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Goal Setting- Beyond the Basics

This article is written to present to runners, but it applies to all fitness goals- indeed to all goals entirely!

Achieving goals involves both physiology and psychology. Your physiology determines how your body responds to the demands of training. This places limits on how quickly you can improve in a given period of time. This is your genetic potential. While your physiology sets the limits to your performance, your psychological approach largely determines how close you come to reaching those limits. As always, the body and mind are inextricably linked. Goal setting helps you channel your mental and physical energy towards a purpose and sport psychologists have conducted dozens of studies showing that goal setting leads to improvements in athletic performance.
The fitter you already are, the less you will improve.  
The unfortunate fact is that the longer and harder you have been training, the closer you are to your genetic potential. The closer you are to your genetic potential, the smaller the improvements you can make. If you have been training diligently for years and have run a 33 minute 10 K, then a challenging yet realistic goal be to break 32:30. Improvements will be hard won and measured in seconds rather than minutes. An individual who has only been running for a few months, however, can expect to improve in larger chunks. In the first year of running, it is not unusual to improve performances by 10% or more.

Do not expect quick results.   
Performance improvements take time. When you increase the volume or intensity of your training, at first you just get tired. Training provides the stimulus for the body to improve, but improvements take time. Additional fatigue occurs before the positive adaptations to training, and at first your running performances may actually get worse. The third week of increased training is typically the worst. Allow a minimum of 5 weeks after modifying your training before you expect to see a small improvement in performance. If you are training for a 10 K, give yourself a minimum of 10 weeks to prepare. For a marathon, allow a minimum of 15 weeks to prepare.
State your goal in terms of performance rather than outcome. 
Examples of performance goals are to run at least 5 days per week until a certain race,” or “to run a certain race at a specific time. An outcome goal is “to win my age group in the half marathon.” With a performance goal, you can develop a plan to reach that goal. Most of the necessary ingredients to achieve your goal (e.g. dedication to training, eating correctly) are within your control, which improves your self-confidence. With an outcome goal, however, major aspects of reaching your goal are out of your control. In the example of winning your age group, there are other runners trying to win your age group too, and you cannot influence their performance. Outcome goals, therefore, can lead to anxiety and frustration.
Dealing with Route Boredom:
A professional training schedule will include certain distances on certain days of the week. Running the same 5K route every week can become boring and can impede our motivation. The flip side of this is that running the same route can help us gauge our progress in that we can see speed and endurance changes, but over the long haul (and once you’ve conditioned to a plateau) it will get boring! Keep your training schedule interesting!

With gmap, you can plot multiple routes of various distances to spice up your running routines. For longer runs, use creative combinations of shorter routes.
Also, as a safety issue (especially for women) it is wise to not run the exact same route on any regular basis, to avoid being targeted. Mix it up and keep predators at bay!

Flexibilty in your Goals!
 Addressing goal setting early and ongoing is pretty important. Goals can be constantly changing for many reasons- jobs, injuries and family to name a few, and by being flexible in goals and expectations you will ALWAYS be rewarded with personal success and appreciate the sport of running better.

The best laid plans can change in a second at the universe's whim so all we can do is react and adapt. For example, if you end up having to travel a lot so you are not getting as many runs in then change your goal from a PB to a run and enjoy the race, or pick another race a couple of weeks or months later and adjust your schedule.

This can be scaled up or down to suit a goal race or a particular run! If your schedule is to run 15K on a particular day but you only have 30 minutes, just size it down and do a quick 5K. Remember that the MOST important thing is that you are out there running at all!

Stay Motivated!
If you allow yourself to be discouraged by goal setbacks you will not succeed as a runner. It’s par for the course and an integral part of the running discipline is the adaptability of your goals to keep yourself motivated and on track!


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