Goal Setting Strategies

Great goal setting strategies will help you pick goals that will challenge and motivate you all the way to the finish line.


One of the best goal setting strategies that anyone can use to consistently write effective goals involves applying the SMART principles to individually tailored goals. The reason for this, is goals written in this fashion provide you with a crystal clear vision of what it is you want, how you’re going to get it and even when you're going to get it!



SMART goals are:

  1. specific – I will complete a marathon (26.2 miles)
  2. measurable – in a time of 4 hours and 15 minutes
  3. action oriented – run
  4. realistic yet challenging – last marathon was 4:30:00
  5. time or deadline oriented– on May 24, 2017

SMART Goals for Runners

To ensure that you stay motivated throughout your training program and to optimize your chances for success, you should have at least 3 types of goals:

  1. Step goals
  2. Program goals
  3. Career(Ultimate)goals

Step Goals

These are the short term stepping stones that keep you motivated and on the right path towards your longer term goals. For example, throughout your program you should have at least a few races planned that you may have specific time goals for. In addition to providing an immediate objective to focus on, short term goals can be very helpful indicators as to your current fitness and hence training program effectiveness. By using a tool such as a pace calculator and race prediction chart, you can plug in some of your race times and obtain some pretty accurate estimates for your bigger goals!

Program Goals

These are the goals that you intend on achieving at the end of any given training program. For example, an average half or full marathon training program may be 18 weeks long that includes a 2 or 3 week taper leading up to a goal race on the final day.

Running Career Goals

While you may be weeks, months or even years away from your running career goal, it should be a very grandiose one. Your career goal can be a specific race time such as run a half marathon in a time of 1 hour 25 minutes or even a total number of miles that you wish to log in your lifetime such as 40,000 miles. Why not have both?

Use the template provided in the example of goals page, and then take the time to set your step goals in addition to your program goals so that you have short term milestones to focus on. It's really important that you write out your goals on the goal setting worksheet, and post them in an obvious place that you will see or at least refer to every day. This is one of the most powerful goal setting strategies you can employ since they are not much good if they are out of sight and out of mind.

Your goals should be challenging, something you have not achieved already but also realistic. A well know goal guru, Raymond Aaron in his book ‘Double Your Income Doing What you Love', points out that there is a negative psychological impact when you win by losing. So, if you purposely set your goals way too high expecting that you’ll at least achieve something close to it and expect that you’ll be satisfied you’ll often find that you’re disappointed. He uses the example of 4 teams in the final playoffs playing for medals. There are at last two teams who play for the honour of Bronze and only one of them will win and receive the Bronze medal. The other two teams are playing for Gold and while one team will receive the Silver medal, a higher honour than Bronze, they will only receive the Silver by losing while going for Gold! Amazingly, the team who wins bronze celebrates, the team who wins Silver cower in defeat!

So, while there is always a place for your huge goals, make them your career goals and set your immediate and program goals to carve a path of success that will lead you there, one step at a time.

Here's a recap of the top goal setting strategies:

  1. Write your goals down!
  2. Make sure your goals are SMART
  3. Create short term, program and long term goals
  4. Get emotionally involved with your goals
  5. Post your goals in an obvious place
A goal setting strategy that works great for me and many other runners I know is to plug your goals into a nice large calendar that you can put in your kitchen or bedroom that is on display for you to see and affirm every day.

Whether you use an app or a hard copy printed calendar to follow your running training program, plug in your step goals by writing the exact date that you plan on executing them. For example, in January if I have a program goal that I plan to run in May then my training program will peak on that day. Between January and May however, I also need step goals to provide me with short term motivation and focus throughout the long training period. My 2 steps goals could consist of a 10k run in March, and a half marathon goal in April. I will then find races that roughly coincide to a good fit in my 4 month training program and build them in with specific time goals for each that will compliment my program goal.

In summary, when you read your written goals they should excite and maybe might even scare you. If so, you've done a good job of applying sound goal setting strategies since this means you're pushing yourself to progress beyond what is already common to you. Remember, it's important to read your goals frequently, if possible at least once a day and get emotionally attached to them - envision what it will feel like when you achieve them.

Go to Home Page.