Throat-clearing, hand-wringing intro: I hesitate to go public with my goals for the coming year. It’s not like people need to know them, and I would save face if I kept them to myself, given the distinct possibility that six months from now I’ll check my progress and wince.
Ultimately, though, I decided to publish some new year’s goals related to running and travel so I don’t lose sight of them in the months ahead. Also, I want to encourage others to do the same in the comments below. How about we make a virtual pact to go for it?
I’m writing about goals and grit rather than “new year’s resolutions” because that phrase seems so prone to failure that it’s a joke. In the first week of January 2010, I pondered vague resolutions and then did something different: I wrote out specific goals and posted them on electronic sticky notes on my laptop. My two big running goals were to race a 50-miler for the first time and run at least 2000 miles for the year. I had other personal and professional goals, which I made progress toward but didn’t reach. But I nailed those two running goals—even though twelve months ago, when I typed them out, I thought no way!
Goals take grit, which might be defined as perseverance combined with passion. Gritty people stick with things to finish what they start, even if it takes longer than expected and doesn’t turn out quite as they thought it would. They press on and follow through.
Psychologists and life coaches say goals should be specific and measurable, challenging but reachable, and broken down into steps within a time frame. For example, instead of “run faster,” resolve to do a speed workout once a week and set a time goal for a race several months away.
Taking time to envision what you desire is a prerequisite to setting goals and by itself is a healthy (albeit hard) exercise. It also helps set priorities. The list below doesn’t include my top priorities and strongest desires, which have to do with family and big dreams I prefer to keep private, but it does include those related to running, health, and travel:
Some goals for 2011:
– Run at least as much as in 2010. I want to duplicate what I did this past year, which on the surface doesn’t sound very ambitious. But sometimes maintaining rather than expanding is itself a challenge. In 2010 I ran more than ever: 2070 miles as of December 29. (Yes, we runners tend to obsess about numbers.) That was a big stretch for me, since previous annual totals ranged from about 1000 to 1500. I’d like to round up and reach 2100 for 2010. 2100 miles divided by 52 weeks equals 40.4 miles on average per week. I’ll need to avoid injury and illness as much as possible to reach this total.
A note about mileage totals: A decade ago, when my kids were still in diapers, I averaged about 20 miles a week. Meanwhile, some of my ultrarunning friends regularly run 80 or more miles a week. Running goals are relative and personal, and quality matters more than quantity. The key is to run consistently to maintain a fitness base, build up carefully to avoid injury, and don’t push so hard that running creates more stress and burnout than it relieves.
– Try fastpacking and/or a staged race for a multi-day running experience. For years I’ve wanted to combine running with camping. My hope is to do a fastpacking (fast-paced backpacking with ultralight gear) trip with Morgan, probably in the Eastern Sierra, and participate in the six-day TransRockies Run in late August. This is one of those goals that’s doable once it’s planned but difficult logistically and financially. If we don’t make it a priority, then once again it’ll fall into the “someday” category.
– Keep doing strength training at least twice per week, and work lower-body exercises into my routine. When pressed for time, my gym routine is the first thing to go. Big mistake. I always run and feel better when I carve out time for strength training and injury-prevention exercises I learned in physical therapy.
I spend a half hour to 45 minutes two or three times a week lifting weights and doing core stability exercises. I also work on balance with movements like single-leg squats on a Bosu ball or a balance disc, which helps prevent sprained ankles and tendinitis as well as working my core. But I rarely make time for lower-body weights because I figure I get enough conditioning from running hills. Numerous articles show the benefits to runners of lower-body (as well as upper-body) strength training for performance and injury prevention, so I’ll try to add some weights for quads, hamstrings, and glutes.
– Eat at least one meal a day mindfully, and do not eat at the keyboard. A couple of years ago, I researched and wrote an article on mindful eating. It helped me discover a healthier and more pleasurable way to eat, but I still frequently succumb to mindless munching, plate picking, and stress-induced overeating. If I could do something as seemingly simple as eat lunch slowly at our table rather than at my computer, then I’d eat less but enjoy it more. I’m going to try harder to follow my own mindful-eating advice by committing to one mindful meal a day and banning laptop munching.
– Plan a trip abroad for 2012. Our family can’t travel much this year because of work, school, and finances. That’s one reason I started this blog: to nurture a desire and vow to travel to dream destinations even when it’s not possible in the shorter term. I’ll work with Morgan on planning and budgeting for a trip so that by year’s end we’ll have a meaningful and affordable itinerary.
Perhaps you noticed that I left a specific time or distance goal for racing off this list. For a variety of reasons, I don’t feel strongly about achieving a PR or graduating to a longer distance this year. That’s OK—the list above gives me plenty to work on.
Now it’s your turn to share some goals in the comment box below. Go on, be brave!