Keep your goals in front of you

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

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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