The importance of goals and the importance of realism.

I mentioned before that I was going to start running a few pieces for beginners. Well, a few people liked the idea so here is the first of (hopefully) many of these.

One thing Ive discovered with running is that you have to have a goal. You need something to aim towards.
At first I thought this was perhaps just me. Well, obviously not JUST me. I realise that many people are “goal oriented” etc. I however am not really one of those goal focussed kind of people generally speaking. With running/ training though, I am. There are a number of reasons for this. First and foremost, I need something to kick my ass and get me off the couch when Im tired/ its cold/ its raining/ its snowing/ its midnight/ I don’t want to or all of the above reasons try to hold me back. I need a reason to do it. Something that says I have to do it, something that can stand above the snow, the exhaustion, the fact that Ive been on a 12 hour flight and my body clock thinks its 2am. I need something to drive me.
The more I look at it the more I think this applies to everyone. We all need training goals.
At the start it may be for you as it was for me.. The desire to be able to run 3 minutes without stopping.

My next goal was to run a 10k.
My next was to run a 10k without injuring myself.
After that a lot of my goals were about not injuring myself.
But I’ve kept resetting my goals.

Once you achieve you goal. You need the next one. In fact, for me, I need the next number of goals planned out well in advance.

I think this is advantageous for a number of reasons. The most important three being MOMENTUM, FOCUS and PERSPECTIVE.

Momentum is really important. There is nothing worse than having a goal, achieving it then thinking.. “now what?”.

The second key is focus. Knowing what your next goal is keeps your focussed. This is obviously directly connected to momentum.. right? So, for me my goal was a 10k. But while training for a 10k, I already knew that I wanted to do a half marathon. I hadn’t picked one at this stage, and injuries held it all back for a while… but I knew I wanted to do it, and it allowed me to focus on sorting out my injury problems.

Finally, and most importantly to me, is perspective. It’s important to have perspective. It’s also important to aim high. I’m not going to talk endlessly about this, I’m just going to explain how this works for me.

When I was training for my first 10k, I knew I was going to be doing a half marathon. This made the 10k seem not that bad. It was only 6.2 miles. I was aiming to do 13.1. IT reduced the size of the initial goal. It put it into perspective.

I’ve now done two 10ks and two half marathons this season. When I started training for the half marathon, this was also easily put into perspective.
I’m doing a marathon.
I’m doing it THIS YEAR.
That’s 26.2 miles. Thus, 13.1 doesn’t seem that bad.

Again, even the marathon.. I haven’t even started my marathon training plan yet… but… my GOAL is to do an Ironman triathlon next year. So all of a sudden the marathon doesn’t seem so insurmountable. It doesn’t seem like such a huge thing. Its just one in a series of goals. Each goal is a small step… but it’s also a giant leap forward for someone who couldn’t run the length of himself a year ago.

Finally, as I mentioned in the title. The importance of realism. I have lots of goals now. This season, another 10k or two. Two sprint triathlons, one Olympic length triathlon and a marathon.
I want to get my half marathon time under 1 hour 40. I want to get my 10k time under 40 mins.
The point where realism comes into it is to remember that if you’re setting yourself high goals, don’t set yourself up for a fall.
If I cant do the Olympic length triathlon this year, that’s fine. I will do it next year.
If I don’t think I will be able to do an Ironman in 2010? No bother, I will do it in 2011.
It’s important to be thankful for what you’ve got. To always look back as well as forward.
If I hadn’t got a PR in my half marathon last week would I have been pissed off?
Hell no! I couldn’t run a year ago and I completed my second half marathon.
So… For the more experienced folks who may have stuck with this for this long… If you’re about to kick yourself for not qualifying for Boston this year… before you do, how about allowing yourself to be amazed that you ran a marathon in 3 hours 30 mins? (or whatever your time was).

Aim high, but don’t beat yourself up for failure. Celebrate your successes, don’t even think of anything as a failure. Look at the part of it that was a success and celebrate that.

Hope this has been useful. If there are any specific topics you would like to hear me ramble endlessly on about, please feel free to leave a comment.

5 thoughts on The importance of goals and the importance of realism.

  1. I completely agree with your thoughts here, both on having goals and having realistic goals. I'm starting down a slightly different path from the direction you took, (completely triathlon based), but I'm doing the same sort of step based goals. Though, I might actually be changing goals upwards for this year, my current training regimen has me thinking I might be able to do an Olympic Triathlon this year rather than just a Sprint!

  2. Goals are the hardest thing for me – I know I need them but setting realistic ones that still motivate me has been a struggle since the beginning. I think I've figured it out and am finally making some progress consistently but it took about 5 years to find out what makes it work for me! You're right, it's all about perspective & realism, aiming high but not so high you feel like a complete failure if you don't make it (and in my case, would completely ruin my motivation for running).

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