Jog on with Helen Twose

Pounding the pavement and keeping up with the latest in running news

Jog On: You've got to set goals

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Most runners set the goal of running a marathon.
Photo / Thinkstock
Most runners set the goal of running a marathon. Photo / Thinkstock

We could learn a thing or two from babies. When it comes to sheer, bloody minded determination they have it in spades.

My wee baby girl ticked over ten months this week. She may be a little dot of a thing, but she's hitting all the relevant milestones. Crawling is well and truly mastered; standing alongside furniture, check; climbing atop the coffee table, done.

After all the tears of frustration, bumps and bruises, there is nothing that will stand between a baby and achieving what it wants, be it toddling those first steps or getting a coveted toy. My little girl wouldn't know a goal if it leapt up and snatched dolly right out of her hand, but she doesn't lack for motivation.

When you start running it doesn't take long for talk of goals to come up, whether it's speed, distance, weight loss or a particular race. Goals are what give us the motivation to get going and keep going.

Last week when I talked to James Kuegler he gave me a few tips on keeping training on track.

He's a big believer in having a goal event to focus the mind, be it a half or full marathon for the serious runner or a 5k or 10k distance for beginners.

To keep motivated he suggests adding a social component to runs - either getting out there with a mate or arranging to meet up for a coffee after a weekend run.

And if life becomes busy don't panic about missing the odd session, he says, because fitness declines much more slowly that it inclines. Just keep that goal event in mind to keep you honest.

"The hardest thing for a lot of people in terms of the motivation to go and exercise or lose weight is it really has to come from the inside. Until they have an undying determination to lose that weight or reach that goal then it's probably not going to happen and that's really confronting for a lot of people," says James.

So what is my goal? To run a marathon? That seems to be the default goal for many runners.

I asked Lisa Markwick, a sports psychologist and avid runner, for a few pointers.

She says I need to ensure my goal is in the realms of possibility and not to be unkind to myself in terms of what is possible to do.

"Some people, I think, set themselves unrealistic goals and they think they can, say run every day and to run every day just might not be possible," says Markwick.

"People set goals and miraculously think they're going to get there. You've actually got to work backwards from the goal and see that it all looks kind of feasible."

Being unrealistic is a recipe for failure, she says.

Markwick says I need to be clear about the price I'm prepared to pay to achieve a goal. It may mean committing to some kind of ritual, say getting out of bed before the rest of the family to go for a run.

But don't make the sacrifice so big it's not enjoyable, Markwick says.

"Make the journey as enjoyable as the end goal."

Markwick herself runs long distance off-road events to raise money for the Leukaemia and Blood Foundation. She says her motivation is training for the 7in7 event alongside friends on off-road trails and being able to contribute positively to the world.

"It's a good illustration that the end result for me is not the objective."

Sports psychologist Karen Nimmo gave me her top tips for achieving goals:

* Set clear, realistic, specific, measureable goals.

* Write goals down - it's more powerful than holding them in your head.

* Act on each goal daily - if you can't do this then the steps are not small enough.

* Review goals frequently - this enables you to track progress and adjust if necessary.

* Set a timeframe. Deadlines work.

* Celebrate each small step on the way to the bigger goal.

My goal until the end of the year is to make sure I get out for at least four runs a week. Looking back through my training log I've found I probably wasn't going as often as I needed to in order to make some headway.

My other task between now and then is to find myself a 5k "goal event" to complete in the first few months of the year.

It's quite possible I'll be achieving my goals as my little girl hits her next one. Her grandmother tells me my daughter took a couple of steps between the furniture and her outstretched arms the other day.

What are your running goals? What's your best goal-related advice?

In other news:

* Fit, young blokes needed. AUT masters student Chloe Smith is investigating caffeine's effect on endurance athletes. She needs men between the age of 18 and 35 who are able to run 60 minutes at high intensity to participate in her research.

* Young runners in London get a chance to grab free tickets to next year's Olympic Games.

* Over 60s have oxygen efficiency on a par with their 20-something running mates, but strength declines.

* Health officials are testing faecal samples from runners after dozens became sick with diarrhoea and vomiting during a Las Vegas marathon.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jog_On_NZ

- HERALD ONLINE

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