On Tuesday, Lemongrass discussed SMART goal making, and this got me thinking about goals. Chances are that if you are a runner, you, like me, have some specific goal numbers in your mind. I’d bet serious money than many of those numbers end in :59 or are a nice round integer like 30, 45, or (gasp) 100 for the week. There’s always that one special number with that cruel .2 dangling off the back.
I definitely fall in this category. If you wake me up in the middle of the night, I can probably tell you how many miles I’ve already run this week and how many to go to reach my weekly goal. I can rattle off per-mile paces for my goal 5k, half, and marathon times without hesitation. Yep, I’m intense.
However, having spent much of the last year pregnant and now working my way back to fitness postpartum, I’ve opened my mind to setting other types of goals. Even in a sport focused on numbers, focusing on other objectives is important, too.
General Health Goals
Catnip: Maintain weight above X pounds. Eat at least 3 servings of veggies daily. Core at least twice weekly.
This sort of goal can relate to sleep, nutrition, injury prevention, etc. I’ve always been someone who borders on being too skinny so I set this goal so that I would be mindful about healthy weight for both my and JB’s sake. Let’s just say that so far I have not had the slightest difficulty with it.
On the other hand, eating the veggies is a bit more difficult. I am planning to begin using Sunday to prep crudites for the week so I can make better snacking and lunch-packing decisions. For some reason, I’ve also had a hard time getting down on the floor to do my core strength work. I have a routine focusing on pelvic floor, transverse abdominus, and hips (the postpartum weak links) that takes less than 10 minutes — but initiating it has been a challenge.
Minutes Over Miles
Catnip: Seven hours weekly.
Once I was able to get moving postpartum, I chose to focus on minutes of activity per week, combining walking and running minutes. This is a great way to make sure the emphasis is on appropriate effort for current fitness. As I rapidly gained fitness postpartum, the mileage within the 7-hour parameter naturally increased without feeling like an increase in training load. For example, at 5 weeks postpartum, my run/walk total was 31 miles within 7 hours and 1 minute. At 10 weeks postpartum, I covered 45 miles in 7 hours 21 minutes. Both weeks were equally challenging as my fitness improved.
I often recommend that beginning runners start with time-focused goal and feel that the “10%” rule” is much better applied to total training time than mileage (i.e., run 150 minutes one week, then add 15 minutes to the next week). Tracking minutes is also good for those runners subbing in some cross training or working out under challenging conditions (altitude, humidity, etc.).
Catnip: At least one run with friends per week. Run the USATF Club XC championship and possibly the team race at the Gate River Run. Volunteer at a minimum of two races.
Running is a huge social outlet for me! Most of my closest relationships have been established through running. Spending time with my friends is excellent for mental health and keeps running fun.
Even if you don’t enjoy running with others, volunteering or cheering at a race, encouraging a friend to pick up a fitness habit or donating unwanted swag are great ways to make social connections through our sport.
Catnip: Learn to run tempo runs by feel rather than be a slave to the treadmill/Garmin.
Process goals relate to your choices in the moment without focusing on the overall result. As I got slower during pregnancy, I continued doing light tempo runs for a while, refining my ability to select the right pace for a given effort. As I’m getting fitter and setting ambitious race goals, it’s tempting to try to hit a specific tempo I “should” be running. Instead, running by feel will help me to avoid overreaching or (the flipside) unintentionally setting limits to my progress.
Another common process goal is achieving negative splits, especially when it comes to the marathon distance. You may also consider process goals relating to positive self-talk, running with or behind a certain competitor, or finishing that last mile under 7 minute pace.
Salty readers: What are your “number” goals? And what other goals have you set in your running journey?