How to set and reach your running goals

Posted on May 10, 2023, by

By Patti Lynn, Health and Fitness Coordinator at the Appleton YMCA

Goals provide us with focus and direction and act as a benchmark for success. Whether the Fox Cities Marathon event is competitive for you or a “just for fun” event, we can all benefit from setting goals. Goal setting is not just saying, “I want to finish the race,” you need to make a plan to be successful!

Here are some tips to help you set effective goals:

1. Set a goal that motivates you.

Ask yourself, why do I want to run the Fox Cities Marathon?  Do I want to beat my last marathon time?  Do I want to participate with my team?  Finish my first marathon?  Overcome a hardship or health challenge?  Decide “why” you want to do the marathon, write it down, keep it real, and visualize it before your training sessions. If you don’t know the “why” you can’t see the finish line.

2. Set SMART Goals.

You’ve probably heard this term before, SMART; Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Bound.  Let’s look further into what those mean.

  • Specific; what exactly do you want to accomplish? Write down the distance you plan to complete. Use action words like, achieve, complete, or earn. For example, “I will complete the Fox Cities Half Marathon.”
  • Measurable; how will you know if you are making progress? How will you know you’ve reached your goal? Goals can be short or long term and often your short-term goals help you accomplish your longer-term goal. An example of a short-term goal is, “I will follow a 4 month half-marathon training program including 4 days of running and 1 day of cross-training.” An example of a long-term goal would be, “I will finish the half-marathon in under 2 hours.”
  • Attainable; is your goal realistic with effort and commitment? Do you have the resources to achieve this goal? If not, how will you get them? Use your current running status and past progress as a guide. Set your goal to be challenging enough that you must work for it, but not so high it feels unachievable. For instance, “If I follow my training plan and find an accountability buddy I will be ready for the Half-Marathon.”
  • Relevant; why is this goal significant to your life? To say, “I’m setting this goal to challenge myself and to say that I did it” would be one example.
  • Time-Bound; whether it is a short- or long-term goal, when will you achieve this goal? Is it race day or maybe a goal leading up to the big day?  As an example, “I will be complete my half marathon the day of the race.”

3. Take action.

Write out any potential obstacles and their solutions. Who are the people you will ask to help you? Determine the daily, weekly or monthly action steps you will need to do to achieve your goal.

 4. Track it.

Post your goal(s) around your house and track progress towards those big and small goals. Posting something you will see every day will help keep you focused on progress.

 5. Think outside the race itself.

For this race, your goals could be to improve your overall fitness or nutrition. If you are an avid runner your goals could be related to becoming a smarter runner, or even focus on your impact on a running community or your community as a whole.

 6.  Additional tips.

Tell others about your goal and find cheerleaders in your life. A training partner or accountability buddy are great options.

7. Reward yourself.

Once you’ve achieved your goal, think about how you will reward yourself. It could be as easy as showing off your new medal on social media or buying new running gear. Often we can be too hard on ourselves even if we do complete our goal, take time to think about what you’ve achieved and celebrate!

With these goal-setting tips, I know you’ll be able to write up an effective plan that will help you accomplish your training and overall goals. Consider reaching out the YMCA of the Fox Cities to meet with a Personal Trainer to help you set and work towards achieving those goals.

Patti Lynn is the Health and Fitness Coordinator at the Appleton YMCA and has been with the Y for 9 years. Patti has her bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh with a minor in Health and Fitness. She is a certified Personal Trainer and Group Exercise Instructor through the National Exercise Trainers Association (NETA). Patti loves encouraging participants to try new things and giving them the tools to be successful on their own. If you would like to talk to Patti, you can contact her at [email protected].

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