Setting the right goals is important for runners. Set goals that are too ambitious, and you risk burnout; set goals that are too easy, and you won't get better.
Many runners will have multiple goals related to training that they want to tackle each year. Maybe you’re looking to set a personal best, run your first marathon or finally commit to a regular meditation routine. In an effort to make these types of objectives more achievable, try a mindful approach to goal setting. For starters, this involves setting “True North Goals.”
You can think of your True North Goal as a foundation for your training, somewhat like setting intentions in yoga practice. This objective will diverge from more conventional, results-oriented goals. It will help you establish a process-oriented mindset going into your season, which emphasizes a greater purpose behind day-to-day training. Think of it like the North Star for your running practice.
Your True North Goal will be more meaningful than those related to pace, pounds or mileage. It will help light the way toward improved health and performance by emphasizing process over results. Faster times and a fitter physique just happen to be the byproducts of this approach to training.
To establish this foundational goal for training, spend a bit of time asking yourself the following questions:
Here are a few examples:
While your True North Goal will remain consistent throughout training, it is important to have a bit more flexibility when it comes to traditional goals. With that said, it doesn’t diminish the importance of those objectives, too. Once you’ve set your foundation, it’s time to turn your attention to the more results-oriented goals for the season. I guide athletes to choose S.M.A.R.T. goals, a concept taken from the world of business, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Bound.
In reflecting on how your ambitions might fit into this framework, consider setting multiple goals in order of importance. Maybe your “A” goal is to run a sub-3:30 marathon, and your “B” goal is to finish under 3:45. You’d be happy with both, but you’d prefer to strive for Plan A if training goes according to plan. This offers some flexibility in case you are sidelined by an injury or some other unforeseeable circumstance. It also can help you from getting too fixated on a single number.
Additionally, you can set process goals for training within the S.M.A.R.T. framework. For instance, perhaps you want to work to run six days a week or begin implementing more speed work. Just as you would with race goals, be sure to not only set the goal, but also think about the steps necessary to achieve it.
Establishing a greater purpose behind your running, along with concrete goals for racing and training, sets you up for greater motivation and success in the upcoming season.