Goals, motivation and logs

Winning the New Year's Day 10km; photo by David Knight

Winning the New Year's Day 10km

Goals and motivation

The nature of our goals defines what sort of runner we are.  You may want to lose some weight or increase your fitness, to reduce stress and increase your self-confidence, or you may want to achieve a particular time in a race. Effective goal-setting is an important part of increasing your motivation and commitment to running, and getting the most out of the sport.

“Enter a race for motivation.  When you start it can sometimes be difficult to keep motivated, especially when it’s cold or wet, but if you have a definite target in the form of a race it can be a lot easier.  I was a jogger for years, never really improving because I would only go running intermittently, until I entered my first race.  Now I race regularly and think of myself as a runner, not a jogger.”

Paul Curd

How to set good goals

Your goal should be achievable but challenging.  It should be specific, positive, and tied to a particular timeframe.  A good goal might be “lose 5kg in six months”.   A goal like “lose some weight” is not sufficiently specific and will not motivate you in the same way. Your goals might be a mixture of longer term objectives, over a period of months, and shorter terms goals over the coming weeks.

If your main goal is a long way off – such as completing a marathon in nine months time – you should set yourself some intermediate targets, for example completing a particular 10km or a half marathon. These intermediate targets should be measurable and time-bound.

If you are not sure what goal to set yourself for a race, seek advice from more experienced runners about what you might realistically achieve.  The race time predictor on this site may also be useful to help you to extrapolate from your times at other distances.

Visualise what it will be like to achieve your goal.  Promise yourself a reward for when you achieve it. Write your goals down, and tell your friends and family about them.  This will help to maintain your commitment.  You may want to stick a reminder on the fridge.

One of the best ways to motivate yourself is to get together with a friend, and agree to do something together. You might both agree to run the same race, for example. Supporting each other will help to reinforce your goal.

Don’t become obsessive, or put your goal above your family, friends, or health.

Review your goals regularly and adjust them if necessary.  If you are injured before your marathon and cannot safely take part, then adjust your goal.  You can always take part in another race in the future.  Having the wisdom to know when you should adjust your goal is just as important as having the courage and tenacity to overcome challenges on the way.

Training logs

A training log is a diary where you write down every run that you do. Although it may sound ludicrously geeky if you have never done it, keeping a training log is one of the best ways to keep motivated as a runner.  A log will help you to track your progress, and to stick to your training programme.  Over time, it will be a useful source of information to trace the origins of a period of good running, or of injury and boredom.

You can keep a training log in a notebook. If you prefer to have it on your computer, SportTracks is excellent free software.  There is also software you can put on an iPhone or other smartphone.  If you have a GPS watch, you can use it to record all your runs automatically (SportTracks can import the information). There are also online training log services.

What to record in a training log

In a training log, you might record:

  • how far you ran
  • the time you ran for
  • the time of day you ran
  • where you ran
  • how you felt (perhaps on a scale of 1-5)
  • which shoes you were wearing (to track how many miles the shoes have done so that you know when to replace them)
  • your average and peak heart rate (if you measure it)
  • any other special factors

Some people also record the weather conditions, their weight, how much sleep they had, who they ran with, their menstrual cycle, and so on.

2 Responses to Goals, motivation and logs

  • I’ve recently started to get back into running so thanks for the tips, hopefully they’ll spur me on. Just got to find a race now :)

  • Tim:

    I recently got into running and use the NIKE+GPS iPhone app which is great for logging my runs and playing my favourite music – even ‘powersongs’ when I need them. I can set it so I get an indication every km through my headphones. It also provides the pace while I run. After the run it keeps all the data (pace, distance, etc.) and syncs it with an online server. It even shows me on a map where I’ve been and how fast I was running in a given spot. I find it very motivating and recommend it, although I’m sure there are similar apps/devices out there that can do the same & possibly more.

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