At the start of this year I set an ambitious fitness goal for myself. The goal, to run 12 official races by the end of the year. This seemed challenging enough given that I had only done 6 official races the previous year. As of Sunday the 7th June, I had run 20 official races before the half year mark. Maybe it is time I hang up my running shoes and wait for next year? Not at all!
I had figured if I could do one official race each month I would achieve the target by the end of the year. First weekend of the year, I decided to get the January race out of the way. I registered and ran a 15km race from Hout Bay to Camps Bay in Cape Town. The race was tough, given that I had not run for almost 4 months. I enjoyed it, I felt accomplished at the end of the race. 11 races to go, I told myself.
I must have enjoyed the race a little too much because after that race I decided to check if there was another race the following weekend. Turns out there was, I ended up registering for it and running. The following weekend the same happened. Things were going well, I had already completed 3 months worth of runs in the first 3 weeks of the year. Before I knew it I had convinced myself that running every weekend is possible and as a result it became a habit that I developed. I subsequently went on to run my first full marathon in February. I surpassed my initial goal of 12 races for the year by the end of April, only a third into the year.
Turn your goals into habits
Self-help books and blogs suggest the setting of goals as an important step for making progress. Setting a precise goal is good, but without enough predictive data it can be limiting. Emphasis should be on building the right habits. In my case, my goal of running 12 official races was limiting, as I could definitely do more. I am fortunate I did not stop once I reached my initial goal.
Review your goals
You should review your goals often. You must try as much as you can to get early feedback. Early feedback allows you to realign yourself if you are slacking or to adjust your goal if you are doing well. In my case I adjusted my goal from a fixed number of official races for the year to building the habit of running one official race every weekend. It is also important to note that while setting a precise goal may be limiting, it was the initial act of setting the goal that got me running in the first place. So the goal did serve a purpose, but it was important to readjust it as soon as I found I was going to achieve it quickly.
Now I am aiming to complete 50 official races by the end of the year. Could I be limiting myself again? I don’t know. What I know is that I will be out there running again on Saturday morning. Its more than a goal now, it is a habit. Don’t Limit Yourself!