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How to Set SMART Running Goals

Use Your Goals to Stay Motivated

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Updated July 02, 2013

Setting goals is an excellent way for runners to stay motivated to run and to make sure they stick to their running habit. When choosing running goals, it helps to use the SMART principle and set goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. Here are basic rules to follow when you're setting your running goals.

Be specific.

Make sure that your goal answers the who, what, and when. Simply saying that you want to "run faster" or "lose weight by running" are general goals. An example of a specific goal would be: "I want to improve my PR in the marathon by two minutes in five months." A specific goal helps keep you motivated because you know exactly what you need to do to accomplish it.  As you move closer to your goal, you get excited and motivated by your progress, so you'll work even harder to get to that end result.

 Also see: How to Predict Your Race Times

Make your goal measurable.

When choosing a running goal, make sure you also set criteria for measuring your progress. Making your running goals measurable will help you stay on track, maintain your motivation, and know when you've reached your target. To figure out if your goals are measurable, ask yourself things such as, How much? and How many?

Keep it attainable.

Let's face it, not everyone is going to qualify to run the Boston Marathon or run a 6:00 mile. So, while it's good to set lofty running goals, it's important to choose ones that you'll be able to accomplish if you're willing to do the work. The best goals will require you to push yourself to achieve them, but they aren't too extreme. If a goal is too far out of reach, you probably won't truly commit to doing because deep down you know it's not achievable.

To figure out if a goal is attainable, see how it compares to your previous running achievements. Do you have to make considerable improvements – beyond your ability -- to get to that level? If you're not sure, talk to a running coach or running friends to help give you a gut check.

Make your goal relevant.

Just because you're a runner doesn't mean you have to set a goal that's very popular among other runners, such as completing a marathon. For a goal to be relevant, it should be something that you consider to be worthwhile and important, so you're willing and able to work towards it. Your goals should represent you, so they shouldn't just be something that someone else is doing or suggesting that you attempt to achieve.

Keep your goals timely.

Make sure you attach deadlines to your goals. For example, if you say, "I want to run a sub 2-hour half marathon", but you don't even have a race in mind, there's no sense of urgency for your goal. But if you pick out a race and say you want to run a 1:59 half marathon on April 29, then you know exactly where you need to be by that date. Having a deadline will keep you motivated and prevent you getting bored or wanting to skip workouts. If you find that you're ready to achieve your running goal way ahead of schedule, then readjust your goal and keep challenging yourself.


Also see:  Running Quotes About Goal Setting
Ideas for Running Resolutions
How to Stick to Your New Year's Resolutions
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