Female runner crosses the 3M Half Marathon with her arms raised triumphantly in the air. Text on design reads How to Set Training Goals. Learn more at https://downhilltodowntown.com/set-training-goals/

Properly set training goals for a successful training experience

Running is a proven way to boost your health, improve focus, find motivation, and build discipline. As a new runner, you probably already have some goals in mind. Maybe you want to lose weight, finish your first half marathon, or enjoy the benefits of running. Whatever your reasons, you’ve just embarked on a journey that can change your life. However, without structure or clear goals, many new runners give up after a few training sessions. Setting short-term goals can give you milestones during your training journey to your larger goal. Learn to set training goals so you can build motivation and confidence that will guide you to the finish line.

The keys to set training goals

The road to success follows many paths. Credit – Jordan Vonderhaar

Often, runners use races as a way to test their training, meet other runners, and feel a sense of accomplishment. As a beginner just starting out, setting achievable training goals is key to maintaining motivation. Your main goal might be months away. When you set training goals along the way you give yourself a better chance at crushing your training plan. Follow the four steps below as you set training goals for the next event on your calendar.

  1. Visualize long-term goals

Do you want to run a marathon or half marathon someday? Training for and completing longer distances will take time, practice, and commitment, especially if you just started running. Setting and committing to a long-term goal gives you something to work toward. Half marathon training might take 4-5 months. Marathon training could take longer. Both of them are possible! A long-term goal helps you visualize what you’re aiming for. Once you know your destination, you can build a training plan that helps you reach that goal. In order to remain motivated and stay on track, you need milestones along the way.

  1. Setting smaller goals

Smaller goals will lead to your ultimate goal.

Those new to running or training for an event may not be aware of the potential pitfalls that can interrupt your training plan. You can get hurt if you push yourself too much too soon. Injury can occur if you don’t properly increase your mileage over time. Your recovery will be slow if you don’t follow our long-run recovery timeline. This could prevent you from reaching your ultimate goal. 

Small term goals have three main purposes: 

  • Steadily building your strength, stamina, and self-confidence
  • Keeps you motivated and on track steady
  • Creates incremental steps that’ll guide you to your main goal. 

You need to gradually build yourself up as you begin. If you start by running 30 minutes a day, slowly build off of that amount. If you begin by running 2-3 miles, then build from that amount. Make sure your body feels good and that you give it the rest it needs. Stick to your training plan as much as you can. Swap a run day with a rest day if needed. But make sure you’re eating healthy, hydrating properly, and getting quality sleep. These 12 tips can help make running that much easier during training.

As your training progresses, you’ll move on to longer distances and increased times. Your short-term goals are like small steps you take to reach your destination. Think of it this way, when you’re climbing a large set of stairs, you can’t just jump from the bottom step to the top. You have to walk up the stairs to reach your destination. Your short-term goals are those small steps that’ll get you to the top.

  1. Achievable and actionable steps

Your goals will empower you!

Training goals that you can achieve will empower you and keep you enthusiastic about running. Numbers and statistics can be a huge friend when you’re setting achievable goals. If you feel good after 3 miles, try 4 or 5 miles next. Don’t jump to 7 or 8 miles. Gamifying your running experience can help you too. There are many apps, like Under Armour’s MapMyRun, that you can use along your running journey. Using apps that measure your time, mph, speed, distance, and heart rate assist you in actively measuring your success. 

When you realize that you’ve achieved the short term goals you’ve set for yourself, you’ll be more inclined to pursue harder goals. Your achievable training goals should take into account the following: 

  • Your current health status. 
  • Any underlying health conditions you may have, such as issues with blood pressure, heart conditions, diabetes, etc.
  • How much time you have to invest into your regimen. 

Enjoy the journey to the finish line! Credit – Jordan Vonderhaar

Personalizing your training regimen instead of following someone else’s will help you achieve the best results for you. If you need to take longer to reach your main goal, that’s fine, this is your journey! The goal is to reach the finish line in a way where you’re healthy, motivated, and happy.

  1. Ask veteran runners for guidance

If you feel intimidated at the thought of talking to a veteran runner, then don’t worry! Remember that once upon a time, they were in your shoes. They have tips and tricks that can help you become more efficient during training, like how to effectively warm-up before a run. They can tell you about the latest gear, hydration and nutrition products, and their personal road to success. You just might make some new friends!

Working your way towards your ultimate goal is a journey in itself. The road won’t always be easy, but setting small goals along the way can help. They decrease your chances of giving up, give your body the time to recover and build muscle, and drastically increases your chances of reaching your ultimate goal. If you’re looking for additional advice, learn how to incorporate the ABCs of goal setting.