Running a marathon is an excellent, yet lofty goal, one that takes hard work and advanced planning. The months of required training can be daunting, so it’s important to set smaller, weekly goals to help stay motivated throughout the training process.
Setting running goals can be accomplished with the help of using SMART goals. The concept of SMART goals is often applied in professional settings, but the same ideas can be helpful in running. The idea is to increase your chances of success by setting regular goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. For example, a SMART goal for your marathon might be, “I plan to run the ASICS LA Marathon on February 14 in four hours and thirty minutes.”
Let’s say you want to improve your marathon time by incorporating speed work into your training. Instead of simply saying, “I plan to do a speed workout this week,” make the goal more specific. For instance, you could say, “on Wednesday, I will complete six miles worth of mile repeats at my 10k race pace.”
Making your goals specific means you’ll know exactly what to do, how and when. You’ll be more likely to get a meaningful workout if you plan the details ahead of time.
It’s important to know if you completed a goal or not, that means the goal has to be measurable. For instance, if you are running intervals, go to a track or marked path so you know exactly how far you've ran. You can also wear a GPS watch to help track distance. In fact, a quality watch is a great investment to ensure you always know how far you've ran and at what pace, during training.
It can be very discouraging to when you fail to meet a desired goal. Not everyone will run a sub-four-hour marathon their first time out or get up at 6 a.m. every day to do their training runs. Make sure your running goals, large and small, are realistic for you. That doesn't mean you shouldn't shoot for a PR or add new workouts to your training. It simply means to be mindful when setting goals. If you've never run ran in the morning, don’t set out to do four 6 a.m. training runs in one week. It’s important to remember when setting running goals, especially for beginners, to make challenging, yet achievable goals so you can feel a sense of accomplishment when you meet them.
Just as your goals should be attainable for you, they should also be relevant to you. In With running, this idea can be applied in a few different ways. For example, just because a particular training plan is popular, that doesn't mean it is right for you. And just because a friend is training for a certain amount of time, doesn't mean you have to attempt the same. You will be much more motivated to complete the goals you set if they are meaningful to you personally.
Make your goals timely by including a deadline. It’s okay to say, “I want to get a 20-miler in at some point,” but it is more effective to say, “I plan to run 20 miles next Sunday.” If your goal has no timeframe, you’ll be more likely to put it off and risk not completing it at all.
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