If your goal for the new year is to take up running, setting realistic goals is a major key to your success.
Setting goals can help you break everything down into manageable steps, which can keep you from feeling overwhelmed by what seems like an unachievable goal.
Before setting your goals, ask yourself why are you setting these goals? What pace do you want to keep? How often do you want to run and how far?
If you’re new to running, set achievable goals. Every runner laces up for their own reasons. Consider using the SMART method, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound. Since the early 1980s, this easy-to-remember mnemonic has helped countless people meet their goals.
Some possible goals could be running a specific distance or achieving a specific time. Perhaps you want to enter a race or reach a health goal like losing weight or lowering blood pressure. Some people run to make friends or even battle mental health and stress issues.
Start with a 30-minute walk/run. Alternate between jogging for 30 seconds and walking for a minute and a half. Develop running gradually, increasing your running time and decreasing your walking.
Be realistic and choose something you can achieve. The Boston Marathon is not something you choose to train for when first starting out. It’s not impossible, but it requires a lot of sacrifice and work.
Better yet start out with a 5K or 10K, then on to a half Ironman and more. Research at Stanford University found that focusing on small sub-goals early as part of a larger accomplishment enhances your motivation.
Now look at your lifestyle and training level and build your plan around it. And once you’ve built that plan, be accountable. Find the best time to train and make it a habit — early mornings work well for most, getting it done before the day’s responsibilities and interruptions. Find what works for you.
Remember to stay mindful of best practices to prevent accidents or injuries. Stretch, wear the right shoes, hydrate and rest. If you’re running solo, tell someone when and where you’re running.
Stick to a time-bound schedule for running goals to ensure you’ll meet them sooner rather than later. Without a time-bound schedule, it’s easier to lose your motivation.
And without tracking your progress, it’s hard to know how close you’re getting to your goals. Perceived progress is not always a good indicator.
Fortunately, you can monitor your runs in terms of distance, speed, heart rate, calories burned and more. Start with an old-school pedometer or download an app that meets your needs and monitors more. Tracking your progress provides encouragement and keeps you running.
Finally, don’t deprive yourself of the rewards you deserve. This is not easy: be proud of each achievement. Celebrate each milestone. (Don’t sabotage your goals with it, though.) Rewarding yourself is a proven way to amplify your feelings of accomplishment and motivation.
Now lace up and get running.