I’m not a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions.
It’s not that I’m against them or anything. I just think they can be a little pie-in-the-sky sometimes. In many cases, people come up with New Year’s Resolutions, with every intent to resolve to do that thing they said they’d do or make that change they said they’d make…only to lose steam by March or April.
For as long as I can remember, my husband and I have been sitting down at the end of each year and, instead of talking about our New Year’s Resolutions, planning out our goals for the upcoming year.
Goals vs. Resolutions
But what’s the difference between a resolution and a goal? Aren’t they really just the same thing?
Well, sort of. But not really.
Well-written goals provide a framework for successfully achieving a planned outcome. Resolutions are often vague statements of intention about some change a person wants to make in his or her life.
And resolutions are usually saved for the new year, whereas goals can be made anytime.
However, seeing as we’re embarking upon another January 1st, now is as good a time as any to consider our goals for the new year.
Maybe you’ve already done or started this process. But have you thought about adding running goals into the mix? Whether you want to get started running for the first time, or you’re ready to get more serious about a particular running goal, this post is for you.
“The only goals you don’t achieve in life are the goals you don’t set.”Matt Fox
Now I know there are going to be things outside of your control that may keep you from achieving a goal. But there’s still merit to this quote. So keep it in mind as you think about where you’d like to take your running in the new year.
Here are some generic goals that beginning runners may set:
- Run without stopping
- Run a certain distance
- Improve previous race time (set a PR)
- Make running a habit
- Enter my first race
- Lose weight
- Run injury-free
- Become a morning runner
All noble goals, right? But each one is missing some key components that would make you more likely to achieve it.
As you begin to jot down your running goals for the year, use the acronym SMART to aid you in creating clearly-defined, realistic objectives.
SMART simply stands for:
- S – Specific
- M – Measurable
- A – Attainable
- R – Relevant (or Realistic)
- T – Time-bound
In the rest of this post, I’m going to unpack the SMART parameters a little more and show you how they can be used to help you set your running goals. If that sounds like something you’d want to read more about, then I hope you’ll stick around ’til the end because I’ve got a FREE Goal Setting Worksheet for you to download!
Set running goals that are specific.
In order for your running goal to be effective, it needs to be specific. Specific goals answer “what, when, where, and why” questions.
- What exactly do I want to accomplish?
- When do I want to accomplish this goal? *More on setting time-bound goals in a bit. For now, we’ll keep it general.
- Where will I accomplish this goal?
- Why do I want to accomplish this goal?
As an example, here’s how we could take one of the generic goals from the list above and make it specific:
As you’re setting a specific goal, you may also want to consider what steps you’ll need to take to achieve this goal.
Using our example above, think about how many miles you’ll need to run each week to be prepared for your 5K. What fitness level are you starting at? Will you follow a training plan? Which one? Select the 5K and 10K races and actually sign up for them.
Make your running goals measurable.
One of the great things about fitness goals is that they’re easy to turn into measurable goals. When it comes to running, distance and time goals are easy to quantify and assess.
You say, “I want to start running more.” But how do you measure that? “More” is such a indeterminate term. What exactly is more anyway?!
Instead, your measurable goal might sound something like:
Quantifying your goals like this makes it easier to determine if your progress is on track.
Set running goals that are attainable.
This is where it’s time for a reality check. Is your running goal attainable? Your goal should inspire motivation, not discouragement. Take some time to reflect on whether or not you currently have the skills and abilities to achieve the running goal you want to set for yourself.
I went through this when I wanted to train for my first Ultra. When the goal entered my mind, I had nowhere near the base running mileage it would take to even begin to prepare to run such a long distance. In order for my goal to be attainable, I had to come up with a plan to build my base slowly over time – just to get myself to the point of being able to start a 50K training plan.
If you’re brand new to running and you want to run your first marathon in 2 months, you probably need to tweak your goal a bit. It’s highly unlikely that you’d make it to the starting line uninjured if you went from running zero miles per week to running around 20 miles in one single long run over a period of only 8 weeks!
A more attainable (and sustainable) goal for a brand-new runner could sound like this:
Create relevant running goals.
What’s the point of setting goals if they aren’t important to you? When you write your running goal or goals for the year, think about why you want to achieve those goals. How is each goal meaningful to you? How are they in alignment with your values and your life?
Similar to specific goals, relevant goals answer the “why” behind the goal.
Are you setting a running goal because you want to improve your physical health so you have more energy to serve your family? Or maybe you’re hoping to lose weight by running? Perhaps you enjoy racing and you want to improve on your past times.
Your “why” could include any combination of reasons. But to increase your chances of achieving your goals, think about what it is that makes each particular goal worthwhile to you.
Here’s an example of how a relevant goal might sound:
Give your running goals a deadline (make them time-bound).
Without a target date, your goals are really just sitting out there in Never-Never Land with no end in sight. You’re far more likely to accomplish a goal that has a deadline on it.
Which of these do you think you’re more likely to achieve?
“I want to run 6 miles.”
“I want to run 6 miles by April 1st.”
The first one doesn’t sound too bad. I mean, at least it’s somewhat specific. But it has no urgency. It lacks the motivational punch that adding the date packs in the second example.
Time-bound goals give you a deadline to work towards, which helps to keep you focused. When you have a target date, you can create a time-based plan to fulfill your goal.
“If a goal is worth having, it’s worth blocking out the time in your day-to-day life necessary to achieve it.”Jill Koenig
How true is this statement from goal-setting guru Jill Koenig?! And when you have time-bound goals, you can be more intentional about blocking out the necessary time on your daily schedule to accomplish those goals.
We’ve already touched on how a time-bound goal would sound above 👆🏻, but here’s another idea:
By adding in the target time “by the end of February,” this goal can be assessed for completion.
So now you know all you need to know about creating SMART running goals. No more vague, open-ended wishful intention statements, okay?
Grab a pen and paper and get those Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound goals written down! Want an easy worksheet to help guide you through it? Download it here 👇🏻
Are you ready to create SMART running goals for 2022?
Download your FREE Goal Setting Worksheet for Runners and get started today!
And CHEERS to a Happy New Year! 🎉
Disclaimer: You should understand that when participating in any exercise or exercise program, there is the possibility of physical injury. If you engage in exercise or training I recommend, you agree that you do so at your own risk, are voluntarily participating in these activities, assume all risk of injury to yourself, and agree to release and discharge Running With Roots from any and all claims or causes of action, known or unknown, arising out of Running With Roots. Please speak with a medical professional before making any changes to your diet or exercise. I am not a doctor or registered dietitian. The views expressed are based on my own experiences, and should not be taken as medical, nutrition or training advice.