How was your 2017? I’m willing to bet that some things went really well and other things that you wanted to happen just didn’t. Life happened instead. Surprises probably popped up that meant having to put things off; injuries may have put paid to plans or your feelings about earlier targets may have changed. Personally, my races all went to plan. I thought about what I wanted to do at the end of 2016, set some goals and got to work. Jayson’s year didn’t go as smoothly though, with some unforeseen issues making his big race of the year much harder than it should have been. Like anything in life, stuff happens that you just can’t plan for. Ultimately though, if you don’t make plans in the first place, you’re far less likely to actually work to achieve a goal.
I know you’re probably all sitting there, 2018 diary and pen in hand, work calendar and family commitments all logged and ready to cross reference, scouring t’internet for races but planning doesn’t have to be a huge endeavour. Conversely, if we’re a bit blasé about our New Year goals, they probably won’t happen. Getting the balance between planning what you want to do and not putting too much pressure on yourself is key. And this is a great time of year to do it. Why? You can honestly reflect at the end of the year on what you have enjoyed, disliked, done well at and done really badly at. It is a time when you can think about how to do things differently and get what you really want from the next chapter of your life. So how do you do it? While everyone is different, and this method may not work for you, the SMART idea is actually really useful. I don’t necessarily adhere to it rigidly when thinking about what I want to do, but as you set down your initial thoughts for 2018, try thinking about them in terms of this method, and it might make planning easier.
SPECIFIC – This is a really important one. Set a goal that is targeted, such as doing a certain race, or doing an event in a particular time. If your goal is, ‘I’m going to run a marathon this year’, which one will you do? It’s easier to stick to something when you’ve made that commitment. Then get it entered!
MEASURABLE – Now I know it’s not all about time for a lot of trail runners but the joy of being outdoors. Measuring your goal doesn’t have to be about putting pressure on yourself to do a PB. You can also measure your goal in terms of how you feel in an event, or how many events you do. Make it more tangible by being able to measure progress against what you have done in the past and you will gain a real sense of achievement.
ATTAINABLE – This is about being motivated towards your goal and ensuring that you give yourself something that you can do. That doesn’t mean setting easy targets. In fact, this should encourage you to do the opposite. Okay, maybe wanting to run 100 miles when you’ve just finished the Couch to 5k programme is not sensible for 2018, but it could go in your long term plan! Having said that, if you set yourself a goal that you may not know exactly how to reach but you feel is possible, you will be more focused on making the ‘how’ happen.
RELEVANT – Do you want it? Really ask yourself that question. I’ve said it before, but if the goal is not relevant to you and does not belong to you, you will not work as hard to achieve it and you may not enjoy it. Trail running is awesome but it can also be really hard. Make it easier on yourself by setting your own personal goals, not being led by other people.
TIME – BOUND – Having a ‘deadline’ will often make you take your goal more seriously, so make sure you give yourself a time scale to work with. Is your target realistic within the time you have? Think carefully about what you can honestly do with your time but also give yourself a sense of urgency. Knowing that you have to be race fit for a 50 miler in June will give you the impetus to start training properly in January.
Lastly, make sure you enjoy the journey. 2018 will fly past if all you focus on is getting your target race exactly right to the exclusion of all else. Work hard to achieve your goals, but have fun in your training too, and don’t let it take away from everything else that is important to you. As a very wise man once said, ‘Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it’. Happy Christmas and New Year everyone!