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November 30, 2011

Setting New Goals After the Big Race

Written by Dena Evans

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Distance running and goal setting often go hand in hand.  While plenty of runners lace up each day for the enjoyment and the endorphins, it is often hard to train without a goal.  The large majority of our Focus-N-Fly trainees are focused on a particular event, many times with fitness, lifestyle, or weight loss goals as by-product.

Your training plans come built in with recovery cycles, designed to carry you safely to your next goal-setting point.  But how and what you choose to do next is a decision that remains squarely in your court.  Here are some of our ideas for choosing a new goal and re-lighting the fire that fueled you to your original goal race.

 

Take care to attend to your mental and physical needs

Some runners finish a big goal race and can’t wait to set a more challenging goal.  The thrill of success or the interest in re-doing what may not have gone well can be powerful motivators.  Others finish a race, rebound physically right on schedule, but don’t have the motivational itch to take on another challenge.

 

Work towards a goal race will require both physical and mental energy, so it is important that both aspects are attended to when making an appropriate goal for the next time around.  Your recovery cycle is designed to deliver you to a point where your body is ready for another challenge.  That point is usually after the immediate emotions have subsided from the goal race itself.  If emotions are high or you are unusually physically worn down, commit to setting a goal, but leave the actual goal setting until you are able to decide with a level head what makes sense.

 

Granted, many runners don’t have the highs and lows discussed above, in which case, there is not problem choosing another goal right away.  For those of us who require and enjoy more overt organization in our training lives, choosing another race right away doesn’t pose a problem and in fact can help keep you on track.  However, many new runners fail to respect the recovery period following a huge emotional and physical challenge.  Make sure you set your next horizon far enough away to take an appropriate recovery period and plenty of time for build-up into account.    It is true a few weeks of rest might leave you slightly less physically fit than race day, but that time for recharging will also prepare you to take on bigger challenges next time around.  Don’t rush it, or unplanned time off due to future aches and pains will likely be your result.

 

Take inventory about what you liked and disliked about your last goal race

Did you race for charity and find your cause to be a crucial motivator?  Did you enjoy (or not enjoy) any travel involved to get to your race site?  Were you enthused by the crowds or did you enjoy the solitude of a less populated and more scenic race route?  Pick the top three enjoyable aspects of your race experience as well as the three aspects that were most problematic to help narrow down what types of races will suit your preferences.

 

Researching races online can also prove useful to learn about the size and setting of potential races – sites like MarathonGuide.com provide a helpful clearinghouse for endurance events filtered or sorted geographically and/or by race date.

 

Learn from the daily life challenges that were present in preparation for your initial goal race.

Often a major goal race involves some reorganization of life as business as usual.  Some of those changes, such as daily nutritional improvements, or adherence to a more regular sleep schedule might be beneficial both for running and for good health.  However, the time and care required to train for a marathon or other long race might put additional strain on family or professional time.  Consider what has been good about that process and what probably needs to be avoided.  If the time to get in long runs was tough to manage, a 10K or half marathon might be a better fit – not because you couldn’t rise to the challenge, but because other goals might fit more seamlessly into your schedule if racing is becoming a regular occurrence.

 

On the other hand, if the specific challenges training for a long race provided the most enjoyable aspect of your training week, consider that as well.  We always encourage athletes to practice racing at a variety of distances, but the frequency of each requires personal inventory.

 

Keep seasonal differences in mind

If you live in a region where the winters are particularly cold or the summers particularly hot, or if you have become accustomed to doing long runs or challenging workouts during hours that can go from light to dark depending on the season, keep these in mind when scheduling your next race.  Even if your goal race is located in a temperate climate in March, if you live in Maine or Minnesota, your long runs will have to be managed through challenging conditions.  Likewise, for an early fall race when you reside in a hot and humid location.  These factors can be identified and can help guide you towards goals you are able to work toward without unexpected barriers to enjoyment or success along the way.

 

Stay focused on the affirmative

Challenging goals are, by definition, hard to accomplish.  As you may already know, things will undoubtedly come along and threaten to sway you from your path to the finish line.   Whether it is a cause, a personal performance goal, a basic commitment to finish what you start, or another motivator, remind yourself regularly what kinds of things draw you to them, what motivates you in other aspects of your life, what gets you up in the morning.  It is always much easier to run towards something than away from fears or difficulties.  Pick a magnetic goal, and you’ll benefit with a clear sense of purpose even when training is difficult.