and begin to see some significant results in life and more specifically in your running.
Unfortunately, just putting your goal out there without giving yourself some accountability, will not generate the desired results. When I was younger, and extremely overweight, I had set a goal to lose a certain amount of weight every new year, only to see that every year I weighed more than I did the year before. I had set myself up for failure, because while I set a goal for myself, I had not established the right practices and systems in place to be able to achieve my goals.
Not until I set myself up for success, by establishing proper practices, was I able to ensure that I would be able to follow through and begin to achieve the goals set for myself. The first step in setting a goal is making sure it is a reasonable goal. It would not be wise to set a goal of running a sub-3 hour marathon, if you haven’t run in 10 years, and are 50 lbs overweight. There are goals you can reasonably establish for yourself, such as losing 5 lbs this month, running 30 minutes a day, or more, but we need to make sure the goals we set for ourselves are goals that we will be able to achieve, because remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, so we shouldn’t set that as our goal. So if you are just starting out, maybe finishing a 5K, half-marathon, or even a marathon should be your goal, and give yourself the tools to achieve that goal.
Once you have established your reasonable goal, you need to give yourself some milestones by which to measure and track your path to your goal. If your goal is to run a marathon, or any race distance, you should follow a training plan, there are several available online, or at your local running store. These will give you a number of prescribed runs that will give you the confidence to push forward to achieve the goals set up for you. Most of these plans will gradually increase your mileage, which in turn will increase your stamina, and build up the confidence you need to pursue and achieve the goals set for yourself.
If you feel that confidence build, you are more likely to stick to your plan, but there will be setbacks. There are things that come up that make us just want to give up and throw in the towel, and because of those things, any goal setting success requires accountability. Tell anyone and everyone what you are going to do. Join a running or fitness group, and get together with like minded people, and hear their stories. The accountability of a community will help give us the encouragement we need to push through the negative thoughts, the bad days and weeks, and call us out when we drag our feet, and begin to slip off course. Lastly, the best accountability for any runner is to go ahead and sign up for the race. Once you have paid for it, once you get confirmation that your registration is complete, you will find motivation via your wallet. So take the plunge and sign up today.
With the proper plan in place, and a community of support, goal setting and achieving will help propel you into things you may have never previously thought possible. I was terribly overweight and in 2010, I finally figured out that I needed to do better with my goal setting. Instead of just saying I was going to lose weight, I established a goal of completing a marathon, and I went and found a training plan, that would help me get in shape, lose weight, and prepare me for running 26.2 miles, and I gave myself 9 months to do it. I got in the gym and changed my diet, and established goals of losing 20 lbs in three months. The motivation I received by seeing the numbers on the scale go down, pushed me to take the next step and sign up for my first race, which was a half marathon in Las Vegas. The successful completion of that race then propelled me to sign up for my first marathon. Now I am a ten time marathoner, and run every chance I get.
So here is my accountability, I have a couple goals currently I would like to share with you all. I would like to run a 3:40 marathon, and a sub-20 minute 5K, and am currently training to achieve the 3:40 marathon. I didn’t start there, as my first marathon was well over 5 hours, but sticking to your training plans and making small gains adds up, and accountability and community helps propel us toward our goals and beyond what we could previously imagine.
James R. Mitchell, July 2017