What To Do When You Don’t Hit Your Running Goals

If I asked about your running goals, what would you tell me? Would you talk about how you want to improve your PR? Stay healthy and injury-free? Place in your age group in the next half marathon? Maybe your goals are around the amount of days you train, or wanting to enjoy your runs.

Honestly, when it comes to goals, they’re yours. Whatever you want them to be, they can be.

But, what if you’re not reaching your goals?

What if your training times show that you’re way off your PR, or you’ve been plagued by shin splints and knee pain? What if you’re not feeling motivated for the next half marathon or work keeps getting in the way of training and is stressing you out?

A normal part of reaching your goals is also not reaching your goals.

However, not reaching our goals isn’t often seen as part of the process, and instead, it is seen as something that runs counter to achieving our goals. Not reaching your goals can be frustrating and a killer of motivation.

What can you do when you’re not reaching your goals? First, you want to give yourself the best chance of reaching your goals. This means that you plan for your long-term goal with short-term goals and even daily goals. (Read more on how to achieve your goals here).

Next, remember that goals are adjustable. This is something that people often forget. It usually feels like when we set a goal, they’re set in stone. And when we approach our goals this way, we make it harder to reach them.

Think about it: If your goal is to run your first half marathon in six months and you don’t find a training program, you may end up three months out feeling like you won’t be ready. You might give up. However, this is a great time to adjust your goal.

How do you adjust? You might change the timeframe of your goal; perhaps you push it out another three months if you really need the time to train. Or, you adjust that your goal is to finish the half marathon and that walking is okay for this first one. Or maybe, you actually don’t need to adjust the goal at all, but you need to change how you’re going about your training. Since you’re already running, you might need a specific training program for the next three months.

Hopefully you can see that being off-track doesn’t mean it’s time to give up, but instead, it might be time to adjust.

But what if, even with adjustment, you’re not able to hit your goals?

There’s two things you can do:

  • Reframe what’s happened. Instead of looking at not reaching your goal as a failure or a negative, find the positive or the learning in it. For example, if you didn’t reach your PR, look at the positive that you’re now 10 seconds closer; if you didn’t reach your PR because it was a busy quarter at work, you now know that you’re going to have to balance work and running differently for the next time you attempt to PR.
  • Set a new goal. Yes, you can feel upset that you didn’t reach your current goal, but this is also an opportunity to work toward a new one. Sometimes that new goal is the same in some ways (You still really want a PR), but it’s for a different distance. Maybe the new goal looks nothing like the previous one. There is no shame in coming up with a different goal on the heels of not meeting the previous one.

Setting and working on your goals won’t be all steps forward and positive experiences. There are challenges, and one of those is the experience of not reaching a goal. But remember that not reaching the goal is another step toward accomplishing that goal (or another one).

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