Sunday, January 9, 2011

Going long - Don't set stupid goals

Ok, running every day, for a year, isn't for everyone. Really, it isn't for 99.999387% of everyone. Give or take.

But committing to longterm fitness goals is a good idea, for just about everyone. Everybody knows that. And pretty much everybody's made some sort of promise to themselves to get into better shape at one time or another.

And how many of us realize those goals? How many of us keep those promises for even a month?

Yeah, not many.

Why? What's the problem? Are we stupid? Of course we aren't. Everyone else might be, but DR365 readers are above average intelligence. It's a fact. Says so right here on the internet.

Are we lazy? No, I don't think so. We're all scurrying around doing all kinds of stuff. We aren't popping bonbons on the chaise-lounge all day. Not every day.

Are we drunks? Maybe a couple are, but that doesn't explain the rest of us.

I think that we are sincere when we make our goals. We really do intend to see them through. Or at least we really want to see them through.

We just have no idea how to turn them into reality. We don't know how to plan, or how to stick to the plan. Or what to do when the plan hits the fan.

If there's anything I got out of last year, aside from frostbite, some wicked chafing, and stern looks from fountain security guards, it's a pile of hints for sticking to your long term fitness goals.

As a service to you above average looking readers who have suffered through a year of my nonsense, over the next few days I'm gonna share what I learned last year about sticking to goals, in the form of hints, perhaps in the popular numerical list form. I could hurl it all into one post, I suppose, but no one likes long-ass blog posts.

As I work through this stuff, I'm going to talk about goals in terms of running, because it's easy to type, and it is a running blog, but you can apply these hints to just about any type of goal... really.

Here, the first one's free. Keeps 'em coming back for more...:

1) Don’t set stupid goals.

The best way to set yourself up for failure is to define a goal that you can’t achieve. The second best way is to set a goal that involves you doing something you hate doing.

Late in 2009 my aspiration was to not feel like crap. I felt like crap, mentally, physically, emotionally, and I didn't want to feel like crap any more. "I want to feel less like crap." is not a goal. But it was something I wanted to strive for.

While out on a run, I was thinking about how little I'd been running the last couple years, and how stupid that was because running always made me feel good, about a lot of things, and I enjoyed it. I was also thinking about how I'd spent the last two years putting what I wanted, what I needed, what was good for me, at such a low priority, that it never got done. I was doing for everyone but me.

I knew that the first step toward a less crappy feeling place was breaking that habit of putting myself last. I needed to make a habit of doing something for myself, every day. I know at that moment that I would run every day in 2010. And that's how my goal was born. That easy.

The best goals are first and foremost tied to something you strive for, and something you enjoy, or at least can have fun while doing.

For example, you may want to get into better shape. “I want to develop a long term fitness plan” is not a goal, however, at least not a good one. It’s an aspiration, and a good one. But it’s too big to be a goal.

I’m don’t want to get all Project Mangery, but I am going to steal one of their nerdy principles...Set a SMART goals.

Your goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound. S.M.A.R.T. Get it? Those Project Managers, their a clever bunch.

Let’s break these down...

“I want to get into better shape.” is not specific.
"I want to start running." is not specific.
"I want to run in a 5K race." is specific.

It's also measurable. Your goal needs to be a line in the sand. This side, you’ve met your goal, that side, you haven’t. Either you run the race, or you don't.

Your goal needs to be something attainable, something realistic. I would love to learn to fly this year. Not gonna happen, no matter how hard I flap my arms. I also couldn't run 5 miles a day every day for a year. Maybe 1 mile, but not 5. If you haven’t been running, don’t think you’re going to qualify for the Boston Marathon this year.

Set a goal that is within reach, but it does need to be a little bit of a reach. It needs to be something that you’ll be proud of when you accomplish it. It does not need to be something that any one else will be impressed with, but you need to be proud of it.

Going from not running to entering and running a 5K is attainable, and it is a great accomplishment. It takes dedication, endurance, and strong character.

Relevant goals, if you achieve them, move you closer to where you want to be. If your long term goal is to be more physically fit, then don’t set a goal to read all of the Harry Potter books.

Running a 5K race is relevant. So far, so good.

Good goals are time-bound. Oops. Ok, we need to give ourselves a time limit, otherwise we’ll never get there. "I want to run a 5-K race before June 30th." is time-bound.

It’s also a SMART goal.

But no matter how SMART your goal is, if the process of attaining it isn't fun, or enriching, or rewarding, or at least makes you feel good, then don't bother. You might need to get a little creative, but try to pick a goal that you'll enjoy reaching. Goal setting is about finding a better version of you, not punishment.

Some of you may think running is punishment. It can be. But it can also be very fun, and very enriching, and it always makes me feel better. If you've already decided it's going to suck, you're right, it will. If you take the attitude that running is going to be fun, you'll find ways to make it fun.

Crap. Look how long this post is. You probably need to get back to work, right? Sorry.

More soon, and I’ll try to keep it brief... briefer... brief. In the meantime, check your goals to see if they’re SMART, too.

Good running,
Doug