You have only just recently started running and you are feeling overexcited about the expected results? This is perfectly normal for newbies as well as for runners with some practice as well. Whether your goal is weight loss, or to improve your results and run and win races, you need to take precautions when setting your running goals because not only do you risk being disappointed, but you also risk mild to serious injuries due to overtraining as well. Short-term results are rarely to be expected, which is why it is better to set smaller goals and move up gradually as you progress. This will help you stay motivated and safe as you improve in your running.

But how do you know what goals are actually achievable and realistic for you?

You should know that having long-term goals for your running as well as for every other aspect of your life and work is absolutely normal and is a good thing. Goals are something we look forward to achieving and something we are motivated to reach.

But to get to the bigger goals, it is better to set smaller goals on the way. This will keep you motivated to keep running and improving your performance, rather than leading to frustration, injury and to ultimately giving up on the long-term goals.

Here are some tips on setting realistic goals for running and sticking to them:

  1. Keep your focus on the running process

Learn how to enjoy every small victory and improvement as you progress, but do not focus entirely on a specific small goal because this will stop you from wanting to improve and move further. Simply look at reaching every small goal as another step towards your improved performance and fitness level.

  1. Set a reasonable running time goal

Use one of the many online running time calculators to set your personal time goal, depending on your current fitness level, age, experience and performance. Do not set a goal to beat the Olympic record in running, because you are most likely to fail. As a rule of the thumb, you can set a reasonable running time goal by measuring the time it takes to run a mile as fast as you can. Then add 40 seconds to it, and you will have the realistic running time goal for every mile if you are planning on entering a 5k or other workout run. If you are registered for a marathon, then add 30 seconds to this time, and this should be the pace to strive for during the race. This is just an estimate, but it should give you a rough idea.

  1. Pick one of the most common top realistic running goals:

There are several running goals which are suitable for nearly every runner, especially for newbies. Here are the top selections:

  • Set a goal to run a certain distance without stopping

This goal is measurable and easy to understand. Set a goal to run 1 mile without stopping if all you can manage right now is 100 or 200 meters. This is a perfectly reasonable goal and you will find the motivation to work on achieving it very strong.

  • Run for a certain number of consecutive days in a row

To set a goal to run for every day in your life is unreasonable. Instead try to set a goal for running for seven days in row and see how it goes. You can also try setting a goal to run for a fixed number of days per week and try to stick to it. Once you get to it, you will feel the urge to further push yourself by setting more difficult objectives for yourself.

  • Set a goal to improve your running time by 10-15 seconds

This is much more realistic than setting a goal to run a mile for 6 minutes, for example. Measure your running time, and set a goal to reduce it by a few seconds. This may sound easy, but in actuality improving your running time by even a minute can take years and can even take a lifetime. So, be realistic.

  1. Take the time to ask yourself about the running goals you have set

Think about how big your running goal is, and make an estimation of the time you will need to reach it. Whether it is to reach a specific running time, or to lose a specific number of pounds, if the goal will take you more than three months to get there, then you should consider this a long-term goal. Don’t give up on it of course, but make sure you set up smaller goals to be attempting to reach while you are on the way to reaching your final goal.

Also, take into consideration the free time you have in order to complete your goal in those three months. If you need to be running for hours on a daily basis in order to reach it, you may want to reconsider the timeline of your objectives, so that you can stick to running and to getting there at some point.

Ask yourself how you will feel if you reach your long-term goal. By visualizing this moment you will help stay motivated and will keep running rather than get frustrated and give up along the way.

In conclusion

Yes, goals are important for running as well as for absolutely everything else we do in our lives. But at the same time setting unrealistic goals can cause huge amounts of frustration and angst and can be dangerous for your physical and mental wellbeing. Write down your long term goals and close your diary. Now, think about the first short term goal you need to achieve in order to work yourself up towards your ultimate goal. One step at a time is the safest and more achievable way to proceed when you are setting your running objectives.

Further reading: Set reachable long term and short term goals