It’s been that long?

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Lots of time has past since the last post

 

I could not believe it’s been since February that I last posted here. I knew it had been a while, but I figured it hadn’t been that long.

What have I been doing since then?

Fitness

I’ll start with fitness, since that’s what I write about most here.

1.) Piling up miles

When I committed to the Quad Rock 50, I decided to explore a training approach that included higher volume. I’ve done that in 2014…I’ve done some sort of run or ride on over 200 days this year. That’s about as many workouts (running/riding) as I’ve had in a whole year in the past.

Adding it all up, in 2014 I’ve:

  • Run just under 2500 miles (2478 by my count)
  • Rode 1600+ miles (1610 by my count)

I’m not entirely convinced that a high volume approach is right for me. I’ll have more to say on this in the future.

2.) Raced (once so far) – Quad Rock 50

At some point I might write more extensively about my experience at the Quad Rock 50. For now, I will say that it was a tremendous experience. I finished in just over 11 hours (11:02:25) – not as good as I was hoping for. I suffered from a lack of fitness and some issues with my nutrition. But I learned a lot about ultra distance racing.

And it didn’t stop me from taking another step forward into the ultra distance.

3.) Signed up for my first 100 mile race – Oil Creek 100

The Oil Creek 100 is on October 11.

Coming off the Quad Rock 50, I knew I wanted to do another ultra distance race in 2014. I spent some time going back and forth between another 50 miler and jumping up to 100 miles. I decided to move up to 100 miles. I’ll explain the reasons in a subsequent post, but it was about more than just wanting to complete the distance.

There is something about the journey, about the process and discipline of training, that I needed. More later on this too.

4.) I still have not mastered my eating habits

This is an ongoing struggle for me and something I need to continue working on.

I’m convinced that this has more to do with what’s going on in the rest of my life (non fitness) than anything else. I’m eating almost as a way to pass time or numb some things that may not be quite right in other aspects of my life.

Maybe this is an excuse and I should be able to just have the discipline to eat better. But to me there is something else at play here. There is a disconnect somewhere else that I have yet to resolve, and eating is a way of distracting myself from dealing with that disconnect. If I could ever resolve that disconnect, I have a feeling that my eating habits would fall into line, almost effortlessly. I’m still trying to explore these things to see if I can make some progress here.

Non fitness

The other major thing I’ve explored a time or two on this blog is things like addiction, depression. Things haven’t been right for me in a while. I’ve gotten some insights about this over the past 6-8 months that I hope to explore more fully. I think writing about them might actually help bring more clarity to them. I’m actually feeling half decent right now, which is more than I could say for the better part of the last few years.

The other aspect that I’m constantly thinking about is career and how that plays into everything else. I believe I’ve figured out some things there as well. Now it’s just a matter of putting some plans into motion. This is where I encounter the most “Resistance” (a Steven Pressfield term), and I think it’s a major influence on other aspects of my life (eating habits and everything else).

Things really cannot be separated

In this post, I’ve neatly separated things into “fitness” and “non fitness.” What I’ve discovered is that for me, these two things cannot be separated. I need to be in nature and moving –runs and rides are not simply about getting ready for the next race or improving my health. There is something more to it than that. It gets into the nature of soul and spirit – I’ve been reading a lot about this recently and gained a ton of insight. I’m looking forward to sharing some of that here as well.

Finally, there has been the usual chaos and fun of being a husband and father. I don’t spend much time on that here…but I try to spend as much time as possible in those spaces and find it a constant learning experience.

Getting to a regular schedule for posting here on this blog is an important new goal for me. It’s one of the next steps I need to take to move things forward.  It feels good to be back at it.

 

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October into November 2011…finding consistency

Fewer workouts this month.  Most of them longer.  I took more days off this month.  Not super-motivated.  I think the relatively high average distance reflects a desire on my part to just get out for some longer, slower workouts and adjusting my priorities a bit.

This month’s workout totals:

  • Running:  177 miles on 12 runs (average just under 15 miles per)
  • Riding:  158 miles on 3 rides (average 52 miles per)

Sometimes I look at life as if it were a puzzle.

When I’m working on a hard puzzle, I break it up into smaller sub-sections.  I put those subsections together, then I start to bring them together into a whole picture.  Sometimes it’s easier to get a subsection right when you’re only looking at that one part of the puzzle.

I guess the notion of breaking things up and re-assembling them applies to more than just puzzles.  It’s the way to build most everything—make sure you’ve got a sense of what the whole looks like, then break it up, assemble the pieces separately and eventually put them back together.

In life it’s a bit more complicated.  You can’t get it completely right, since things are more interconnected.  But looking at life as a group of pieces can sometimes be useful.

I spent much of October working on a few specific pieces.  The biggest one was getting some consistency in writing this blog.  I wanted to write something every day.

I’m starting to get some rhythm and energy going again.  These past 6 months, I’ve learned that it’s easier to get into a rhythm when you’re busy.  When the job went away in the spring, I was super excited—I’d have a ton of free time to do everything I ever wanted to do.  I found that when you don’t have a good rhythm, it’s hard to get momentum to do anything.  It’s almost like my rhythm and energy just ground to a halt when the major element of that rhythm (the job) disappeared.

So, as simple as it sounds, setting the goal of posting every day for this blog forced me back into somewhat of a rhythm.  Writing every day is one of those “puzzle pieces” that I’d like to keep into the future.

In November, I’m hoping to put most of the puzzle together.  The pieces include:

Oh, and I’ll get ready for my race later in November.  I plan to skip tapering for this race.  I may back off a bit in the week before the race, but I’m viewing the race as a long training run.  So no need to get crazy.

All of these pieces coming into focus is giving me some good energy.  I’m hoping to experience the paradox of adding more to my plate, yet seeming to have more time.  I know that paradox eventually stops working.  But I don’t have too many things on my plate yet.

Time will fly in November, so I hope to take it one day at a time, getting more consistent each day.


A new way of thinking about goals

“I know there’s a balance, I see it when I swing past.”

John Mellencamp, Between a Laugh and a Tear

I’ve been thinking about my goal for my next race ever since my original goal went out the window.

Like most things, I’m probably thinking too much about it.

I’ve been wondering whether I should set my goals based on a rational process or whether I should just discover (or uncover) them.  If the key to achieving a goal is being motivated and committed, it’s better to just listen to what my “inner self” is saying.  Those urges, and the stuff I find interesting, will probably motivate me more than anything I can cook up.

At least it’ll be better than saying I want to do something that seems reasonable until I actually have to get out and do it.

Along those lines, here is a preliminary list of concepts that I’ve been exploring, the things that are most interesting to me right now with respect to running:

  • Dial in on a new nutrition strategy.  I’ve written a lot about my eating habits and my exploration of Paleo.  It’s occupied much of my attention over the past 3 months.  I believe nutrition is the foundation of fitness.
  • Explore new training strategies.  These strategies include higher mileage running, shorter but more frequent strength work and different allocations of workouts over the course of a week.
  • Rest (sleep) more.  This isn’t overly complicated, but it does take more time!
  • Enjoy the experience of running.  No explanation required

Looking at this list, I think my current focus is on resetting the foundation of my running.  I did well in a couple of races in late 2010 and early 2011, and that led me to think bigger for the upcoming years.  But to get to those bigger goals, I need to build a better foundation.  I might have been able to PR on my old running foundation, but it was showing cracks.  I don’t know if I could have gotten much farther beyond a PR.

Recently I’ve also been thinking about whether I should (or how I can) bake running more effectively into my every day life.  Be more steady and consistent about it.  Get to the point where it doesn’t dominate for too long, and it doesn’t hibernate for too long either.

Right now the effort I put into running is a bit too extreme—it’s either unsustainably high or ineffectively low.  I emphasize 1-2 races a year and put a big effort into getting as fit as possible to race them.  Then, after a race, I let go and decompress.  I need time to recover from the effort I put into the race.  I don’t run much and I regress in my level of fitness.  Then, for the next race, I end up re-covering a lot of fitness ground that I’ve let lapse.

Compare that with what might happen if I focused more on the every day aspects of running as opposed to 1-2 races.  What if I just ran because I love to run instead of because I need to get faster for my next race?  What if I didn’t completely restrict eating junk food, but I didn’t go overboard either?  Could I create a sustainable running/fitness workload that I could manage for extended periods of time?

I wouldn’t stop racing.  But instead of using races as the prime motivator for all things fitness, they would be more like checkpoints where I would test my fitness.

I don’t remember ever cramming for a test during my four years in college.  Not once.  I didn’t have to cram—I had a routine of consistently studying and dedicating time to learning.  Taking a test was just a checkpoint along the way.  I didn’t need to find extra time to do it.  The time was just there.

I don’t remember ever worrying about a test either.  In my opinion, I either knew the stuff or not.  If I felt like I knew the material and still bombed the test, that was ok.  If I did great on the test but didn’t feel like I knew the material, that would be a problem.  My thinking was longer term than the next test.

These weren’t the thoughts of a normal college kid, but I still did well in school.

I’m thinking I should adopt a similar perspective on running as I had on studying.  That is, the first priority is to create a good, sustainable set of habits.  When races (tests) come, I’m going to rely on those habits to carry me.  I can do really well with a good, sustainable set of habits.  Sure, I might need to increase the intensity before one or two particularly big races, but I won’t do it for long enough to burn me out.

Adding it all up, I wonder if my goal should be to create a set of fitness habits that I can sustain for longer than 4 months.  It might mean running shorter distances more frequently.  It might mean getting away from a complete restriction on junk food (followed by the inevitable binge).  It might mean I run in the middle of the day sometimes (instead of only in the morning).  I’m not entirely sure what it means.

As for this race in November, I’m not going to set a time goal for it.  I’m going to run whatever I can.  If I can create a set of good, sustainable fitness habits by the time the race arrives, that would be a good enough outcome for me.  I’ll get back to worrying about my PR in 2012.


When a goal gets out of reach

I’ve been grappling with a disappointing realization.

The goal that I set for my next marathon is out of reach.  My original goal was to set a PR.  The race is November 20.  Given my current level of fitness, there is absolutely no way I can do it.  I’m not even close.

As I grapple with this realization, my feelings swing from annoyed to angry to ambivalent to confused to embarrassed to regretful to relieved and being perfectly fine with it.

My big question right now is…how do I handle this realization that my goal is out of reach?  I can’t wallow in it.  I need to process it and move on.  I hope that writing this post will provide the therapy I need to get out of the mud and move on.

Question 0:  What happened?

Answering this question requires a bit of digging.  In Six Sigma there is a technique called the “5 Whys.”  The technique guides you to ask the “why” question 5 times to eventually uncover the root cause of something.  In this case, the “5 Whys” would go something like this:

Why #1)  Why did I miss the goal?
I didn’t take the steps necessary to achieve it.

Why #2)  Why didn’t I take the steps necessary to achieve it?  
I wasn’t committed to the original goal.  Even though I had set the goal, I wasn’t ready to pay the price to make it happen.  Maybe I thought that saying I wanted to achieve a PR would lead to the required commitment.  Ummm.  No.

If I were really committed, the goal wouldn’t be out of reach.  If I were really committed and I missed the goal, I’d be angry.  I’m not.

Why #3)  Why wasn’t I committed to the original goal?
This is where things start to get fuzzy.

There are countless potential reasons why I wasn’t committed to the original goal.  Perhaps a normal marathon no longer presents a compelling challenge.  Perhaps I’m more interested in running far than running fast.  Perhaps performing well in a race doesn’t have the same relative priority for me right now.

These potential reasons point towards re-examining my original goal, which leads to the next big question.

(And I realize that I only got to three whys, not five.  Sometimes that happens…)

Question 1:  Do I still aim for the original goal?

Aiming for the original goal would likely lead to frustration, burnout and injury.  Why would I bang my head against that wall?  I should reset my goal.

Actually, I think I’ve already reset the goal without acknowledging it.  I think I’ve been operating according to that reset goal for a few months now.  I’ve been committed to something; I just haven’t identified it.  So I need to discern that revised goal, figure out what it is.  Perhaps by naming it, I’ll be able to get behind it and eliminate some of the negative emotions I’ve felt by struggling to achieve a goal that I’m not committed to.

Discerning my revised goal wasn’t the intent of this post.  I’ll have more on that in a subsequent post.  For now, it’s sufficient to say that I need a revised goal.

Question 2:  Do I still race?

Yes, unequivocally.

There are valid reasons to postpone or decide not to race, the most prominent being injury and competing commitments.  I happily postponed a race earlier this year because it conflicted with a father-daughter Valentine’s Day dance.  Sometimes it makes sense to reschedule.

But not being ready to perform as well as I wanted doesn’t qualify as a legitimate reason to move a race.  It’s lame and I won’t do it.  I’m racing.

Question 3:  How do I make the race a positive experience?

Some people run marathons to enjoy the scene and just finish.  I’m not wired that way.  Just finishing doesn’t mean much to me.  And while the scene is interesting and fun, saying that I enjoyed the scene could never justify the cost of the trip.

Racing is a concrete way of taking stock of myself.  I need to prove or learn something about myself for the race to be a positive experience.

The most effective way to assess a race experience is to evaluate relative performance, not absolute performance.  I try not to compare my time against my previous times.  I try not to compare myself against other people.  I try to focus on how I performed relative to how well I was trained to perform.  Did I get more out of myself than my going-in fitness might predict?  Did I craft the right race strategy?  Did I execute it well?  How did I respond to adversity during the race?

Based on this philosophy, I can make the race experience positive by evaluating it relative to my going-in fitness.  My absolute time is clearly a function of the months leading up to the race.  That’s a dead issue now.  Thinking relative helps me isolate the race experience itself.

Whew, I just realized that I can still have a good experience even if I’m less fit than originally planned.  Race-day philosophy is another fascinating subject, but that’s not the intent of this post.  Perhaps another time.

Question 4:  How do I avoid this in the future?

It sucks to have a goal and then discover that you can’t achieve it.  I don’t want to go through it again.  I want to avoid it at all costs in the future.

To avoid this situation in the future, I need to assess the goal setting process itself.  I must have the right goals—goals that are challenging yet realistic in the context of my life, goals to which I want to commit.  Having the wrong goals is a recipe for failure.

What would happen if avoided goals altogether?  Would I be able to just experience and enjoy running (and riding) without having racing related goals?

I’m not there yet.

Maybe I’m insecure.  Maybe I’m more competitive than I like to admit.  Maybe I’m addicted to the rush of race day.  Whatever the reason, I need to race and I need to set goals.  I need something on the books, a target and an independent public forum to use as a measuring stick.  I wouldn’t feel right otherwise.  I’ve tried it; it hasn’t worked.

The right goals, especially big goals, bring out the best in me.  Even if it means I risk failing.

So for now, I’ll get back on the horse with a new goal.  I can’t see it any other way.


Running Slump Over: Hungry and Humble Again

My fitness is terrible, but my running slump is over.

I’m on a regular schedule now, increasing the distance and looking forward to increasing the intensity.  I’m being careful so I don’t get hurt.  Most important, I’m looking forward to every workout.  My eating and sleeping habits are improving.  I’m out of the rut I was in.

Autumn’s perfect running weather is right around the corner.  I can’t wait.

I’ve got a brand new set of goals for 2011 and 2012.  Do they qualify as BHAG’s?  Pretty darn close.  I’m nervous, and I’ve already started re-thinking my training and recovery strategies.  I’m not sure I should publish these since I’m still not 100% committed, but here goes…

My new list of races and goals:

November 2011:  Marathon (Kansas).  As fast as possible (I may not have time to get fit enough for a PR)
February 2012:  Marathon (Alabama).  Get my PR, potentially break 2:50
April-May 2012:  Races TBD.  Weekend of back-to-back racing.  Saturday marathon, Sunday 50K.  I’m looking to find a marathon and 50K within reasonable travel distance
August 2012:  Pikes Peak double.  Ascent Saturday, marathon Sunday
Fall 2012:  TBD.  Either ultramarathon (50+ miles) or marathon PR

The centerpiece of my new goals is an old friend that inspired (scared) me to big breakthroughs in 2010 – Pikes Peak.  I intend to race the Pikes Peak double in 2012.  I’ve never done anything like that.  And just finishing isn’t good enough, I intend to compete.

Future posts will cover the training implications of all these races.  Training for a PR is different than training for a Pikes Peak double.  Right now, my main concern is getting this PR, so that’s my initial focus.

It’s nice to be thinking about serious racing again.

What caused the slump?

Understanding what caused my running slump probably isn’t important.  But I’m obsessed with improving, and diagnosing the root causes of this slump will help me get better.

While running slumps are common, the cause of this running slump is not ordinary.  It’s related to the intersection of running and life.  The two can’t be separated, but in my case they became too close for comfort.

For a while now, I’ve been wondering whether I’m in the right career.  I’ve been reading a lot about “following my passions” and building a career based on what I love.  My biggest passion is running.  That passion has led me to some modest success – I’ve done pretty well in races over the past few years.

I started this blog as a first step in transforming my running passion into a career.  When I decided to start this blog, I fully intended to make money from it some day.  I figured other runners would actually be interested in hearing my secrets to running success.  Interested enough to pay for them.

I didn’t expect what happened next.

Once my “passion” became the seed for a new career, it ceased being a passion.  I stopped thinking about running for the fitness and challenge, and I started thinking about running as work.  I started thinking about ways that I could turn running into a business.  Not what I was looking for.

I also started to believe my own marketing hype.  I lost my humility.  In my attempts to position myself as an expert, I inflated myself to the point where I thought I was invincible.  I thought I could get by on eating like crap, running poorly, and sleeping poorly.  I forgot what fueled my previous success.

It’s taken me a while to figure this out.  I had to do some soul searching.  But discovering these connections is huge, and ditching this blog over the past couple months helped me get out of the slump.  I’m back to running for the right reasons.

What’s next for this blog?

Against most conventional blogging wisdom, I’ve disconnected this blog from Facebook.  Disconnected it from Twitter.  Disconnected it from LinkedIn.  Those connections were lame attempts on my part to get people to read it.

I’m no longer writing this blog with the aim of getting readers.

I’m writing this blog to capture my thoughts and feelings as I pursue running breakthroughs.  It’s like a journal or advanced training log.  I enjoy the process of writing and it helps clarify my thinking, so I don’t see a need to stop writing altogether.

I plan to use this blog to capture my learnings and document the places I find useful information.  Sometimes I’ll probably just capture some feeling I had during a training run or an inspiration I got from somewhere.  Writing for those purposes will be useful for me; perhaps it will be useful for others too.

I’ll probably end up posting more frequently.  In the past, blog posts have taken a long time because I’ve tried to make them perfect.  Ironically, I’ve had trouble developing content that I thought was compelling for readers.  I don’t expect to have that problem any more – I’m getting unstuck.  If it’s compelling for me, it’s good enough.

I’m guessing that plenty of other people are searching for that running breakthrough.  If you’re one of them, you might find some value in what I write.  That would be great.  But I’m no longer worried about anyone else who might read this stuff.

I’m just happy to be back running again.


The worst ways to improve your running, and how to avoid them

“There is nothing so terrible as activity without insight.”   — Johan Wolfgang von Goethe

Trial and error sucks as a training strategy.  You have about a 50% chance of improving, and you’re just as likely to get injured as to see dramatic success.  Chasing the latest fad or training idea is not the path to improvement.

The other end of the spectrum – stagnation – doesn’t work as a training strategy either.  Improving or succeeding requires getting out of your comfort zone, taking some risk.

Breakthrough running improvements require the right blend of new training with what’s worked for you in the past.

But how do you find the right blend?  How do you determine what elements of your training to keep?  How do you find the right new training ideas to try?

Runner – know thyself.

Success requires insight.  Developing insight enables you to walk the line between the scattershot of a trial and error strategy and the stagnation of a stay-the-course (change nothing) strategy.  Insight guides your decisions on what to keep, what to change, and what to try.

It’s easy to get overloaded with statistics, data, and information.  You can check your GPS, heart rate monitor, and watch for performance data.  You can track eating habits, nutrition labels, weight, and body fat percentage.  I even found an iPad app to track the time I spend sleeping.

Insight is more than all of this – it’s cutting through the data and information clutter to identify what really matters.  Developing insight requires analyzing the data to identify relevant trends, root causes, and levers that affect your performance.  The quality of your insights influences your probability of success more than any single element of training.

Getting to know yourself

Are you a left brain person or a right brain person?  Conventional wisdom suggests that left-brainers are more logical and analytical, whereas right-brainers are more creative and expressive.  Tap both sides of your brain to develop a great set of insights – it requires critical analysis and creative thinking.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Check your aim.  Re-orient yourself to your goal.  Your goal may be simple, such as maintaining your fitness.  Or it could be a far-reaching BHAG.  Regardless, reminding yourself of the original goal sets the frame for your insights.
  • Crunch the numbers.  A training log has mostly facts and statistics.  But the facts are a good place to start – review the past 12-18 months of data that you capture.  Do you see any trends?  Any recurring patterns?  If you don’t track any data, start a training log.
  • Consider the context.  Review your life and work situation to identify considerations or constraints.  How have life events affected the quantity and quality of your training?  Is work more or less busy?  Have you been traveling?  Are you under more stress?  Less stress?  Sometimes the most useful insights come from unexpected areas.
  • Chunk it up.  It’s hard to develop insights by looking at the big picture.  So break out and review each individual aspect of your training.  Review your workouts, your nutrition, rest and recovery separately.  What do you notice?  Are you satisfied with each individual aspect?  Or are one or more aspects lagging?
  • Look for cause and effect.  Try to uncover root causes for what you see in the numbers.  Do the trends make sense?  If your numbers are improving, what’s driving the improvement?  If they’re the same or worse, is there a reason?
  • Analyze your target.  If your goal involves a specific target race, review the course description, elevation map, and general race information.  Does the course present a challenge that you need to factor into your training?  Will it be extremely hilly or flat?  Are you running at altitude?  Will you be used to the expected temperature?
  • Take a test.  Running a test race is a great way to gather valuable information about your fitness.  If your goal involves a specific target race, look for a course that closely resembles your target race.  Test races (or test training runs) provide a virtual lab environment that you can use to develop insights.
  • Follow your instinct.  Your gut instinct and feelings are good sources for insight, especially if you are an experienced runner.  What have you been feeling lately?  After each workout, consider writing a quick thought on how your workout went.  These individual data points will become valuable as you analyze them in combination over longer periods of time.
  • Ask “what if…?”.  Sprinkle in at least one new idea that could improve your running performance.  New ideas expand your thinking and keep your training fresh.  What if you were to add a new type of workout?  What if you were to stretch after each long run?  Could you envision a different set of outcomes?

The process of developing insights is not sequential.  The intent is to learn something new and meaningful.  You may need to triangulate multiple data points and iterate several times before you discover the compelling insights.  Spend the time; it’s worthwhile.  You know you’re finished when you say “wow, I never realized…”.

A final note of caution

The process of developing insight is difficult.  If you dig deep enough, you may uncover information that you’d rather not see, or you may be tempted to beat yourself up over what you find.  Try to remain honest, objective, and free of judgement.  The goal is to inform and guide your future training, not to flog yourself over events of the past.

While insight is an essential input to a training strategy, it’s not a “once and done” proposition.  Regularly refreshing your insights is the best way to make sure that your training is on track and your running is improving.  So get started today!

And let me know what you think.  Did this post help you discover something that surprised you?  What worked for you in developing insights?  You can post a comment or send me an email.


7 tips for setting running goals

Is your running performance stagnant?  Do you feel aimless or have difficulty getting out the door?  Is your New Year’s resolution to get fit a thing of the past?  Do you want to get fit this spring?  Are you achieving your goals but still feeling blah?

If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, perhaps you should evaluate your running goals.  Goals are incredibly powerful.  It’s difficult to stay on course with fitness – weather, work, sickness, and the other aspects of your life need attention.  The best goals inspire and motivate you, and you feel rewarded when you’ve accomplished them.

Here are some tips that I find useful in setting my running goals.  Everyone is different, so tune your goals to your unique situation.  Try the tips that you think will help, leave the rest.  Let me know what works and what doesn’t.

1.  Match specificity to timeframe.  Each goal should have a timeframe associated with it.  The goals that are closer should be more specific than the goals that are farther away.  This allows you to adjust your specific goals as the timeframe approaches.

For example, suppose you are a new runner and you want to finish a 10K six months from now.  Start with a goal of simply finishing the race – don’t set a specific time goal.  As the race gets closer and you gain running experience, you can consider setting a specific time goal.

2.  Think small.  Break down longer term goals into a series of smaller goals.  Achieving the smaller goals keeps you motivated, and assessing your performance against the smaller goals helps you adjust your larger goals over time.

For example, if your goal is to run a marathon this fall, set specific running goals for each month.  These should challenge you to train well.  Assessing your performance against the monthly goals will help you refine your marathon goal (as the race gets closer).  This idea works together with the first tip above, and it also fits well with the powerful concept of periodization.

3.  Think balance.  I cannot overstate the importance of balance in your efforts to get more fit.  Achieving a fitness goal requires attention to more than just your specific area of fitness.  Consider setting goals related to your daily habits such as eating and sleeping.  Perhaps you should watch less TV.  Balanced goals can make a real difference in your performance and experience.

For example, I am currently recovering from a race and starting to think about my next race.  One of my major goals is to get more sleep – I’m aiming for an average of 6 hours of sleep each day.  I know this will help in many aspects of my life, including my running performance.

4.  Think outside the box.  Dare to dream – variety can motivate you.  There are many ways to set goals that are outside the box.  Options include a new distance (longer or shorter), a different kind of race (e.g., trail race, relay), or a different city.  A different goal gives you something new to look forward to and helps vary your training to keep it fresh.

For example, if you’ve run the same marathon every year for 7 years, consider a different marathon.  Or, if you typically run 10K races, consider a half marathon.  Another option is to gather a group of people and run a long distance relay race.  Perhaps the most famous long distance relay is Hood to Coast, but you can find many more online (try here for a list).

5.  Assess your starting point.  Realistically (and honestly) assess your current state of fitness.  Set your goals accordingly.  Attempting to achieve goals that are too aggressive often leads to either injury or de-motivation (when you find yourself missing your goals).

For example, if you have not run for a while, resist the temptation to base your goals on your previous races.  Give yourself time to build up your fitness.

6.  Consider the commitment.  Ask yourself:  ‘Can I make the commitment required to achieve this goal?’  Answering this question typically requires an assessment of the other aspects of your life.  Will your job limit your ability to train, are your personal relationships strong enough to handle the added stress of training, do you have family obligations that will prevent you from putting in the time and effort?

For example:  in late 2008 I was seriously considering running the 2009 Pikes Peak marathon.  At the end of 2008, my wife and I found out that we were having a baby in late summer 2009.  I had to postpone Pikes Peak because other priorities would keep me from the training necessary to run Pikes Peak well.

7.  Give it meaning.  Create goals that will mean something when you achieve them.  A PR is one way to create meaning, but there are others – reward yourself after hitting your goals, find a tough course, or run for a loved one or good cause.  When it’s 37 degrees and raining outside, a meaningful running goal often means the difference between crawling back under the covers and getting out the door.

Once you set your goals, revisit them regularly.  Stuff happens.  Circumstances change.  It’s perfectly fine to change your goals as your life changes.

What do you think?  Do these tips make sense?  How do you set your running goals?  Add a comment and let me know.