Time Goals

by Dr. Cat Fitzgerald PT, DPT, CSCS

Racing is back! The influx of runners with specific upcoming races at Custom is exciting. It’s always different around here in racing seasons–there’s a buzzing energy and so much camaraderie.

Understanding a runner’s goal is one of the most important things we need to establish. There are endless possibilities for goals and I’ve heard a lot of them, from the traditional to the unexpected: complete the race distance, run under a specific time, BQ, have fun, finish injury free, negative splits, read as many signs as possible, take a photo every 5k, complete an “in race scavenger hunt”…. the list goes on.

I love working with a runner towards his or her goal. Everyone is motivated, working hard, and excited! I do have one wish for runners with specific time goals:

Let go of the deadline for your time goal. 

For example, a runner might tell me their goal is to run a 3:30 marathon at their upcoming race. This may or may not be realistically achievable, but my point is, if you let go of the deadline of achieving the time immediately at your next race, a lot of good things can happen. Most importantly, your injury risk drops significantly. If someone is training for a goal pace well beyond their fitness level–beyond the optimal pushing of the envelope–they are overtraining because they are constantly running paces they “should” be at, instead of doing easy runs and workouts at paces that are currently appropriate for them.

Getting rid of the deadline takes off the pressure. Instead of focusing on things like “I need to be at an 8 minute pace for this marathon”, you are able to focus on incremental, progressive improvements… how training is supposed to be! 

For runners I work with that have come to understand the benefits of long term time goals over immediate time goals, we won’t even discuss race pace until we’re well over halfway through a training cycle. 

This idea might sound a little scary, because it means letting go of what defines your training cycle. Try it! Keep your time goal. It’s exciting and motivating, and in a sport that is truly all numbers, it’s the most objective thing we can measure ourselves by. Just get rid of the deadline.

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