From Resolution to Action: Achieving Your Running Goals in 2013

It’s February. You’ve registered for the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend. Time for the rubber sole to hit the road! The following article provides a few tips for turning a New Year’s running resolution into a specific goal, and finding a training plan to get moving towards that finish line.

 

Setting Goals

Resolutions are great but they can sometimes fall on the vague end of the spectrum: exercise more, eat better, quit smoking, etc. Hard to argue with any of those, but there’s nothing like a specific goal to really get things rolling. Not only will it help define your end result, but it also suggests the path you need to take to get there.

We love the concept of a SMART goal. A SMART goal is:

S – Specific –Whether it’s running your first race, running faster or further than before, or fundraising for charity, there’s nothing like running for setting specific goals. For example, “At the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend, my goal is to finish my first 5K race” or “My goal is to break four hours in the marathon.” Either way, nice and specific.

M – Measurable – If you hang out with runners, you know running and measuring go hand in hand. Following from the previous point, “I will know I have achieved my goal if at the end of the Ottawa Marathon the timing clock says 3:59:59 (or better).” Check!

A – Attainable – If you arbitrarily set your sights on breaking the 2-hour marathon barrier, the experts say you’re setting yourself up for disappointment or calamity (or both). Set yourself a good but realistic goal and you’ll be challenged and rewarded. Our section on Training Plans can help with this. So can this handy calculator.

R – Relevant – Relevant goals are goals that matter. The more races you run, the more specific time-based goals will become relevant (e.g. 3:59:59). But there are other ways to make your racing goals relevant—like the opportunity to raise money for a charity that is important to you.

T – Time bound – Finally, it’s important to know when you hope to achieve your goal. If you haven’t registered, now’s the time to give your goal a concrete timeframe, like May 25th or 26th, 2013.

Choosing a Training Plan

Now it’s time to pick a training plan, the roadmap that will guide you from goal to result. Training plans vary widely. A training plan for a first 5K might focus on building fitness and endurance by switching between periods of walking and running, while a marathon training plan with a time goal will include a variety of different types of runs including:

  • Long runs for endurance
  • Tempo runs for speed and pacing
  • Hills for strength
  • Intervals for speed and versatility

So, in choosing a training plan, you need to account for at least three main factors: your goal (distance, speed or both), your relative fitness level and your available time.

Your current fitness level will help determine what is attainable in a given period of time and, in turn, the schedule you’ll need to follow to move toward the result you want (e.g., how many miles you log in a week, days of rest, pacing). For example, if you’re a beginner distance runner, you’ll need more time to build the fitness and required to achieve certain results.

At the same time, you need to consider what kind of training regimen will fit into your day-to-day schedule, given work, school, family, social life, and so on. After all, a training plan will only be effective if you can actually follow it consistently.

So how can you make sense of all these variables and find the best training plan for you? Here are two easy steps:

  1. Start by checking out sample training plans online on such sites as at runnersworld.com and coolrunning.com or looking at one of the multitude of books on running training.
  2. Then sign up for a training group through the Running Room or join one of the great running clubs in Ottawa such as the Run Ottawa Club (the home club of the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend) or the Ottawa Running Club.

Joining a club or training group is a particularly great way to find a training plan that works. The advice of a coach will be a huge help in setting an attainable goal and defining the training plan to help you reach it. Not to mention, running with a group is just a great way to stay motivated while training through the cold, dark Canadian winter—something we’ll talk about next month.

In the meantime, check out our interview with Canadian distance running star Reid Coolsaet who suggests that when it comes to training plans, the proof is in the pudding. If you’re able to execute the steps, feel good about your running and start seeing results, well, you’ve got a plan that works. The only thing left to do is run with it!