January 4, 2008

Goal Setting

After spending a great deal of time the last couple of weeks helping my clients with their goals for the upcoming year, I realized: Many folks have a general idea of what they want to accomplish when it comes to setting goals, but they don't go far enough with the planning to actually improve their chances of achieving them.

Most of my clients are familiar with the SMART acronym:

S = Specific. Make your long and short term goals as specific as possible.
M = Measureable. Each goal must have a measureable way of tracking success.
A = Action oriented. What action will you take to achieve your goal?
R = Realistic.
T = Time. Give each goal an appropriate time frame.

This is a great start and they do pretty well up to this point, but it doesn't map out the specific details of how to actually accomplish the task. For example, one plans to run Boston Marathon this year in a sub 3 hour time, and they qualified for Boston by running Twin Cities in 3:02. It's specific, measureable, realistic, and they know the time frame that they have to get ready for the Boston Marathon. The action they plan to take to achieve this goal is to do lots of running. Unfortunately, this is where most people stop when it comes to planning their goals.

Here are a few tips to improve your success rate:

*Know exactly what it is that you are trying to accomplish.

*Know exactly where you are starting from. This comes in the form of some type of assessment that allows you to measure your current strengths and weaknesses.

*Once you know where you are starting from and where you want to go, you'll be able to plan specific steps to get from "point A" to "point B".

*Break larger goals down into smaller and smaller goals, until it becomes a daily "to do" list. Have a specific reason for doing each and every thing on your daily training list. Why are you running this distance at this intensity on this day? This is a biggie!

*Focus on the positive (what you should do rather than shouldn't do).

*Be precise: put in dates, times, distances, goal pace, etc.

*Set priorities: some races will be more important than others, some may serve as supported training runs. Some things in life will be more important than running races.

*Set performance rather than outcome goals. Focus on things that you can control (your performance), and don't worry about things you cannot control (what the other runners are doing).

*Do not set your goals too low, which is just as important as not setting your goals too high. Make your goals challenging, but achievable.

*Be flexible. Have a "Plan B" in your daily training. You may need to adjust your training schedule based on weather, illness, injury, job/family time demands, etc.

*Learn from your experiences, including when you fail to meet a goal. What do you need to improve upon so that you can move closer to meeting this goal next time? Was the goal realistic to begin with? Was the goal irrelevant and you weren't really motivated to pursue it?

*Keep in mind that goals will change over time. If a goal no longer holds an attraction to you, let it go and focus your energy on something that is important to you.

I am in the process of beginning my goal setting for 2008. Currently, my key races are the Superior 25K in May and the Moose Mountain Marathon in September. I plan on running as many of the MN Trail Series races as possible, but the schedule has not been finalized yet. I sent off my registration for the Trail Mix 25K, which will most likely be my first race this year (unless there's an early MN Trail Series race that I don't know about). I've got my daily training plan scheduled out to 5/18/2008, which includes strength training and running based on my current strengths and weaknesses. I have a specific reason for each workout and exercise that I do, whether it's a strength training exercise, running a certain distance, pace, terrain, target heart rate, etc. My daily plans will most likely change somewhat, depending on what my results are as my training progresses. Since I'm new to trail running, I don't really have enough experience to know what realistic times will be for each distance (trails are harder for me to predict than road races since each trail is so different). Based on my Afton result last summer, I hope to beat 3 hours at Trail Mix.

Well, it's a start...

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