Goals and Grit for 2011

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?

The new year is a great time to ponder goals for the future, as Morgan did one year ago on a beach in Nelson, New Zealand ...

... and again six months later on a balcony in Zermatt, Switzerland.

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!

, , , , , , , , ,

12 Responses to Goals and Grit for 2011

  1. Cheryl December 29, 2010 at 1:04 pm #

    My goal for fitness this year is to be more consistent with running and to add in at least one day of yoga a week. I’m not setting any distance or time goals and will just focus on establishing a solid routine.

    • Sarah December 29, 2010 at 1:22 pm #

      Hi Cheryl — that’s great. Thanks for reading & commenting. You go, girl! er … or should I say, “Yo-ga girl” ;-). Yeah, that was bad.

  2. Garett December 29, 2010 at 1:57 pm #

    This is a fantastic list, Sarah!

    One thing you might want to consider (sort of sheepishly kicking the dirt around me as I mention this): if I get into Hardrock, it might be a cool experience for you to pace me from Ouray, through Telluride, and beyond. I’m just saying …

    Keep up the good work on the blog.

    – Garett

    P.S. I know plenty of core ultrarunners who are able to get by on even fewer than 2000 miles per year. 🙂

    • Sarah December 29, 2010 at 2:23 pm #

      YES I would want to do that! I’m in Telluride now, our last day here, and I’m looking forward to returning for 4th of July. I’d gladly stay the following weekend to crew or pace you. Thanks a bunch for reading & commenting, and say hi to Holly for me!

  3. Jessica December 29, 2010 at 2:40 pm #

    Well, since you asked… 😉 My goal is to achieve and maintain a healthier lifestyle and physique in 2011. To do that, I registered for my first half marathon, happening in March, and a 90 day personal training program to get and keep me on track for my goal.

  4. Jenny December 29, 2010 at 5:57 pm #

    This all sounds quite doable. My goals for 2011 include performing a decently impressive trapeze routine at my cirque school’s student showcase, writing constantly and getting paid for it, and getting in some affordable travel. All easier said than done. Great new blog, and good luck to you, Sarah!

  5. Jeffery Rogers December 31, 2010 at 11:29 am #

    My 2011 running goals:
    –Run 2011 miles in 2011.
    –Run the Rim to Rim to Rim in the Grand Canyon for my 50th birthday (October).
    –Run a 100 mile race for fun (Coyote 2 Moon), one to race (San Diego 100), and help someone complete their first 100 miler.
    –Run uninjured all year.
    –Core training and swimming for cross training.

    I have been blessed with a lot during my years running. Like a train gaining momentum up the long grade, I plan to just keep a rolling along, pushing and taking in the beautiful places I go.


    • A. December 31, 2010 at 4:30 pm #

      Wow, and I thought I was ambitious with 2011 kilometers. I am even counting biking and swimming in my training. I love the idea of staying uninjured as a goal. I should add it to my list.

  6. Suzanne December 31, 2010 at 11:38 am #

    I love the new blog, Sarah! My running goal for 2011 is to avoid injury. I hope that if I can manage that, I can run my first 100-miler in the latter half of the year. Since avoiding injury is one of those fuzzy goals, I’ll articulate some of the things I plan to do to make it happen: yoga once a week, physical therapy twice a week, and running ultra-distance less than once a month. (I don’t have mileage goals, because that doesn’t seem to be where my motivation flags…)

  7. Rick Rodriguez January 3, 2011 at 7:19 pm #

    My goal is to regain the passion I once had for running. I ran three half marathons last year! I’ve scheduled two so far! Thanks for sharing your goals!

  8. Travis Liles January 7, 2011 at 7:04 am #

    Great write up on your goals for the year! My goals are for 2011 are:
    – Run 2400 miles
    – Weight training twice a week
    – Get faster on hills
    – run a competitive Kettle Moraine 100 and Ozark Trail 100.
    – Have fun!

  9. Carrie March 12, 2011 at 7:30 am #

    I just have to say, I read every article. I absolutely love your site and every single time I look at it, I am so inspired. Thanks 🙂

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes

%d bloggers like this: