Stay Focused with Goal Setting

Goal setting is key to getting the results you want as a runner, regardless of age or ability

Many people take up running with a specific objective and goal setting can really help. Whether it’s to complete a marathon, lose weight or raise money for charity, goal setting provides the building blocks that allow us to work harder and overcome setbacks, whilst being more focused on the task in hand.

Locke¹, in 1968 coined the phrase ‘Goal Setting’ and stipulated four areas within goal setting that affect performance;

  • Focuses attention
  • Mobilises effort in proportion to the demands of the task
  • Enhances persistence
  • Encourages the individual to develop strategies for achieving their goals

There are different ways that we can goal set, everybody is unique and what works for one individual may not work for all.

Goal Setting for Runners

Outcome Goals

The goals are determined by the end result, your goal might be to win the race or finish ahead of your friend. While an outcome goal can be highly motivating they are limited due to the fact that they are reliant on how others also perform so elements of it can be out of your control and therefore aren’t necessarily motivating for you as an individual.

Process Goals

These relate to the process that you put into place while running. Examples may include, run at five minute pace, or run at 75% of max heart rate. Unlike outcome goals the end result isn’t the focus, rather the process is. Of course, process goals can be integrated into an outcome goal, i.e. in order to win the marathon (outcome goal) my pace per mile needs to be 4 minutes 39 seconds. In case you’re wondering that would be almost a minute faster than the current world record.

Performance Goals

These relate to achieving a specific outcome that isn’t affected by others, an example would be setting yourself a specific finishing time for a 5K race. A performance goal can be used to monitor achievement of process goals and used as a stepping stone towards an outcome goal. The one big advantage performance goals have is that they can give a sense of achievement to someone even if they don’t win the race, great for frustrated winners.

Goal setting provides the building blocks that allow us to work harder and overcome setbacks

It’s no good having goals though unless they are applied in the right way.

SMARTER outcomes

Specific – Precise detailed, outcomes
Measureable – How are you going to quantify your goal
Accepted – Goals are shared and agreed by all parties involved
Realistic – A challenging but achievable goal is set
Time-based – A time frame in which to achieve the goal is agreed
Exciting – The goal motivates the individual
Recorded – The goal and your progress towards it is recorded.

There are different versions of SMART but whichever version you use, applying SMARTER to your goals will ensure that they are met. More than that it will allow you to approach an almost seemingly impossible task and break it down into manageable achievable chunks where the map for your progress is set out clearly.

If you’re not goal setting and are maybe feeling a bit jaded with your running, find a goal and set about it in a methodical planned way. The chances are that the success you will probably experience will encourage you to achieve newer, tougher goals in the future.

Enjoy your running

Matt Jeffery

Synergy Physical Training @ Advance Performance

About the author; Matt Jeffery is Advance Performance’s strength and conditioning specialist, he’s a certified personal trainer and corrective exercise specialist with the National Academy of Sports Medicine and runs a strength and conditioning company called Synergy Physical Training



¹Locke, 1968 - Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, Volume 3, Issue 2, May 1968, Pages 157-189 - Toward a theory of task motivation and incentives