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Set Measurable Goals for the New Year

If you took my advice to get some rest during the holidays to recharge both your body and spirit in preparation for the new year, you are now probably ready to get back to training. Be sure to set some measurable goals for the new year. It’s easy to merely exclaim that you are going to get in better shape next year or that you are going to get faster. The reality, however, is harsh: the more general the goal, the less likely you’ll accomplish it. To maintain motivation throughout the year, establish incremental, reasonable, obtainable goals that will prepare the way for achieving the ultimate objective.

General goals quickly morph into unobtainable goals. Saying “I want to lose weight” is the classic example of a New Year’s Resolution set up for failure –– you have given yourself no benchmark to accomplish, no clear motivation to do so, and no action plan. A better approach would be to state “I am going to lose five pounds by February 10th because I’m happier when my pants are less tight. I will walk for at least a half an hour four times a week and maintain a food diary to stay mindful about my eating.” This specific statement is reasonable, measurable, motivating, and action-oriented. This is a goal that sets you up to succeed in weight loss and lays the groundwork for more success in the future.

To set yourself up for success in running, fix on a specific time, distance, or quantity goal and work backwards to determine the ways that you will reach it. Here, it is helpful to use past accomplishments as a guide to set your incremental and ultimate goals. It is important not to set unrealistic goals. These can result in overtraining, burnout, and loss of motivation as you fail to achieve an out-of-reach goal. Remember, however, not to sell yourself short: seemingly out-of-reach goals can be obtained by setting reasonable incremental goals and stepping up over time. If your final goal, for instance, is to run a 44-minute 10K by the fall, it would be a good idea to set an earlier goal of getting under 22 minutes for the 5K. Steady planned progression is the way to achieve goals.

Are you completely on your own when trying to achieve the goals you have set? No, you don’t have to be. I’ll talk about getting some outside help –– think coaching! –– next time.

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