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Goals: What are they good for? Absolutely Everything. Say It Again

Goals.

We hear about them all the time in various parts of our lives.  Go on an interview or a job evaluation and you’ll get the thought-provoking question: “Where do you see yourself in a year? 5 years?”  Maybe we can even think back (some us longer than others) to a school essay, provoking us to examine – “What do you want to become or be?” Despite these queries happening over and over throughout our trek through life, we all seem to have some difficulty articulating, developing, and ultimately performing the self-assessment required to create something to plan our lives around.

A PT’s Quick View on Goals.

As a PT, I deal with the idea of goals (and writing them) daily. Goals are everywhere at work.  Every new patient I see has their own personal goals to reach (lower pain, get back to work, sport, etc).  As part of examination and evaluation, I look for individual parts and pieces that may have impairment, which creates those limitations that people seek help to fix.  Weekly assessment of progress towards goals is an emphasis of every treatment plan. Goals in PT (and in life) have to be achievable, measurable, time-sensitive.

Goals and Running

So how do goals factor into running and training?  I’m so glad you asked.  The first marathon that I ever did (11.2011), I only had one goal: Finish. That day. On two feet.  It was achievable, technically measurable, and time specific.  It was, however, not very helpful in planning.  I knew I had a distance to reach – 26.2 miles, and a time – course limit of 6 hours, but I did not plan anything else out.  At the time, I knew very little about training plans so I googled it.  I found a generic plan of distances for long runs each week and ran with it (pun intended).  I ended up increasing distance too quickly, knee pain ensued, and 5.5 hours of marathon struggle later – I finished my first marathon.  Did I technically reach my goal? Yes.  Did I feel accomplished?  Not that much, I felt hurt.  More about that in a few weeks.

Since that first marathon, I have completed DPT school, worked for 3 years, ran additional races, and got plugged into an awesome training plan/group through RunnerDude’s Fitness.  All of that experience has changed how I look at setting goals for running, and therefore, enhanced my training.  Remember the PT goal rules? Achievable, measurable, and time-sensitive?

Like many who run, I have a lofty goal of qualifying to run in the Boston Marathon in my lifetime.  For my current age group, I would have to run a 3 hour and 5 min marathon to qualify.  My last marathon in 2013 was 4 hrs and 30 mins.  I just had 2-3 months of minimal running due to a newborn. Expecting me to be able to reach that goal at this point in my life would be akin to expecting my golden retriever Tessie to wake up one morning and know how to fix me breakfast, or use the toilet – you get the point.  It would be awesome for Tessie to learn how to use the toilet for those rainy days.  She gets soaked so quickly – anyway I digress. Those goals are not achievable at this time.  This is where having a good coach like Thad comes into play.  Give him some recent shorter run race paces, with some background on weekly running habits, throw in a bit of pizzazz and boom: achievable marathon pace pops out (he might say it takes a bit more work than that).  Mine for this marathon at this time: 4 hours.  There is your measurable part.  Of course, the time-sensitive part is a given in this case: Nov 4.

The “Take Home and Write on Your Mirror” Part

Long term goals are great and they help give you an end result to shoot for but perhaps the biggest part of using goals is developing the strategy of how you are going to get there.  A vivid goal of a marathon time, becoming a regional manager (or assistant to the regional manager for you Office fans), or returning back to work or play after an injury is relatively impractical without an action plan.  Good training programs are composed of workouts geared to improving endurance and speed to reach the desired end goal, while being reflected in a week by week basis.  This “short term goals to long-term goal” approach is key because it allow us to take gratification in success along the way, building in self-encouragement to continue towards our end goal that we have set.  So if you have some goals out there, whether its running, physical therapy, work, or home related, write them down, talk with someone who can help/support you, and come up with a route for how to get there.  We’re all headed somewhere, why not make it a carpool with some directions.

A peak of what week 2 training looked like:

 

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