Have you already started a running or walking program this summer? Or are thinking about getting going? That’s awesome. Running and/or walking is the best, most efficient aerobic exercises you can do. Even in this heat.
One of the keys to maintaining your running or walking regimen is compiling a list of achievable goals that you can aim to complete. Having a list of goals is a great motivational tool as well as a checklist that shows you the very real progress you are making on the road to fitness.
Here are 10 goals that every beginning runner/walker should consider setting. If you are just beginning, write these goals down and cross each one off your list after you achieve it. (All these goals can also be walking goals.)
1. Run/walk continuously for a set time, distance or to a landmark. Set an achievable goal of running non-stop for a specific length of time or distance. It doesn’t matter whether the goal is to run for 30 minutes or three miles or from bridge to bridge on the Butler Trail around Lady Bird Lake. But set a goal which takes some amount of effort to build up to and then achieve. Make the goal meaningful, but not so daunting that you can’t accomplish it within a month of running.
2. Be consistent. When you begin your running program, set a goal of running a certain number of times per week. One of the keys to becoming a runner is continuity in following a schedule and to do that well, you need to run at least three to five days a week every week. Set a reasonable goal of running a specific number of days. Achieving that goal—even if it’s low—is better than running five days one week and zero the next. By being consistent with your running program, you will be building running (and exercise) into an important facet of your life. In addition, the running will become easier as your body adapts and gets stronger.
3. Keep a training log. By keeping a training log, you will write down how far (or how many minutes) you run on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Also write down how you felt on each run. This will show you the progress you are making as you get stronger and more efficient in your running. You can do this in a notebook the old-fashioned way or on your computer or phone.
4. Lose some weight. Even if you aren’t overweight, you will probably want to lose a few pounds as you continue your running program. Even dropping three or four pounds, can make you an appreciable difference in the ease it is to run. Set a goal of losing five pounds in one month by increasing your running and decreasing your time on the couch.
5. Learn to love running. Let’s face it, the first month in any running program is not easy. Running in the heat makes it even more difficult. Your body will be going through a variety of physiological changes as it adapts to this new regime, but eventually you will adapt to it. Since the first month isn’t easy, it also isn’t loads of fun. And it may have you wondering what the big deal is about running. But in order to find out, you have to stick with it for at least four to six weeks. If you do, running will become easier as you get fitter, leaner and aerobically stronger. Once you do, you can try more challenging runs on different routes at various speeds. You can experience different sensations and different courses. Once you can do this all this, an entire new world of running will open up to you. It can be one of the most satisfying experiences you will have.
6. Run a race. Pick a short race of five kilometers (3.1 miles) or 10 kilometers (6.2 miles). Practice running over that distance and give yourself at least three or four weeks to train for it. Don’t worry about your speed (or lack of it). It doesn’t matter. Your goal should simply be to complete the race. If you get tired, you can always walk. But target a good race in Austin this fall and work toward finishing it. Added plus: You will get a race T-shirt. A good race to shoot for is the Luke’s Uptown Classic 10-K on October 6 at The Domain. There’s even an accompanying 5-K if the longer distance is still too daunting.
7. Learn some running terminology. You’ve probably heard all sorts of strange terms thrown around such as the wall, fartlek, splits, Gu and many others. Ask your running friends what they mean. Learn how far a kilometer is (1000 meters). Learn how far a marathon (26.2 miles) and half marathon (13.1 miles) are. Learn the importance of hydration. Check out some new running shoes. Become part of the running world.
8. Buy a real pair of running shoes. Don’t run in sneakers or basketball shoes. Invest $100-130 in a technical pair of high quality running shoes. The added cushioning, support and comfort you get from running shoes will make a big difference in your running—and make you feel like a runner.
9. Join a running club or training group. In Austin, we have many clubs and training groups to choose from that pay special attention to beginners. Some of the most prominent ones are Austin Fit, Twenty-Six Two, Born to Run, Gilbert’s Gazelles and Rogue Training. The Austin Runner’s Club also has beginning training programs. Running with others of equal ability is fun and motivational. The power of the group will help you improve and get fitter and faster.
10. Set one long term goal. Make it ambitious but, like your other goals, make it something achievable. One of the most common goals beginners set is to complete their first half marathon or full marathon during the following year. It may seem like an unimaginable undertaking to run either 13 or 26 miles, but a few months ago running just three miles was also unimaginable. Some of the best races in the country are right here in Austin. Shoot for the 3M Half Marathon on January 19th or the Austin Marathon and Half Marathon on February 14th.