As predictable as the mince pies making room on the supermarket shelves for Easter eggs, the start of a new year brings with it the desire to make resolutions. There’s just something about a brand new year that inspires us to make a fresh start and think about our health and fitness after the festive gluttony. After all, there’s only so long we can continue sitting in front of the tv with a family sized box of chocolates!
Personally, I love having a running goal to work towards. Goals are what motivate us, give us something to strive for and empower us to maintain a positive outlook. For me, this means having a training programme all mapped out with a goal race at the end to give each run or workout a purpose. In 2016, that running goal is the Paris marathon, where I hope to run a personal best time. My training between now and then will therefore be geared towards giving me the best possible chance of achieving that goal.
But how do we go about deciding what running goal is right for us? For years, the focus has been on setting goals that are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Specific). However you feel about the SMART concept, the approach is certainly a sensible one when it comes to ensuring success. My goal is based on several years of running and previous experience of marathons. It is SPECIFIC because I know what my target is and what my training plan will look like, MEASURABLE because I will be able to chart my pace/mileage throughout my training, ACHIEVABLE because I know I can complete the distance and only need to be one second faster than my current best to meet my goal, REALISTIC because I have been training consistently and accumulated a good base of fitness, and TIME specific as I know exactly when I will be running the marathon and how much training time I have.
However it’s worth noting that mine is a long-term running goal, and to keep motivated I’ll set short-term goals along the way. These will range from a commitment to a certain number of training sessions per week, to distance and pace goals to help me measure my progress. Short-term goals are important as they help to keep us going – ticking a goal off allows us to see how far we’ve come and gives us the inspiration to move forward and set the next goal. If the running goal is too distant, it would be far too easy to put off doing anything concrete to achieve it then feel disheartened when the goal is not achieved. If you’re new to running and want to run a marathon, give yourself plenty of time to prepare. Start by targeting a 5k and see how you get on before gradually increasing your mileage towards bigger goals.
And these principles hold true regardless of what you want to achieve. Perhaps 2016 is the year you want to begin running. A great start would be committing to getting out two or three times a week and progressing through short-term goals of running for a consistent period of time – even just a few minutes to begin with – and building up. Perhaps your running has lapsed. Take a look at your diary, try to schedule a couple of runs a week and don’t beat yourself up if life gets in the way and you have to miss a run. Or perhaps you’re a more experienced runner looking to set a new personal best or tackle a new distance. Think about the steps you need to take to get there and the short-term goals that will help to keep you on track. There may not be any shortcuts to success, however taking the stepping-stones of short-term goals will help you on your way to long-term success and make your ultimate goal more easily achievable.
So whatever you’re aiming for in 2016 – whether it’s a lap of the park, a multi-day ultra, or anything in between – I wish you all the best and hope you enjoy the journey.