Last week while in the gym, I saw a sign that read, “A goal without a plan is just a wish”. I have always said that sometimes a person’s goal is really a dream if it isn’t within their potential. That said, goals should be attainable.
As an online virtual marathon coach, I am contacted by runners of all abilities through my website, runwithgina.com and Run With Gina Facebook page. Regardless of their demographic, they all have one thing in common, to become the best runner they can possibly be. What that is for one person, will be different for another and it is based on their inherent genetic ability.
Unfortunately, many runners over-train and sabotage themselves by never allowing their body to recover from one workout to the next and never achieving their true potential or under train, also never achieving their true potential. My job as a coach is to guide them to their potential and I recommend that we get there by using S.M.A.R.T. goals.
The S.M.A.R.T. acronym stands for, Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, and Timely. (By the way, this is not hard and fast; some action items can be replaced with other words. For example, sometimes “A” means “attainable”.) I recommend for my runners that have run half or full marathons before start with a Specific finishing time goal, which is also called an outcome goal. If the runner tells me he wants to run a 3:50 marathon, I will then Measure where his current level of ability is with a 5k (3.1-mile) time trial. Several, slightly varying formulas exist that predict marathon ability on shorter races, such as the 5k distance. I then know if the goal is within his ability and can form an Action-oriented plan to achieve the specific time goal. An action-oriented plan is determining what days, times, and effort levels will be planned out to successfully complete the training runs and equally important, the nutrition and rest to support the run training. Realistic comes in different forms, starting with evaluating if the current action-oriented plan is realistically achievable after a few weeks of implementing it into work/life balance. If in fact it is not realistic, then I help the runner identify all the barriers to his success and we can adjust the plan to be more realistic and set it into action.
Also, part of being realistic is identifying if the runner is adapting to the training and if not, the specific outcome goal may need to be regressed or if they are improving, progressed if he so desires. This is done by occasionally re-measuring their level of ability. Timely, is execution of a marathon training plan that provides the right training stimulus, at the right time, for the appropriate duration to achieve the desired goal. Far too often I see runners that do way too much speed work, way too soon in their training season, which quite frankly is self-sabotaging behavior which prevents them from peaking at the right time in relation to the goal race.