Life by Daily Burn

Bored of Running? 2 Goals Every Runner Needs

Photo: Pond5

Jason Fitzgerald is a USATF certified coach, 2:39 marathoner, and Head Coach of Strength Running.

Most runners are familiar with goals, like “Run my first marathon” or “Get past this pesky injury.” But after working with thousands of runners, it’s clear to me that most runners don’t set both types of goals that are critical for success: short- and long-term goals.

No matter what you hope to accomplish with your running, goal setting is the most efficient way to achieve what you want. “Break that long-term goal down into smaller, short-term goals that help get you there,” Doug Hay, an ultramarathoner and founder of Rock Creek Runner, says. “All the while, your big goal lingers in the back of your mind, motivating you to keep pushing forward.”

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Whether you’re a complete beginner or a seasoned competitor, setting goals is a fantastic way to ensure that your runs feel productive and successful. But choosing the right target is key. Ultimately, goals are only worthwhile if they help you get where you want to go, and allow you to enjoy the process. Not every moment of training will be full of sunshine and rainbows, but any objective you set should move you forward.

Photo: Pond5

Short-Term Goals for Big Gains

“Think big! Set a goal that makes your heart skip a beat and ties your stomach up in knots.”

Small changes, done regularly, can add up to serious gains down the line. These can include any number of things, from adding new challenges to your routine to changing up where you run to improving your diet. Keep the goals manageable so that you can see results as soon as possible. These small improvements will help amplify your fitness, speed recovery and prevent injury — without a huge investment of time and energy. In other words, the little things add up. “Short-term goals give you something tangible and approachable to tackle right away,” Hay says. “They give your training a focus for the short-term that will have a lasting effect on the long-term.”

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Try working these small challenges into your runs to improve your long-term success:

If you start to feel a little stale and you’re less excited to get out the door, you can also aim to add more training variety to your routine. If you’re a treadmill runner, aim to get outside for at least one of your weekly runs or explore some local trails. Switch up the time of day you run, or find a running buddy to join you if you usually head out solo. “You can [also] take action immediately by improving on consistency, incorporating a weekly long run, or adding in an extra run each week,” Hay says.

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Try incorporating non-running exercises into your usual workout, too. Adding a dynamic warm-up routine (like this one) can help increase your running efficiency. These are all excellent short-term goals — but don’t overdo it. Introduce one small change at a time and implement it regularly before adding something new.

Make Long-Term Goals Doable

This is your opportunity to be both a dreamer and a realist all at once. Think big! Set a goal that makes your heart skip a beat and ties your stomach up in knots. Maybe you want to finish a marathon or try an ultra or qualify for Boston. “Long-term goals provide the motivation and a purpose for your day-to-day training,” Hay says. “A long-term goal should be something that excites you, and inspires you to lace up the shoes even when it doesn’t sound appealing.”

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Just remember that you need to be realistic in the time frame you set for your goal. If you just completed your first 5K and now you’re ready to sign up for a marathon, that’s fantastic. But don’t try to run 26.2 miles two months from now. Give yourself ample time to train properly so that your dream has the opportunity to become a reality. If you just finished your first 5K, you can either focus on running a faster 5K or increasing the distance you’re racing to 10k. Both of these goals can be accomplished within a relatively short one to three months.

Here are a few inspiring long-term goals that new runners should consider:

Properly structured workouts and appropriate increases in mileage will help you mount a successful attack on your dream race, and a qualified running coach can also be an invaluable contributor to your success. Have fun with it, be a little creative, and set lofty goals. Then get out there and enjoy the process of improving your running one day at a time.