Setting proper goals for yourself to achieve is crucial in developing as a runner. Nobody likes reaching a certain level of performance and then staying on that level for months, years, on end. It feels like you’re in a rut and you’re not getting anywhere with your running. I’ve been there, and I know lots of runners who have been there too. It’s not fun and you feel massively demotivated.
Instead, setting some SMART goals helps you to identify what is important and allows you to develop your running self into the best it can be. This article is all about understanding what SMART goals are, their importance and how to set them properly.
The danger of setting vague running targets
When runners want to up their game, unfortunately, many go about it in a vague and ill-planned manner. Simply thinking ‘I’m going to run more to become a better runner’ is what a lot of runners think (myself included in the past) to achieve greater performance.
Vague and non-specific targets like ‘running more’ do not often lead to progress being made because they are not ‘SMART’. Goals need to be broken down into five components before they can be used for improving runner performance.
What is a SMART goal?
SMART is an acronym, giving criteria to guide you in the setting of an objective. Broken down, a SMART goal is on that is:
Why are SMART goals so important for runners?
SMART goals are crucial for reaching the next level of your game. They are pin-point and precise way of setting your sights on a running feat which will motivate you to achieve it.
Because SMART goals are specific, you know exactly what it is you want to achieve. Maybe running a sub-20-minute 5K, not ‘running a faster 5K’. There is no room for interpretation as to what your goal might mean. It is precise, accurate and specific.
Runners love to measure their progress with timings which goes hand in hand with SMART targets. A target of running a 5K below 20 minutes is measurable as you can check your timing to gauge if you were successful after the race. Another example could be to run for thirty minutes at a pace below 7:45 per mile. SMART running targets incorporate a factor that can be measured, like your time for a race or your pace per mile.
If you set a running goal for yourself which is overly ambitious, it simply won’t be achievable, and you will fail. You’ll feel discouraged and tempted to give up running altogether. Not what we want. Instead, make your goals achievable and within your means. If your half marathon personal best is 1:50, don’t set a target of running a sub 1:28 half marathon. This is a drastic jump from your previous best and you will not be able to achieve it. Instead, a goal like a sub 1:45 half marathon is more achievable. Make your targets achievable so you stand a chance at accomplishing them and staying motivated.
It goes without saying, all of your goals should be relevant to your situation. Ask yourself, ‘why have I chosen this goal? Why do I want to achieve it?’. Your goal might be to run four times a week for three miles at a time to help you lose weight, a stone maybe. Everybody is in a different situation and reasons for setting certain running goals vary from person to person. Someone who is overweight will set a goal related to them getting slimmer, a competing athlete will have goals relating to improving speed and performance whereas a casual runner will want to run for fitness reasons. Whatever your SMART goal is, make sure it is relevant to you.
SMART goals are important for runners as they feature a time frame element. Having a time frame means you know exactly when you want to achieve your goal by. With a set time frame in mind, you can commit to the accomplishment of the goal properly rather than going about it in a fashion. An example would be wanting to run a sub-20-minute 5K in four weeks’ time. The month span gives a suitable time frame to work within and the goal has a deadline for when it must be accomplished.
How can I set my own SMART goals?
Now you know what a SMART goal is, it’s time to set some of your own. I would recommend having 2-3 SMART goals active at any one time. Enough to keep yourself challenged and working towards something but not too many you feel overwhelmed.
Good practice is to get a notepad or some paper and to write your goals down. Think about exactly what it is you want to achieve, why you want to achieve it, then write it down at the top of the page. Make sure the goal has all of the SMART elements in it.
One of my SMART goals as an example
‘Run a half-marathon in under 1 hour 35 minutes by the 5th July 2019’.
This is a SMART goal. It is specific, and you can easily identify exactly what it is I am trying to achieve. The goal features a measurable factor of race timings (before 1 hour 35 minutes) and it is achievable because I know I can run a half marathon comfortably in about 1 hour 40 minutes. It’s relevant to me because I want to keep upping my half-marathon race times (my first one was 1 hour 53 minutes and I want to keep getting faster). Finally, the target has a time frame to be completed by 5th July 2019. It’s a SMART target.
I would advise you to spend 10 minutes of brainstorming 2-3 targets for yourself to achieve over the coming months. It’s always good to up your running game and keep improving. Nobody wants to stay at the same level.
I hope you enjoy setting your own SMART targets and best of luck in achieving them. You’ll definitely have fun along the way!
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