Keep your goals in front of you
by on Monday, January 20, 2014  (5 comments)

This weekend, I did something with every runner I'm coaching that I think surprised at least a few of them. I asked them to think about and send me two primary goals for 2014. I was looking for not just time goals but everything associated with running. Why did they hire me as a coach? If it was just for time goals, then let me know those goals specifically. If it was for more, what else was it for? To avoid injury? To find a running/life balance that would allow them to do certain things in both running and the rest of their lives? To learn more about training theory? To take their training to the "next level" in whatever way they may think it's been lacking?

Don't get me wrong. I haven't overlooked talking about goals previously. It's something I'm always thinking about and it's one of the first things I ask a runner about when the runner contacts me with an interest in coaching.

What I was looking for were two short, precise points of focus for 2014. I am adding these to a private page I keep with links to training logs so, every time I go to look at someone's training log, I'd see that person's goals also. I'll be constantly reminded of the end result we're going after.

Why does this matter? Sometimes, when in middle of a long block of training, we get so focused on today, tomorrow, next week that we forget to think about the big picture. We forget the ultimate target. While it's important to focus on the process, it's also important to ensure the process is pointing us toward where we want to go. It's easy to get away from that when you're too focused on the moment.

For the record, I also performed this exercise on myself. One of my goals is not a race time. It's to be running strong in September and October. In recent years, I too often found myself peaking in July or August and just hanging on as the fall races rolled around. This year, I'm going to have that "Run strong in September and October" goal in my face every week as I lay out my week's training plan. I'm not going to overextend myself in May and June because I'm going to be reminded that I want a more sustainable training approach that leaves me running well in the summer but even better in the fall.

Seeing this goal every week is going to keep me honest. It's going to help me ensure I plan sustainable workouts that will build fitness without breaking me down prematurely. It's going to help me be honest with myself in those workouts and not run them harder than I should. It's going to leave me running my best during my favorite time of the year to race. I'm hoping I have enough left in the tank to even consider expanding my fall racing schedule.

As for the runners I coach, I will have their top priorities in mind every time I'm developing long term training plans as well as every time I'm sending them short term plans. It will allow me to better tailor their training plans to their specific needs and desires.

So what do you do? First, think seriously about what your goals are. Not just racing goals but your overall running goals. What do you want out of your running this year? Then come up with two specific goals that you can express in short, concise sentences. Finally, keep those goals in front of you. Always be thinking about where you want to go. Focus on what you're going to do today but in the context of how it's going to get you to where you want to be three, six or twelve months from now.

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Just in case anyone is wondering, I'll share my two sentence mission statement for 2014: "Sub-17: 19 years! Run strong in September and October." Short and to the point but encompassing the two most important things I want to accomplish this year.

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This is a good idea, Ryan. But darn, my goals aren't very concise. They're malleable, like Playdo. Or fluid, like a river. :-)

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I actually plan to throw some thoughts back your way. I'm a little behind, though, because I'm a bit under the weather right now. We have to allow goals to change as our circumstances change but I still believe we should have some clear targets out there for what we're trying to accomplish. Without a target, how do you know what you're aiming for?

I think there are a couple clear goals in what you sent me. I just think we need to focus in on what those goals are so we can make sure we're doing the best job we can in moving you toward the direction you want to go.

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My first goal is to run a 6 minute mile pace or better for races 8K or less. My second goal is to run a sub three hour marathon.

Naturally, to do this I will need to be running strong in the fall with my endurance peaking in fall as well. My target for the 6 minute mile or better is Brigg's and Al's 8K in fall. This is a tough barrier for me both physically and mentally. But with Ryan's tutelage and guidance I am getting closer and closer to that goal I can actually see it being accomplished this year.

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Goal #1 is to run consistent and injury free throughout the year. Thanks to the New Years gift of a treadmill, I've run on 4 consecutive days for the first time in nearly eight months.
2nd Goal is to take what I've invested/accomplished in the 1st Goal and apply it to some races later in the year. I don't see why I can't run as well at age 50/51 as I did 5 years earlier.

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