BY DR. CATHLIN FITZGERALD, PT & DPT
When the year winds down and runners take a break from structured plans and training cycles, it’s the perfect time to plan your running goals for the next year. Running goals can be anything! Your goals can be more objective; a PR in a certain distance, run 2 marathons in the year, stay injury-free, etc. But your goals can also be more subjective. What do you want to get out of running? Examples of this include rediscovering the joy of running, get comfortable being uncomfortable in tough workouts, going all out in races… the possibilities are endless. Here are a few ideas to get you started on setting some deeper goals for yourself in the coming year.
If your goal is to rediscover the joy of running (because let’s be real, sometimes we get caught up in numbers and continually moving the goalposts further down the field), try new routes or running with other people. Personally, I really enjoy solo runs, but I love running a new place or a new route. You could make a goal to visit and run in a new place or on a new route once a month or once a week. It’s all about what is achievable for you and your lifestyle.
In order to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, you have to run hard. The two key things to remember are consistency and mindset. Keeping hard runs consistently exposes you to the experience repeatedly. Just like with anything else that’s initially uncomfortable in life, you will adjust accordingly. Learning to shift your mindset is also helpful. The cliche quote of “pain is inevitable; suffering is optional” really sums up what you can do in the midst of a tough interval or tempo run. Is it going to hurt? Yes, of course. But you can choose whether or not you suffer mentally and/or emotionally. This takes practice. During a hard interval, remind yourself that you have the power to choose whether or not you suffer during that interval.
Going all out in races is pretty self-explanatory. This is a tactic I’ll use with runners as they progress out of a beginner stage and are trying to get faster, but fear hitting a wall or blowing up towards the end of the race. I’ll have the runner pick a couple of races at different distances (maybe 5k and 10k) and start at the fastest pace they think they could possibly hold. Odds are at least one of these races is going to result in the runner blowing up during the race. That’s actually the goal; the runner went all out and took the risk. Similarly to getting comfortable being uncomfortable, going all out in races exposes runners to blowing up in a race and shows them that it’s not nearly as scary as they thought. This then allows the runner to push him or herself into new, unknown territory.
These types of goals can be fun to shoot for! It’s a different approach and lets you learn more about yourself as both a person and a runner.