The Value Of Annual Goal Setting For Runners

AJWs TaproomThis time of year many of us go through the ritual of making promises to ourselves and others about what we resolve to do or change in the year ahead. While I, myself, am not much of a New Year’s resolution type, I have, for the past several years spent the first week after New Year’s Day assessing my past and addressing the future.

In that context, I also have taken to creating specific goals in four ‘buckets’ that I choose to spend the year focusing on. This year I have shared those goals with several of my friends in an effort to maintain accountability. I have also urged some of the ultrarunners I am currently coaching to do the same.

For me, setting achievable and aspirational goals that have both short- and long-term parameters is key. For the purpose of simplicity, I always start with a set of three to four Short-Term Numerical Goals. These are specific goals with specific numerical outcomes attached. Usually, since they are short-term, I like to place a six- to eight-month timeline on this first set of goals. For me, typically, goals in this bucket have to do with weight, diet, target-training times, or life habits. Here are this year’s three:

  1. Weigh in at 165 pounds on April 1.
  2. Walk/hike an average of 40 miles per week through March 1.
  3. Attend at least two strength classes a week through June 1.

The next bucket is for Short-Term General Goals. Similar to the numerical goals, these are on a six- to eight-month timeline. However, in contrast, they are not necessarily tied to a specific number and are more generative and qualitative in nature. For 2016, here are my four goals in this bucket:

  1. I am a classic ‘more is better’ person and need to make sure that I keep my eye on the prize, which is Hardrock in July, by not overdoing anything too early.
  2. Keep work/life schedule as clear as possible so that I can fit in maximal training around work and family. This year more than ever I need to say no to things that aren’t essential.
  3. Endeavor to sleep eight hours per night.
  4. Don’t spend too much time on social media.

After the short-term goals exercise, I typically take a few days to re-focus on long-term goals. These can be goals that stretch out as long as one and two years and can be, in the words of Jim Collins, author of Good To Great, “Big Hairy Audacious Goals” or “BHAGs” for short. These, too, are made up of a numerical bucket and a general bucket and follow a similar pattern to the short-term goals.

For 2016, my Long-Term Numerical Goals are:

  1. Mileage — Hike/Run 1,900 miles before Hardrock. Hit 2,000 for the year at the race!
  2. Time — Commit at least 15 hours per week to training through April. Twenty to 25 hours per week in May/early June. Thirty-plus hours per week on the weeks of June 10 and June 18 (Silverton training camp).
  3. Elevation — Climb 350,000 feet before Hardrock.
  4. Weight — Start Hardrock at 159 pounds. I weighed 163 when I ran it in 2009. Lowest starting weight ever for an ultra was 161 at Western States in 2005. As of January 4, I weigh 171.
  5. Race Goals — Sub-30 hours at Hardrock.

And finally, here are my Long-Term General Goals:

  1. Savor my return to running and practice what I preach, specifically patience and just enjoying the fact that I can run at all.
  2. Really focus on climbing power and efficiency.
  3. Build up sensibly both in the next five weeks before I am cleared to fully run on February 15 and especially after my return to running.
  4. Continue to focus on strength and balance by maintaining a strict, three-days-a-week regimen of strength and flexibility work. This is something I have neglected for years.
  5. Integrate cross training, specifically long sets of Stair Master intervals, into my training regimen at least two days per week.

I understand that everyone is a little different and people respond to goal setting in different ways at different times. However, I have found that setting up some targets–ambitious and yet achievable–can be immensely rewarding in the long run.

Here’s hoping everyone has a great 2016…

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Boneyard Beer Hop VenomThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from a Taproom fave, Boneyard Beer in Bend, Oregon. Their classic west-coast-style Double IPA Hop Venom has been making waves across the Northwest over the past few months and rightfully so. While it has the typical hard frontal hops that most beers in this variety have, it also has a much gentler finish with an almost flowery aftertaste.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

With the Trail Sisters sharing their resolutions and goals for 2016 earlier this week and now AJW sharing his, would you like to put yours out there as well?

There are 9 comments

    1. Andy Jones-Wilkins

      Emir, thanks for asking. No beer related goals. As for how I’ll drop the weight, just the old school way of calorie counting. It’s hard but it works for me. That’s why I put that 165 midline April 1 goal in there. In the past I would always suck all the weight in the last six weeks. Trying to be more deliberate this time. We’ll see.

  1. Kaci

    Excellent article and words to live by. Thanks for sharing and of course you know we are all going to be holding you accountable! Happy Trails!

  2. William Read

    It seems like you have a good plan. It is awesome that you are doing strength training now. I think that is really important. I like you mostly ran and doing little outside of that for 38 years. Since then I progressively switched to doing mostly callusthenics training and not as much running. What I learned from this was that running was not keeping me fit. I knew I was weak and skinny weighing 140 lbs at 5-10 but I did not know that constantly getting sick with and colds and flus through the winter, having back pain, along with some other issues was associated with my body composition. I was a decent runner able to run a 10K under 32 minutes at my best so I thought I was fit. I have gained 20 lbs on the callusthenics, back pain is gone, have not gotten the flu in 6 years, and probably a couple colds in that duration. I am also much more functionally stronger for pulling, pushing and climbing things and I look much better at 58 than in any decade previous. Obviously my running capability has suffered a lot on account of this but to be honest I don’t care. I like the changes that the strength training has done for me and it is well worth the trade off. Nevertheless I still have a soft spot for running and I am planning to run a trail marathon in February, my first marathon since 1987! Good luck on your recovery.

    1. Emerson Thoreau

      It’s going to be hard to do proper strength training with all that running, and vice-versa. A few suggestions: do not lift to failure or you will compromise your running and metabolism; always lift and do balance work “in” bare feet, and focus on strengthening your feet (the only thing that (should) hit the ground when you run)and hips and glutes; and, understand that (a) pain on one side of your body is a red flag for being unbalanced and portends more significant injuries and (b) foot, back, knee, or hip pain can also be red flags for nutritional and metabolic issues. You are a good candidate for more significant injuries given your training schedule. Good luck.

  3. Emerson Thoreau

    It’s going to be hard to do proper strength training with all that running, and vice-versa. A few suggestions: do not lift to failure or you will compromise your running and metabolism; always lift and do balance work “in” bare feet, and focus on strengthening your feet (the only thing that (should) hit the ground when you run)and hips and glutes; and, understand that (a) pain on one side of your body is a red flag for being unbalanced and portends more significant injuries and (b) foot, back, knee, or hip pain can also be red flags for nutritional and metabolic issues. You are a good candidate for more significant injuries given your training schedule. Good luck.

  4. Camas

    There is a great TED talk on how voicing your intentions or goals makes you actually less likely to follow through on them. It involves the parts of the brain that are satisfied when you make a statement such as “I will do this, or that…etc.”. This seems to be the way that I work, but I could understand how some people are motivated through external accountability. Good luck in the new year AJW!

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