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Here’s How To Set Challenging And Achievable Goals

The start of December often means the end of racing season and the beginning of the off-season. After taking some time to relax and recover, I’m usually anxious to set new goals for the next season.

Setting new goals can be challenging. Setting too easy of a goal means I’m not challenging myself and I’m playing it safe. Consequently, setting a goal that’s a bit too ambitious means I risk burnout, injury and a year of disappointments.

I’ve found that if I take the time to carefully evaluate my desires along with my abilities and racing history, I’m able to set realistic, achievable goals. That doesn’t mean I always reach my goals within a year, but at least I have a roadmap that will get me there in time.

Below are seven steps to help you set goals that are inspired, challenging and attainable!

Step 1: Look at the data and your running history.
Have your paces consistently dropped over time? Stayed the same? Are you better at racing shorter distances or longer distances? Based on this information, you will likely see a trend regarding what race distances may suit you best.

Step 2: Write down your dream training week.
Imagine you have all the time in the world to train. How will you spend the majority of your time? Will you run for hours on end or head to the track for shorter speed sessions? This step helps you to determine what race distances you likely have the most passion for.

Step 3: What are you willing to do in the upcoming year, that you haven’t done before?
Run higher mileage? Try a new training plan? Train for a new distance in relation to what you’ve always trained for? In order to conquer new challenges this often means getting outside of your comfort zone and trying something new. This step helps to identify if you’re ready to take this step in your training and racing.

Step 4: Based off your answers to the above questions: What race distance do you have the strongest desire to PR at in the upcoming year or what new distance do you want to conquer?

Step 5: Research your ideal race.

Step 6: Chart out a big picture training cycle leading up to the race.
For example, January – February, focus on getting strong and building a base; March – April, focus on building speed and running short distance races; May – June, build up the weekend long run and race a half marathon; July – October, marathon training; November, goal marathon race; December, off season/recovery.

Step 7: Write out three to four specific goals you’d like to accomplish in 2016 and how they fit into your big picture training cycle, along with what it will take to reach each one of them.

This month of rest and holiday vacations is the perfect time to reflect and get your goals for January set!

Read More:
Why Goal Setting Is The Hardest Part Of Running
Pick A Running Goal—And Stick With It!

Race Pace Jess

Jess Underhill fell in love with running during a rough patch in life, a time period most people just refer to as middle school. Twenty-six years later that first runner's high she experienced continues to shape nearly every aspect of her life, including her career. She has a Master's Degree in Exercise Science and Health Promotion, is graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and is a UESCA Certified Run Coach. Most recently Jess launched Race Pace Run Club, a free virtual run club that welcomes runners of all levels from coast to coast and also meets in-person in NYC. She is an ambassador for Sparkly Soul Headbands