Training tips: Goal setting for runners

The only way I can motivate myself to train regularly and to see progression in my running is through setting goals. They give me a reason to train and break down my overall aims into manageable, bite-sized chunks. When bad weather or social engagements might distract me from my training plan, these goals encourage me to push on through – braving the rain or running to or from an evening out. As I see it, there are five main benefits to setting goals:


  • Creating a sense of commitment – setting a goal makes you psychologically commit to trying to reach that target, making you more likely to succeed
  • Encouraging progression – if your training is stalling having an end goal will motivate you to keep moving forward
  • Building self-belief – breaking down your overall aim can make it feel much more manageable and achievable
  • Allowing you to re-evaluate – should you not reach your overall goal, having milestones in place will enable you to look back at where your training veered off course
  • Rewarding success – once an end-date and target are in place you can begin to build in rewards to your training schedule, again, motivating you to continue training


Before we look at the three different types of goals I’d recommend, it’s important to look at the five criteria necessary when setting goals. To do this you need to think SMART.
Specific: focus on one part of your training, for example, achieving a certain distance or speed

Measurable: ensure your goal is quantifiable. Set yourself a target of being able to run 10km, as opposed to just being able to run further than you can currently

Achievable: based on your fitness level and the time/effort you can commit, make a judgment on whether your goal is realistic

Relevant: ensure this goal fits with your longer-term aims and ambitions

Time-bound: set yourself a time limit to encourage you to keep pushing towards your goal when you’re lacking motivation


Many of you will already be using SMART goals in your career so it won’t be too big a leap to take these into your running. However, that’s not the only thing you need to think about when setting your goals. You should also consider layering your goals so that you have short and medium targets that feed in to your wider ambitions. For example:


Short-term goal

Specific: run three times a week, for the next six weeks

Measurable: frequency can be measured using a diary or app such as Strava

Achievable: consider this in relation to your other commitments and available time

Relevant: see medium and long-term goals below

Time-bound: 6 week deadline


Medium-term goal

Specific: run 10km in under 60 minutes, in 6 weeks time

Measurable: distance and speed can be measured using an app or GPS watch

Achievable: you can look at this in relation to how you perform in your first six weeks of training

Relevant: see medium and long-term goals below

Time-bound: 6 week deadline


Long-term goal

Specific: complete a half marathon in under 2 hours, in 6 months time

Measurable: distance and time can both be measured via a chip in a race environment, otherwise, you can use an app or GPS watch

Achievable: again, look at how successful you were in achieving your medium-term goal

Relevant: once achieved, this long-term goal will become a short or medium- term goal as you move on to your next ambition.

Time-bound: 6 month deadline


As a running coach I get involved in all levels of goal setting but it’s usually when people start considering their long-term goals that they come to me. What I usually find is that people have skipped the first two steps and have jumped straight on to the bigger ambition. However, without building towards this overall goal it is much more difficult to succeed. This is something I experienced myself in the recent RTTS. Whilst I had trained hard I failed to build shorter races in to my training schedule,  which impacted on my eventual performance and made the 100km more difficult. My advise for anyone wanting to increase their distance or achieve a PB is to think about what you need to do before you tackle that ultimate goal and to think SMART.


Training tips: Goal setting for runners

Training tips: Starting to run

With the weekend coming to a close many of you will be looking to Monday morning and planning to kick off a new regime of some sort, whether it’s upping your fitness, cutting back on the treats or getting more sleep. If one of your new goals is to break in those box-fresh trainers and begin running, you’re in luck as I’ve put together my top three tips to get you started.


Running was never really a choice for me. I grew up on a farm in the middle of nowhere and my modes of transport were my feet or a bike. You might think that a bike would be the more sensible option but considering it had been ‘recovered’ from a hedgerow by a family friend and was far too big for me, my feet were much more reliable. Running progressed from a necessity to a pleasure when I took up cross-country at secondary school, and continued when I began road-running whilst in the forces. Nowadays running serves two purposes in my life – a career and a hobby. The mental aspect of my personal running is just as important as the fitness it provides me with. I use it to clear my head and prepare myself for whatever life throws at me. When I spend some time turning over my legs, and my head, I become a better person. And I’m not the only one. Time and time again I have clients who start running to drop some pounds or gain a PB but then end up reaping the mental rewards.


So, if you’re planning on hitting the road tomorrow, here are my top 3 tips to get started:


  1. Get out there – and do it regularly. Whilst planning your route and prepping your kit are important, what’s more beneficial is to get out there and actually run! Look at your schedule right now and block off three 30 minute sessions each week, for the next few weeks. You don’t have to run for the full 30 minutes each time, a combination of walking and running is fine to start with. Nor is the distance you cover too important – what matters at this point is that you get in to the routine of running. Once you’re feeling comfortable then you can up your speed and distance.


  1. Use your commute. If you’re struggling to find three blocks across the course of your week, why not kill two birds with one stone and replace your sweaty commute with an even sweatier run! If you have shower facilities at work, leave a stash of clothing there the day before and run in the next morning. If not, then replace your evening commute and take the opportunity to clear your head of your day’s stresses.


  1. Join a running club. There are lots of clubs out there, many of them completely free. Make sure you find one that complements your approach to running. Some will be track-based, focusing on increasing your speed and achieving your personal best. Others will take a more relaxed approach, with members who just want to run for pure enjoyment. Whichever you choose, joining a running club will cement your dedication to running. When the evenings get dark and wet and you consider hitting a box-set instead of the road, those friendships you’ve made and that sense of community will keep you motivated. If you’re based in London, why not try out the free running club that I’ve just launched in partnership with Team TomTom? It takes place on Tuesday nights in Regent’s Park and you can find the full details on the Facebook event page.


Getting started can sometimes feel like the hardest part of running, but once you’ve taken that first step you can begin to progress and develop to the point where it becomes enjoyable and can sometimes feel almost effortless. Let me know how you get on applying my top tips and for those more seasoned runners amongst you, if you have any other advice, please share it below.




Training tips: Starting to run