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S.M.A.R.T. Goal Setting for Runners

S.M.A.R.T. Goal Setting for Runners by bmoore

When it came to setting my running goals for this year, I avoided the resolution route like the plague. While several of my running buds built lists for January like “cross train at the gym” and “run at least two marathons this year,” what I’ve discovered is that effectively setting goals for running is a lot like setting goals at work. Your goals have to be S.M.A.R.T. …

Timely (set to a specific time frame)

Specific – Specific goals are much more likely to be accomplished than measurable ones. Specific goals answer the five W’s; Who, What, Where, When and Why.

Example: Join LA Fitness and cross train at the gym at least three days a week to improve core strength.

Measurable – Establish very specific, measurable indicators of progress for each goal.

Example:  Be able to do 5 sets of twelve sit-ups by March 1st.

Attainable – Virtually all goals are attainable within physical limitations, given enough planning. However, establishing goals that are too lofty or involve a very long time frame reduce your chance for success. If you do have big running goals – perhaps like running a sub 3:00 marathon – break them down into shorter-term goals that you can achieve along the way.

Example: Run the Jingle Bell 10K on 12/21/12 at sub 38:00.

Realistic – For a lot of folks this is a tough one. It may be tempting to create really excessive goals, but you’ll inevitably feel totally discouraged when those goals cannot be met. Instead, choose goals that are challenging, but can clearly be achieved given your current lifestyle and resources.

Example: Run at least one speed workout every week.

Timely – Goals need an achievement time frame to be meaningful. Put an end-point to your goal to prevent that procrastinator in you from rearing its ugly head.

Example: Incorporate 5 workouts a week into my schedule by March 1st


It’s a good idea to write your goals down, which helps to solidify your commitment. In fact, you might want to check out this excellent article by Jason Gootman and Will Kirousis in Running Times magazine, specifically about goal setting for runners. Gootman and Kirousis outline the process from the coach’s perspective and start runners with a written evaluation:


 “When a new runner approaches us about coaching, the first thing we ask them is to tell us in detail about their goals. One reason we ask is because knowing their goals is an important part of being able to structure their training. But this is only part of the reason. When athletes write down their goals, they are forced to examine themselves and see their own dreams. This is important because ultimately, why they hope to achieve their goals—not simply knowing what their goals are—is what motivates them to chase their athletic, and life, ambitions.”


I think this is one of the most important reasons why goal setting is so important for runners. The physical training piece, though certainly not easy, is concrete and progress is measurable. The hopes, ambitions and dreams of your running career are less so. Reaffirming why you get up at dawn and do this every day is a great way to focus your intention and effort, and will help you to maintain your motivation during the low times.

I don’t know about you, but I am constantly self-evaluating against my goals. When I enter that last run of the week into my log I do a kind of progress report in my head…did I achieve my desired mileage this week? Am I sticking to my dialing stretching routine (to avoid injury)? Am I making desired progress on my split times?

Now, after reading the Running Times article I am going to be writing down my goals- putting them in stone so to speak…and I’m looking forward to regularly reviewing and revising those goals as each are achieved.

What about you? Do you write your running goals down and review them throughout the year? What’s your process for staying motivated and always challenged?


READ MORE: Effective Goal Setting Goal Setting on Run For Life Setting Goals for Running- the Pfizinger Report


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Posted by: bmoore on Jan 09, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Visits: 1803 | Posted in: News, Train


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