Posted by: Joe English | January 29, 2008

Motivation: Alright time to get back to work!

It’s that time of year again.

Sure, it may have snowed here in Portland the night before last and it is still colder than we’d like it to be, but when you look at the calendar it is time to get back to work.

It doesn’t feel like it was that long ago that I was writing about off-season training. In that series, I talked about the fact that an off-season break should be reasonably short – like 6 to 8 weeks at the most. Well that was back in December and now January is almost gone.

So, officially, I’m saying that it is time to get back to work.

What’s the first step in getting yourselves back out the door into the rain and the cold to starting running? Set your goals for the season. Goals are powerful. Mentally, we all struggle when we don’t understand our reasons or motivation for doing things. We start asking that three-letter question “why?” Why should I put my cold weather gear on and go out in the rain? Why shouldn’t I eat that? Why should I start running this early?

The answer to all of these questions can be solved by giving yourself some clear direction. That’s where your goals come in.

Step 1: set high level goals – look at the season as a whole and decide what you’d like to do this year. What do you want to work on? What did you like about last season? What would you like to accomplish? Understanding this high-level vision helps set more specific goals.

Step 2: break it down– once you have a high-level vision, break down that season wide goal into more specific areas to work on. For example, you might want to give one or two races much more importance in your season and then structure your training around them, keeping other races as part of your training but not putting as much weight on them.

Step 3: get specific – now that you’ve got a plan and its sub-parts, you need to get specific. Rather than saying that you want to “finish the Rock N Roll Marathon”, for example, you may want to make it a goal to “improve my pace by 10 seconds per mile in the 2007 Rock N Roll Marathon” — there’s less wiggle room in that goal by getting specific on the year and time goal.

Step 4: set measurable goals tied to your own performance – make sure that when you set goals that they can be measured and achieved based on your own performance. Saying that you’d like to “finish in the top 10” at your next race, for example is measurable but is not tied only to your own performance. If you’re the only person that shows up at the race, you could walk and still finish in the top 10. A better goal would be to “finish in X time” at the race, where that time target is a time that would make you competitive enough to finish in the top 10. I’ll mention the opposite of this example as well. I worked with an athlete two years ago that set a goal to “win” her marathon. Looking at the historical times for the race, she should have easily won. Unfortunately for her, an elite professional woman just happened upon the race and blew away the course record by 10 minutes. She didn’t achieve her goal, because it was set based on external criteria outside of her control. If she had set a goal to “run the race faster than the current course record” she would have met her goal, even in finishing second.

Step 5: Be realistic – It’s important when setting goals to be realistic based on your capabilities and your training plans. I made the mistake, for instance, of setting a goal to set a new half-marathon PR this season, without realizing that the time demands of my new baby would not allow the training time to make that possible. I had the plan in hand, but the reality of my current life situation would allow that goal. So make sure that your goals take into account the time that you have, your resources, your assets and liabilities.

Step 6: get help – if you are having trouble setting goals or planning your season, get help. There are coaches, training groups and even exeperienced running buddies that can help you. I find that athletes are simply much happier when they have a plan to work from. Once they have their goals and their plan they can just train and race without the stress of worrying about whether they’re doing things right or wrong.

So people, shake the dust off the shoes and set out for a run in the cold and rain. While you’re out there, you can think through your goals for the season. If you need a coach to help, let me or someone else know at this point in the season. Having a good road-map to the season is a great step to doing well all the way around.

For information on Coach Joe’s training services, click here.

Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon, USA
Running Advice and News


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: