By the end of a long training season, I always find myself looking forward to a break from structured running. Such was the case after completing the New York City Marathon this past November. As it got closer and closer to race day, my body and mind felt tired, and I began to find myself looking forward to shorter workouts and more laid back exercise.
After completing the marathon, I did just that. My workouts got shorter, and I spent more time indoors than outside on the trails. The timing worked out perfectly, as the hours of daylight began to lessen and cold weather approached once the race was over. After spending almost two months working out indoors for the majority of the week, I am definitely feeling anxious to get back outside.
My mind and body are beginning to feel antsy during the week.
Running a few miles just a couple times a week is no longer sufficient to calm my nerves, and I am greatly looking forward to increasing my mileage. The timing could not be any more perfect – as my training plan for a 25k (the Fifth Third Riverbank Run) begins on Monday!
Prior to beginning a training plan, one of my favorite things to do is sit down to do some goal setting for the upcoming season. As a new training season approaches, my excitement builds and my mind begins dreaming of all the things I could accomplish. I always find that when I don’t write these dreams down, I never end up accomplishing them. Dreaming up grand accomplishments in my mind is always exciting, but it’s taking the time to write them down and incorporate them into my training plan that really makes them happen.
A few years ago, my goal setting was always a jumbled mess.
I either set one ridiculous goal for myself that I was rarely able to actually accomplish, or had a rolling list of goals that were not related and completely random. Both methods set me up for failure. Of course there were a few times that I actually accomplished some of them, but it was usually just because the stars aligned with perfect conditions during training and on race day.
The past few training seasons though, I have redesigned the way I set goals and found much greater success in this method. This method helps me push myself past my limits, always aiming for the absolute best, but still feeling successful when I don’t quite make it.
There was one thing I changed in my goal setting that made all the difference: setting 3 goals.
I label these goals as my A goal, B goal, and C goal.
My A goal is always my shoot for the stars, best day ever goal. This is something I’ve always wanted to accomplish and seems a little out of reach, but just might be possible with a little hard work. My B goal is a little more attainable, something I really want to accomplish, and if all goes right will be very realistic to complete. My C goal is the goal that I set knowing that there’s a 95% chance it will be completed. This is my back up goal, so if something goes wrong during training or the conditions on race day are purely awful, I will still be able to check this one off my list.
Using this structure for goal setting has completely changed my mental game.
Creating a C goal helps me feel accomplished on race day no matter what may come my way. I know that I will (usually) walk away from a race feeling that I achieved something, rather than feeling deflated and bummed because I didn’t reach the goal I’d been aiming for all year.
My B goal is usually the one I hope to accomplish the most. The A goal would definitely be the best case scenario, but my B goal is usually the one that lets me feel proud of the race. In the best case scenario, I’d accomplish all of my goals in one race. Whenever this happens it is a feeling like no other.
For example, one of my goals this year is to run a half marathon in under 2:00. My half marathon PR is 2:07, so that would mean that I need to increase my pace by about 30 seconds per mile, which is a huge deal for someone like me whose body has run the same pace on autopilot for years. This is a goal that I want to achieve at some point (hopefully this year!) and will definitely be a stretch for me. After signing up for a half marathon this year, my goals will look something like this:
A Goal: Complete the half marathon in under 2:00 hours.
B Goal: Complete the half marathon with a PR (less than 2:07).
C Goal: Complete the half marathon in at least 2:30 (my slowest race time).
This allows me tons of room for improvement, but also leaves me a realistic goal to aim for if training doesn’t go as planned or race day is awful!
I love analyzing numbers and data in general, but sometimes it can be a little discouraging looking back through races that didn’t go as planned. Implementing this method of goal setting has really helped me feel a sense of accomplishment after each event and helped me push myself to achieve those big dreams!