How to set a good running goal?

Man with tattoos running up steps

Setting a good running goal is important for both beginners and experienced runners. A good goal will be challenging but achievable, and it will help you stay motivated and on track. When setting a goal, it's important to consider your current fitness level, experience, and schedule. You should also make sure that your goal is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

Probability of success

One approach to determining the likelihood of achieving a goal is to estimate your probability of doing so. This can be done by considering a number of factors, such as your past experience, the resources you have available, and the challenges you are likely to face. It is important to be realistic in your assessment, as overestimating your chances of success can lead to disappointment. However, if you are too pessimistic, you may not take the necessary steps to achieve your goal. Ultimately, the best way to determine your chance of success is to set a goal that is challenging but achievable, and then work hard to make it happen.

Aim High: Impossible Goals Don't Motivate Action

“Aim High” is a common motivational phrase but it frequently rings hollow. Goals that have a 0-1% chance of success are not motivating because they are so unlikely to be achieved. This can lead to us feeling discouraged and giving up on our goals. For example, if you set a goal to win the lottery, you are very unlikely to achieve it. This can lead to you feeling discouraged and giving up on your goal of becoming rich. Instead, it is better to set goals that are more achievable. For example, you could set a goal to save up $10,000 in the next year. This is a much more achievable goal, and it is more likely to motivate you to take action. If you aim to beat Kipchoge and set a world record in the marathon but haven’t run in years, you’re probably not even going to start running. In addition, setting goals that are too difficult can also lead to us feeling like failures. This can damage our self-confidence and make it harder to set and achieve goals in the future. It is important to set goals that are challenging but achievable. This will help us to stay motivated and on track to reach our goals. Why bother?

Easy Goals Don't Drive Improvement

Easy goals with 99-100% chance of success don't drive improvement because they are not challenging enough. When we achieve an easy goal, we don't feel a sense of accomplishment or satisfaction. This can lead to us feeling bored and unchallenged. In order to improve, we need to set goals that are challenging but achievable. When we achieve a challenging goal, we feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. This motivates us to set even more challenging goals and continue to improve. If you just aim to walk around your house or your block, it might be so easy that you put it off since you know you can do it, what would you even gain from it? Why Bother?

Aim for 50% Probability of Success

The best goals to set are those that have roughly a 50% chance of success. This is because they are challenging enough to be motivating, but not so difficult that they are discouraging. They also tend to maximize the benefit you could gain if you were to achieve it and can be highly motivating. And, even if you don’t quite make it, chances are high that you still made significant progress. If you want to improve, set challenging goals that push you outside of your comfort zone. When you achieve these goals, you will feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that will motivate you to continue to improve. Goals that challenge us but are possible to achieve can help us to improve our skills and knowledge. They can also help us to develop a sense of accomplishment.

Set Training Goals Based on Current Fitness Level

It is important to set goals that are realistic and achievable based on your current fitness level. If you are a beginner, start with broad goals such as walking for 30 minutes a day or going to the gym twice a week. Aim to increase overall fitness and endurance - the ability to keep doing activities for longer amounts of time.  This is important so you will be able to do the weekly training required for more specific goals. As you get fitter, you can set more specific goals such as running a 5K or a half marathon in a specific time.

As Fitness Improves - Set More Specific Goals

As your fitness improves, you can start to set more specific goals. For example, if you have been walking for 30 minutes a day, you could aim for a specific distance like completing a 5K, or even completing it in a certain time. A common goal and a good base level of fitness for almost any beginner runner is to be able to run 5K in 30 minutes. For some people that may take several weeks of months to achieve but a very achievable and rewarding goal for many.

Base Goals on Rate of Progress

It is also important to base your goals on your rate of progress. If you are making good progress, you can set more challenging goals. However, if you are not making as much progress as you would like, you may need to adjust your goals accordingly. Listen and be kind to your body. Pushing hard may be clickbait but can cause injuries which will set your progress back. Rule of thumb is to not increase weekly running distance or duration by more than 10% each week. If an entire week of workouts was difficult, scale back to ensure your body can catch up to your increasing demands.

Increase Difficulty as Abilities Improve

Finally, as your abilities undoubtedly improve, you should increase the difficulty of your goals. This will help you to continue to challenge yourself and make progress. For example, if you have been running a 5K, you could set a goal to run a faster 5K or increase the distance to 10K or half marathon. Then stay consistent with your training and your once nearly unachievable goal will be an easy run in no time.

Examples of Progressive Goal Setting

Starter Goal - Run a 5K

A beginner goal for someone who is new to running might be to run a 5K. This is a great goal for someone who is just starting out because it is achievable and can be broken down into smaller, more manageable steps. For example, you could start by running for 10 minutes at a time, three times a week. Once you can comfortably run for 10 minutes, you can increase the time to 15 minutes, and so on. Eventually, you will be able to run a full 5K without stopping.

Next Goal - 5K Under 30 Mins

Once you have achieved your beginner goal of running a 5K, you can set an intermediate goal of running a 5K in under 30 minutes. This is a more challenging goal, but it is still very achievable for most runners with consistent training. To reach this goal, you will need to increase your running speed and distance. You can do this by running interval workouts, where you alternate between running at a fast pace and running at a slower pace. You can also increase the distance of your runs each week.

Progression Goal - 5K in 25 min or Complete a 10K 

An advanced goal for someone who is an experienced runner might be to run a 5K in 25 minutes. This is a much more challenging goal, as you’re not only working on endurance but also increasing intensity and speed. This is still achievable for many runners. But some would care more about running for longer instead of faster. An alternate goal would be to keep working on endurance so being able to run 10K without stopping. This is also achievable with dedication and consistent work. With these more advanced goals - it is helpful to add in a variety of running workouts that Stride Sensei can help you to optimize your training.

It is important to set goals that are challenging but achievable. If you set your sights too high, you may become discouraged and give up. However, if you set your sights too low, you may not be motivated to reach your full potential. It is important to find a balance between challenging and achievable goals.

Additional Goal Setting Tips

Write Down Goals and Share

Writing down your goals helps you to stay focused and motivated because it gives you a concrete plan to follow. When you can see your goals in black and white, it's easier to stay on track and make progress. Additionally, sharing your goals with others can help you to hold yourself accountable and get support from your community. When people know what you're working towards, they're more likely to offer encouragement and help you stay on track.

Break into Smaller Milestones

Breaking down your goals into smaller milestones makes them seem more achievable because it allows you to focus on one step at a time. This can be helpful if you are feeling overwhelmed by a large goal. Additionally, reaching each milestone gives you a sense of accomplishment, which can help you to stay motivated and on track to reach your ultimate goal.

Schedule Training Sessions

Setting aside time for your goals helps you stay on track. It also helps you to avoid putting things off and ensure that you are making progress towards your goals. When you plan your training sessions, you are more likely to stick to them because you have already committed to them. You are also less likely to be tempted to skip a workout because you have already planned it out. Additionally, planning your training sessions allows you to track your progress and see how you are doing over time. This can help you to stay motivated and make sure that you are on track to reach your goals.

Join a Running Group

A running group can provide you with support and motivation from other runners. It can also help you to stay accountable and make sure that you are sticking to your training plan. When you are running with a group, you are more likely to show up for your runs because you don't want to let your teammates down. You are also more likely to push yourself harder when you are running with others because you want to keep up with the group. Running with a group can also be a lot more fun than running alone. You can chat with your teammates while you run, and you can also support each other when you are having a tough day. If you are looking to improve your running, joining a running group is a great way to do it.

Use Apps and Wearables to Track Progress

Using apps and wearables to track your progress can help you in many ways. It can help you to see how you are doing and make sure that you are on track to reach your goals. It can also help you to stay motivated and see your progress over time. For example, if you are trying to lose weight, you can track your calorie intake and exercise output. This will help you to see if you are making progress and making sure that you are on track to reach your goal weight. Additionally, seeing your progress over time can be very motivating and help you to stay on track.

Set hard but achievable goals to get the most out of your training

In conclusion, Setting appropriate goals is essential to getting the most out of your training. Goals that are not too difficult but also not too easy are perfect to get the most out of your training. If you set a goal that is too difficult, you are likely to get discouraged and give up. If you set a goal that is too easy, you will not be challenged and you will not see any improvement. The key is to set a goal that is challenging but achievable. When you hit your goal, you will feel a sense of accomplishment and motivation to keep going. Work with Stride Sensei to get a running plan that's personalized to your goals and current fitness levels, while also adapting to your weekly progress.  

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