Where do you start with putting together a plan for achieving your running goals? In this article we will explore 5 steps that can set you on the road to running success.
1. Set Running Goals
I often chat with athletes that want to start running or competing in races, but don’t know where to start. It all starts with understanding your running goals. You don’t drive around aimlessly when you go on vacation?! No, you decide where you want to go, and then you can figure out the details of how to get there.
For me training is the same. You need to start by setting the goals (your running goals), then you can work out a training program to help you achieve those goals. It is important to align goals with your training using a program. As we explored before in a previous post by James Murphy titled “Irony: Your Training May Not Be Helping You Reach Your Goals – Try Polarised Training” training has to be specific and not random to really benefit you. The two components to achieve this specific training are goals and a program.
So take some time to think about why you run and what you hope to get out of it and that will be a good indication of what your running goals are.
2. Evaluate Your Running Goals
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help shape your goal a little:
- Do I want to do any races?
- What races do I want to do?
- Is it a single big event, an event series or compete in a racing season with many different events?
- What is date of the event?
- What type of weather conditions can you expect in the event?
- Does it involve a lot of climbing / is it undulating / is it flat?
- What is the duration of the event (distance and anticipated finish time)?
- What do I want to achieve in the event / events? Do I want to win the event, win my age division or just complete the event?
- How much time do I have available from now to the event?
- What is my current fitness level?
- What is my current skill level?
- Do I have any injuries? Slight or worse?
- Do I need to qualify for my goal event?
Write the answers to these questions down and then test them against the voice of reason. I believe anything is possible, but some things might take a bit more planning and time to achieve than others.
So if you plan on doing an epic 100’miler at altitude on very technical terrain you might push it out for a season and first build up to the distance and gain the skill required. Don’t sell yourself short, you can achieve it, maybe just not immediately.
Work out a multi year strategy and you can still achieve your running goals. I guess what I am saying is, it is ok to have goals that might seem impossible as long as the plan to achieve them is realistic.
3. Tell Your Friends
I have found a very powerful tool for us to actually achieve our goals is to tell others about it. Just the action of speaking the goal out load seems to give you the confidence that you can do it and it also commits you to it. No one wants to tell everyone they are going to be doing an event and then later has to explain why they never did it.
This is a step that makes you quite vulnerable but trust me it works. I have in the past often committed myself to doing something and then later felt I had to push through because I had committed.
4. Surround Yourself With Like Minded People
Training on your own on cold rainy winters mornings is enough to make anyone hit the snooze button en drift back into lala land. But knowing you have a crew waiting for you that would not have a problem ringing the doorbell and waking the your entire family is enough motivation to get anyone out of bed!
Training and racing with others also knit you into a tight unit. It is funny how suffering together actually builds deeper friendships. So find a crew that shares your goals and can motivates you when you feel like giving up, pushes you when you want to slack off and holds you back when you want to do too much too soon too fast. O yes, and you do the same for them!
5. Get a Program
You need a roadmap. Let me say it again, you need a roadmap! Say it with me, I need a roadmap!
The purpose of a program is to ensure that you focus on the right things at the right time and remove the need for decision making from your training. Unless you a pro athlete (and even if you are), you probably have limited time. You need to get maximum returns for the effort that you put in.
Programs take things into account like periodisation, the different energy systems that you need to train, your current fitness levels etc. and mixed together with your running goals to provide you the most efficient roadmap to achieving your running goals.
All the training program should do is to provide structure and focus. It does not need to be complex but it also should not be generic (unless you have the same goals, skills, level of fitness, time available etc.).
If you want to download a generic program, that is fine, but at least be find one that is tailored to the event you are wanting to complete in or the distance you want to conquer.
If you however want to excel in the event a more tailored program will be required. You can draw up your own program if you understand the principles of endurance training (I will be taking you through this process in this series of articles). However if you do not understand these principles or really want to excel, enlist the help of a coach. The coach’s years of experience will save you a lot of time in drawing up an appropriate program.
Done correctly, a properly constructed program will help you achieve your running goals and keep you injury free.
I read a quote somewhere once that went a little something like this, “we are kept from our goal not by obstacles, but by a clear path to a lesser goal”. It is not secret knowledge that we as humans somehow always seem to choose the easier road. There will be times in your training when you will make up a million excuses why you can’t do it. Don’t give in, don’t give up! Keep that goal before you and persevere, the rewards will be sweet.
Now go and have a chat with yourself and figure out what your running goals are! In another articles we will look at how to construct your own program based on your running goals.