Since the main theme in my introduction was about the benefit of setting goals I thought that I would start out by talking a little about how and why to set goals in life and then establish a path toward achieving them. Although my example is a fitness related goal, goal setting can and should relate to all aspects of your life.
I do have one admission to make before I delve into the detail of goal setting, myself and my husband are child free, but believe you me I fill that time up with plenty of distractions that threaten the success of my goals.
I will take you through the process of the latest goal I am going to set myself using S.M.A.R.T as my framework. You can use this framework for anything, not just fitness goals.
About a year ago I was capable of comfortably running 26kms and then I suddenly lost my desire to run, which seems to happen to me about once every two years. I didn’t give exercise up completely, I switched codes to HIIT workouts through CrossFit first and then through F45. COVID-19 meant that my HIIT classes switched to online and I don’t have the space in my garage right now so my motivation disappeared. Instead, I started running again, and it felt good, but I was very very unfit and had to start right back at the beginning, so I set myself a goal.
My short term goal is to run at least four times a week between 3-5km while we are in lock down. My long term goal is to get back to running 26km trail runs by November 2020.
I’ve broken down my goal against S.M.A.R.T below.
S – Set real numbers with real deadlines – run, 3-5km, 4 times a week while in lockdown.
M – Make sure your goal can be tracked – I have a smart watch and track my runs on an app.
A – Work towards a goal that is challenging but achievable – I have started with 3-5km, I’m not going to go out and attempt to run 26km as that would be absolutely unrealistic right now.
R – Be honest with yourself, you know what you are capable of – I have done this before from unfit, I know I can do it.
T – Give yourself a deadline – I will do this while we are in lock down.
Women over forty know all about accountability, those of you with kids send your kids to school every day, you are accountable for their education and their lives as you are for your own development, wellbeing and life.
Using S.M.A.R.T, or another goal setting tool, will help you remain accountable but the rest is up to you. What are you going to do to make sure you stay on track?
I need a little bit extra than my own mind to help me stay accountable for a goal and when it comes to running I usually try to find an event to work back from. This year it is an off-road half-marathon in November. It doesn’t have to be something that costs you money though, you can recruit a friend so you can share your goal, and share your successes. They say a problem shared is a problem halved and we could consider a goal a problem to be solved. Recruiting a friend helps you with the motivation factor and the fun factor but it’s important to set some ground rules about how to deal with ugly/moody days so you come out the other side with a friendship in tack.
Setting milestones is another way that can help keep yourself accountable for a goal. An example of this was my first, second and third runs. Run one I made it to the bottom of the hill, lungs heaving, run two I made it just that bit further to a drain cover about 30 metres from the bottom of the hill and run three I made it all the way up the hill and home without stopping. Now it is about getting faster and feeling better when I finish. A good way to track that is by using a diary or calendar to capture how you felt each day so you can refer back and see your progress.
What if I set a goal and don’t achieve it?
If you set a goal and don’t achieve it, like I did when I ran the Rotorua marathon for the first time and didn’t achieve a finish, revisit it when you are ready, adjust your S.M.A.R.T planning if necessary or change your goal and have another go.
I think it was four years later I finally forgot about the pain and disappointment of pulling out of that run so I tackled it again. This time I asked my husband to stand at the 31km mark with a chocolate bar and a cuddle and to tell me that he will see me at the finish line. That’s all I needed to get me through “The Wall” and home in 4hrs 30.
I won’t run another marathon, because I have decided that my body isn’t made for it but I will set myself smaller distance goals that I know I enjoy. I also now look back and, although I call it a fail, I have pride that ran that first marathon at a half marathon pace to the 31km mark…. a success! I also stretched myself beyond what was comfortable, this is called a stretch goal which I will talk about in another blog post.
Celebrating success + success goggles
It’s really important to celebrate your successes and look at a failure with your success goggles on. What did you achieve in your path to achieving that goal? Did you do something you have never done before e.g. run longer than you ever have or did you stand up and present to a larger crowd than you have before. Whatever it is, celebrate it, I think you lucky parents call it positive reinforcement, and as you know, it works! It can also be looked at like a little bit of transactional leadership on yourself!
I hope I have motivated you all, as women over forty, and given you one tool and some ideas about setting and how you work towards achieving them and what to do if you don’t quite get there. It is not one size fits all so find what works for you and adjust based on who you are, what you can achieve and how it fits into your life. Have confidence in yourself, as a woman over forty, you have achieved so much in the last 40 years, don’t slow down there’s no reason to if you don’t want to. Keep striving to be the best version of yourself that you can be, it will do you wonders!
Good luck to you all and wish me luck on my now very public commitment to run 26k off-road again.