New Year, New Running Resolutions. Pick Your Goals!
A goal without a plan is just a wish.
Running is an activity that can bring a lifetime of benefits and enjoyment, but unrealistic expectations can quickly destroy a runner's motivation. The key to avoiding this pitfall is to create realistic goals and expectations that can be monitored and celebrated.
Your goal does not have to be to win a race or to run a 13 minute 5 kilometer race to gain the feeling of being a successful runner. Here are five sensible goals for runners of every level and the ways you can know when you have attained them.
Running for Time
Measuring the amount of time spent in constant motion is an excellent way for new runners to chart their progress. Being serious about running begins with growing comfortable with having your body in motion for a consistent and constant period of time.
If you are new to running, beginning with a goal of continuous movement for 30 minutes is an excellent initial goal. Beginning with a goal of running non-stop for 30 minutes may not seem unusual, but it is the most common first-goal attained by every distance runner in the world. Even if you can only run for one non-stop minute, you are ready to begin working towards that 30-minute goal.
For those with higher levels of fitness that are interested in beginning running, it is still recommended to begin with the 30-minute goal. Running non-stop for 30-minutes will begin to build your endurance, muscles and confidence.
Running for Distance
Beginners often make the mistake of setting an unrealistic distance to time relationship when first beginning a workout routine. In his book 'Eat & Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness,' Scott Jurek writes, "What I've learned in ultras, though, is that where I finish is merely an outcome. Have I prepared?" Running a specific distance is a chartable goal that many runners use as motivation.
Whether you want to run your first 5 kilometers or an ultramarathon, setting that goal will help motivate you to train. When you set a distance as your goal, give yourself the space to complete it in any amount of time necessary.
Running for distance should be about the accomplishment of having covered a specific length with little regard for the time it takes to get there. Once you accomplish the distance goal, then you can move on to a speed goal.
Running for Speed
This is a form of goal setting that is beneficial to those that have successfully attained a distance and a time goal. Running for speed requires the setting of a realistic goal that focuses on completing a specific distance under a specific amount of time.
For example, some choose to set speed goals related to kilometer-splits while others focus on overall race-finish times. Either form of goal setting can help you increase your performance gradually and safely.
Beginners should avoid setting speed goals as these can cause injury by overreaching the limits of reasonable expectation due to standards created by more advanced runners.
So, what is a realistic goal?
If you have consistently ran a 5-kilometer in 30 minutes, consider running the same distance in 28 minutes. However, setting your sights on a sub-3-hour marathon before completing your first race may be too advanced a goal. Patience with your own performance and progress will ensure that you are able to enjoy running throughout a lifetime of steady improvement.
Running for Weight Loss
Many people begin running with the intention of losing weight. While this is a reasonable expectation, it is important to maintain good health while on this path. If you are just beginning to run, there are several factors to monitor in order to ensure your weight-loss is permanent.
It is true that running burns an excessive amount of calories, but those calories should be properly proportionate to the amount of calories you are consuming. To burn fat, it takes more than doing the same thing every day. A varied workout and a healthy diet will ensure noticeable improvements in your BMI, which is the way to good health.
Running for Good Health
This is a goal that is often overlooked because it is not as specific as a time or a number of pounds. Running promotes improvements like a stronger cardiovascular system and lowered stress levels. The advantages of running are also believed to include obscure examples like better sleep and clearer skin.
The difficulty with meeting the goal of good health is in knowing when it has been met. Therefore, the best way to document this goal is through photographs. Taking a full-length photograph of yourself once a month in a minimum amount of clothing will reveal dramatic changes that you may not notice in the day-to-day.
If you focus on other running goals and allow the goal of good health to progress naturally, these photographs will help you to clearly witness your own advancement. You will feel better. You will look healthier. You will more confidently say, "I am a runner."
Have you set your goals in the new year?
The above goals and measurements are completely adjustable to your individual fitness and desires. Remember that becoming a better runner is like running itself: consistency will yield great results and patience will help you reach your goals.