Setting Running Goals during COVID-times

With a New Year comes a flock of goals and resolutions being set. In a typical year within the running arena, this is compartmentalized into seasons and goal races with attached goal times and key racing competitions. But what about in this new normal, in this COVID-19 world? When it comes to setting running goals during COVID-times, people have been getting creative and learning to adapt. Here we share some thoughts on how to approach your running goals this year. 

Before we dive into what’s new, there are still some timeless elements when it comes to goal setting. First and foremost, running should be enjoyable. If it is not, do not be afraid to take a break to recharge. Also make sure that whatever your goal is, get it on paper because writing it down increases chances of following through. The SMART goals acronym still applies but goal setting flexibility is paramount during COVID. And if you can embrace the uncertainty of life during a pandemic, it can yield opportunities for setting unique goals that will be sure to ignite and invigorate your running.

Photo: Stephen Matera

Process-Oriented Goals

With races coming few and far between, there should be a greater emphasis on process-oriented goals. These can be both quantitative and qualitative. Goals such as running a certain number of miles, climbing a certain level of elevation, or devoting a certain amount of time to stretching or strength work over a given period are all worthwhile quantitative challenges to focus your energy. Milestones in training are also something to especially be celebrated, no matter how big or small. A popular milestone that many runners track is running streak duration as a means of seeing how consistent they are.  Qualitative goals are equally valuable and could include things like improving your mental approach in the leadup to a hard workout or time trial or focusing on changing your self talk around an aspect of running that you’ve traditionally struggled with. 

Adding a cognitive element to your goals can also help in making your goals more process-oriented. In practicing mindfulness, now is the perfect time to try and practice an attitude of gratitude. It can be tough given our current climate, but the resilience and mental toughness you mold now will also help you long after COVID is over. 

When setting running goals during COVID-times, now is a great time to leave your comfort zone behind and try something new and interesting. After all, we were told by Kelly Clarkson “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. This can include everything from switching up your running surface (such as going from road running to trail running), going after local FKTs or segment records, or running “off events” (such as attempting to run a mile PR coming off a block of marathon training). Now is also a good time to reassess your schedule, avoid overtraining, and think about your “why” when it comes to running. Make goals surrounding the process, not the end goal and do not fear hard work and possible failure. Just like The Lion King said, hakuna matata.

Goals Around Both What to Lose and Gain

Goals around what we have to lose most often are centered around weight loss. While that is a worthwhile health goal, in such unprecedented times, our goals should follow suit. As it turns out, you are bigger than a smaller pair of pants!  When you consider how grateful we are to have the health to be able to run during COVID, we should tailor our goals around all that we have to gain from our running.

You know all those outlandish  goals you’ve been considering? Well you should go do them. But in all seriousness, while goals should remain SMART, now is a great time to pursue those long term stretch goals you’ve made. In adopting a more process-oriented mindset, you’ll naturally have a more long term focus. In setting goals around all you have to gain, make sure that these are goals you can be proud of and leave you with a great sense of accomplishment. 

Being a runner during this pandemic provides more than just its usual health benefits and stress relief, it also builds your attitude of gratitude. To still be able to run during this devastating global health crisis is a blessing. As such, in setting running goals, set goals that inspire yourself and others around you. Think outside the box as you’re setting your goals. Now more than ever is a time to run with greater purpose. I will be taking my own advice as I am planning a self-run charity benefit at a time yet to be determined. Take time to reflect on your running process and to focus on your “why”. When you’re setting your running goals during COVID-times, remember that the goals and processes you establish now will not only be fun and rewarding in the short term, but they can and should enrich your life and your running for the long term! 

Brian Comer is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about him or to work with Coach Brian, check out his coaching page.