One Big Goal = Lots of Smaller Ones
So, what do we do about it? I do not believe we need to abandon this tradition. What I believe works better is to structure it differently. It’s okay to get excited and pick that meaningful end goal that might take a big portion of the year to accomplish. What is often missing is all the smaller wins along the way that can keep our motivation high. All big far-reaching goals come with many steps along the way. If we look at those steps as small wins rather than hurdles to get over, we can set ourselves up for not only the big end accomplishment, but many others as we go.
As an endurance athlete and coach, I love to set big goals at the start of the year. I also love it when people reach out to me to help them set and reach their own goals. When I sit down to plan for a goal race or event for myself or a client, it’s often four to six months away. Like I mentioned above, signing up for the event is motivating. However, early wake-up calls in the dead of winter can slowly chip away at our motivation. What we need are wins we can use to keep the motivation high.
Small Wins Make a Big Difference
Most endurance plans are periodized and have specific workouts that we use to build the fitness needed to accomplish our goal. By tracking fitness benchmarks, the small wins begin to present themselves. Let me share some examples...
Let’s say you have a series of 800-meter repeats on your schedule. After your first round, you have a list of splits you were able to hit. Use this as motivation as your fitness improves to set a goal of running those splits slightly faster or accomplish one additional repeat. Doing this, rather than thinking of the 800-meter repeats as a necessary hurdle to reach your end goal, may be the ticket to keeping, and building on, your motivation.
Secondary races or time trials can shorten the required focus time. This summer, when the temperatures were discouragingly hot, my wife Nicole wanted to prepare for a 100-mile ultramarathon in the Fall. In order to make those unforgiving hot summer days more palatable, we structured her schedule to include some 5km and half marathon time trials. This gave her a more immediate focus as we went through some of the early season speed work that is common when periodizing for a longer 100-mile endurance event.