Charles Allen: The art of goal-setting for runners

Nothing beats achieving a long-term goal for a runner. Picture: Archant

Nothing beats achieving a long-term goal for a runner. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

Some of you may have seen the recent Sportlink podcast focusing on motivation.

Motivation is a tough subject to talk about in my opinion.

The drivers to do the things we do are so unique to our life journey it is very hard to really say what is good or bad.

If it achieves the goal and you are happy with it, is there a good or bad?

In reflection on the podcast it was more an attempt to explain that motivation is something we all struggle with from time to time.


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Whether it is our inner voice suggesting we are not good enough or whether it is social media doing the same, we need to find a way to keep faith in our journey.

The key is to find ways around sticking points.

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It is certainly helpful to have goals and projects. The size of these are individual to us. We all know that person who always seems to be able to balance lots of complex tasks effectively and constantly push forward.

There will, however, be some of us who are just happy to stay healthy and walk the dog regularly.

I think there could be an inherent danger in goal setting for some of us.

It can work against us and cause a loss of motivation.

Choosing a goal that doesn't suit your personality or isn't one you feel truly determined to achieve, or is just not right for you at that time, can result in lack of achievement and be demotivating.

One thing I think we can all say is it is inspirational to see people achieving goals they believed they could never do.

Whether it be learning to walk again after a car accident or whether it is to win a marathon, if the odds are against them it makes it all so much more special to observe.

Previously when working in the NHS I would feel overwhelmed with the endless workload.

However, no matter how tired I was it was always easy to be inspired by many of the patients I met each day.

When I got home I would often sit on the couch debating whether to have a long bath and go to bed or "suck it up" and train.

Remembering those individuals soon resulted in me tying the laces of my running shoes and getting out for a session!

It is easy though, for any of us to lose our way.

Changes in life and situations can make you put aside the things that previously helped you to achieve.

When the environment changes sometimes it can be just all too much. I can relate this to my experience. Now no longer working in the NHS I have opened my own business and to get it up and running has resulted in a great deal of sacrifice and has left me feeling a little lost.

Realising this whilst sitting in a tent in the Half Marathon Des Sables was strangely both upsetting and exciting in equal measure.

Now I have had this realisation I now need to find the confidence to act. Confidence is a useful thing, but it is not essential. You can build confidence from positive experiences but remember the need to learn from failure in the same way as success is paramount.

Keep reminding yourself, it is all learning, new and try to find this exciting. Yes, equally it will be scary, you will often doubt yourself, but in my experience of watching people dealing with illness, we are generally capable of a lot more than we think. It will mean commitment. It will mean change. It will make you a different person and nothing is guaranteed.

So long as you keep learning each time you will be getting a little closer to your goal.

An innovative way to set goals is to set "habitual" goals. Make training the goal and don't necessarily look to measure performance.

This approach can certainly bring great health and life benefits. Gradually increasing the habits that make you feel more healthy and perform more effectively in respect of the area you are interested will yield positive results.

Sometimes being "quiet" in your training and allowing your general improvements to "speak" for you is a controlled way of behaving.

In today's noisy social media driven world we often find ourselves overly comparing ourselves to others. This is an excellent way to demotivate yourself, especially if being the best is a strong driver for you. Whatever you do, as many great achievers have shown, you have to own your goal.

If you are passionately driven to be really successful and remain habitual in your actions you will see a long-term positive change in outcome. Just keep wearing that suit.

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