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Setting a Goal and Staying Motivated

“It’s 5am and I’m on the banks of the River Thames 80 miles into a 100 mile ultra. I’m freezing cold and I have incredibly painful chafing in unmentionable places. Why am I here? What am I doing? This is horrible, I feel rubbish, I’m not enjoying myself and I want to stop.

I’m sure, whether it’s a 100 mile ultra, your local parkrun or when you’re out for a Sunday jog, we’ve all been there to some degree. Worse still is not being able to get out of the door in the first place. It’s too cold, I’m too tired, I’ve got to sort dinner for the children or I need to work on this or that other project.

Setting a goal and staying motivated can be really hard. But it shouldn’t be. Not if you have set the right goal for the right reasons. Think about the things you really want in life. The things that really matter to you. Perhaps it’s making sure your children get a good education, or ensuring you pay off your mortgage before you turn 50 or building a long lasting marriage.

If it’s something you are passionate about, you will find the time, you’ll find the money and you dedicate everything you have to achieving that goal. 

So when it comes to running and fitness goals, we must apply the same philosophy. I don’t know if you’ve seen that meme; ‘If you’re still married at the end of your training block, then you didn’t train hard enough’. An exaggeration you might think, but we’ve all heard stories of people who are ‘obsessed’ to the point that they neglect everything and everyone around them. And we’ve all heard that other phrase, ‘obsessed is a word the lazy use to describe the dedicated’.

Clearly there’s a balance. So to try and find that balance of dedication and motivation against realistic life choices, you should ask yourself three fundamental questions and if you can answer them honestly, then motivating and disciplining yourself will be so much easier.

What Do You Want to Do?

First, you need to set a goal. Work out exactly what your goal is. What do you want to do? What is it that you want to achieve? And ,how realistic is that goal? Can you and should you break it down into more achievable short term goals in order to then achieve the ultimate long term goal?

Sometimes we can achieve what might, at the outset, appear to be an unrealistic target, but when broken down into smaller steps, becomes a far more tangible goal.

So understand your dream, make it realistic and achievable whilst still providing you with a challenge.

Why Do you Want to Do it?

You will have heard people talking about their ‘why’. Why do you want to do something? It’s a big question. I want my children to have a good education because it will afford them more opportunities in life and hopefully lead them on to fulfilling and productive work as adults. I want to pay off my mortgage so I have more free cash to spend on my retirement and because I want less financial stress.

So why do you want to run a marathon? Why do you want to break your 10k PB? Why do you want to spend 5 days in the ice and snow on the Pennine Way hiking 268 miles in The Spine Race? There has to be a reason why and you have to find out what that ‘why’ is.

Why do you need to know why? Because THAT’s your motivation. That’s what will get you out of bed in the morning and that’s what will drive you to the finish line. If you’ve no idea why you’re doing something, it’s so much easier to stop.

How MUCH Do you Want it?

This is the big one. I want to pay off my mortgage by the time I’m 50 because I want less financial stress. But I’m not going to get a second job and I’m not going to stop going on holiday twice a year just to do it.

I want to build a long lasting marriage. But I’m not going to spend my entire evening talking to my wife about her day when I could be watching football. And I’m not going to take us on that romantic weekend away on our anniversary because I could use that money to pay off some of the mortgage…

You see, we all have priorities. We have passions and projects and hobbies and job and families and friends and we can’t do everything. So it’s interesting to look at what we choose to do, out of all the things we COULD do.

It’s amazing how we make time for the things we really want to do. We find the money for the things we are really passionate about. So how MUCH do you want to break your 10k PB? How much are you prepared to sacrifice? How much are you prepared to suffer? How important is it to you, in the grand scheme of things? Because if you really, truly want it badly you will undoubtedly get it.

And this is where you have to start being brutally honest with yourself. If your answer to the question is, ‘not enough to get up every other day at 6am to do a hard interval session’, then you’ve chosen the wrong goal. It’s not a disaster, it just means you need to reevaluate and settle on a different goal. Perhaps running your furthest distance ever. Are you prepared to go for slow jogs on the hills for 3 hours every Sunday? If the answer is yes, you may be on to a winner.


So look deep inside yourself and ask yourself, what do I want to do, why do I want to do it and how MUCH do I want it?

Setting the goal provides a realistic foundation from which to start. Understanding why you’re doing it, gives you the motivation to continue and questioning how much you want something informs how successful you’re likely to be.


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