Posts Tagged by goals

Boston Dreamin’ (My Crazy Plans for Spring)

If you’re a runner who pays even a tiny bit of attention to current events/social media, I’m pretty sure you know that Boston Marathon Registration opens on Monday Sept 9th. You probably know that they’re planning to expand the field to 36,000(!) runners to accommodate the increased interest. And I’m sure you also know that everyone and their brother wants to run it.

Including me. 

I have a long and not so positive history with the Boston Marathon that I won’t bore you with again. Basically I ran it once in 2009 and haven’t made it back since — despite having a qualifying time every year. Like many runners, Boston holds a special place in my heart. And after the horrific events at last year’s race, I feel more motivated to run it than ever.

So why is this even worthy of a blog post? (Well, besides the fact that all bloggers really do is post their mental drivel online for everyone to read…)

Cheese Baby is due on December 21st. Boston is April 21st….exactly 4 months to the day after I (might) give birth. This is not a lot of time to train for a marathon, especially when you factor in the 6-ish weeks of recovery, sleepless nights with a new infant, winter in Vermont, and the fact that I’ll sort of be starting from scratch. Even I can accept that it’s sort of crazy and a potentially unrealistic goal, especially since I haven’t been through this whole birth/raising an infant thing before and really have no idea how I’m going to feel.

But I also feel like it might be doable. I’ve even mapped out a tentative plan. So humor me for a minute…

If Cheese Baby comes right on her due date (which I know is unlikely, but go with me here), I will have 17 weeks and 2 days to get ready for Boston. Figuring in 6 full weeks of no running puts me at a little over 11 weeks to actually train.

Just a snapshot of my craziness…

Boston training_tentative

Obviously this plan is completely arbitrary. Like I said above, I have no idea how I’m going to feel after birth or how many miles I’m going to be able to handle once I start running again. I know my body is going through some pretty dramatic changes during this pregnancy, and an aggressive build up under those circumstances is not ideal.

But, I’d be running with the following assumptions:

I do not care about my finish time. In fact, I fully expect a PW. I really just want to be a part of that field celebrating in Boston.

I’ve run marathons before and know I can handle the distance. Yes, I know going through labor can change things, but mentally I know I can make it to that finish line…even if it’s a shuffle.

My training is not going to be ideal. I won’t be focusing on speed work and I’ll only get in one 20-miler before the marathon. The entire goal will be to get enough miles under my belt to be able to safely complete it.

I don’t know when I’ll get another chance. Honestly – I don’t know what next year is going to bring. I don’t know if I’ll have any sort of speed when I make my return to running. I don’t know how long it’ll take me to reach my pre-pregnancy levels of fitness. In short — I don’t really know when (or if) I’ll be able to qualify again. And I certainly can’t count on doing so before registration opens next year. I have a qualifying time now. So it’s either 2014 or…some date far in the unknown future.

So that’s why I’m turning to you, internet strangers! Some of you have been there before and can tell me definitively if I’m being absolutely crazy and stupid to want to attempt this. And all of you are at least removed enough from the situation that I can pretty much guarantee you’re looking at it more rationally than I am right now.

What would you do? Attempt the race or be content with just cheering on the sidelines for another year? Am I being completely unrealistic here? Go ahead and call me crazy…I promise I can handle it.

My qualifying time from last year’s Manchester City Marathon is 3:18 and change. Which means I have until Wednesday the 11th to decide. At this point, I really don’t know what I’m going to do. All I know is that I’m already dreaming about spring races. And that no matter what, come April 21st, I plan to be in Boston one way or the other.

 

Fresh Perspective

Last night, after a wonderful, relaxing extended holiday with family, Evan and I returned to a house that was, in a word, freezing.

photoIce inside the windows…not a good sign.

Sometime while we were gone, the heat stopped working. We have an old (drafty) house with old equipment, and apparently a draft had caused the pilot light to go out. I have no real idea of how long ago that happened – all I know that is that the temperature was already lower than the lowest setting on the thermostat, and with the sun going down, it was only going to continue to drop.

After our attempts at being handy and fixing the issue ourselves failed, we bit the bullet and called the heating company for a last minute (expensive) emergency visit. They informed us they would send someone out – but that it’d be a least an hour.

I was immediately annoyed. At Evan. At myself. At our crappy old house. At my inability to control everything. At the fact that this wasn’t exactly the wonderful “Welcome back to Vermont!” homecoming I had envisioned. My thoughts quickly went from “this is a minor inconvenience” to panic mode:

OMG we’re going to freeze. Our pets are going to freeze. And then our pipes will freeze and burst and our house will be destroyed and we’ll have nowhere to live and it’s freezing out and I can’t feel my toes or stop shivering, and why isn’t the stupid heat starting up?? Get me out of here!!

Obviously not the most productive reaction to an already crummy situation.

Unfortunately, I have a tendency to be a bit dramatic in uncomfortable situations…or in situations that don’t quite live up to my ideal expectations. This character flaw has been with me since I was a kid. I would put such high expectations on things that when they didn’t turn out exactly the way I had originally pictured, I’d be disappointed and upset. Instead of finding the positives in a situation gone awry, I would count the entire thing as a failure.

This sort of dichotomous thinking (where things in my head were either classified as “all good” or “all bad”) doesn’t really get you very far in life. Nothing is ever going to be perfect, just as most situations are not completely bad. Life is not black and white – it’s full of grey area. And learning to accept and live in that grey area is an important part of growing up.

I have worked hard throughout most of my adult life to escape this tendency for dichotomous thinking. To embrace the grey area. But in certain situations, I still find myself focusing on the negative – and letting one negative experience shape how I view the bigger picture.

Take this past year, for example. Every year has its ups and downs, but in truth 2012 was probably the best year of my life. I got engaged, planned a wedding, moved to Vermont (a place I have wanted to live my entire life), spent the month of June celebrating my wedding with all the people I love most in this world and traveling to the Caribbean, started a new life with Evan, gained a ton of extra free time (which has its advantages and disadvantages, I’ll admit), hiked and ran around Vermont, traveled all over visiting friends and family, ran 2 amazing relays, an unplanned marathon, and a few other fun races. I have faced more change this year than any other in recent history. That in and of itself is a pretty exciting accomplishment.

grafton_inn_wedding_ponds

But for awhile, I didn’t really see it that way. Instead, I focused on the many months of running I missed due to my stupid injury and the time it took me to get back into shape. I thought of the lofty running goals I set and how I didn’t reach any of them. I thought about how I didn’t PR in any distance, or really improve at all. And I thought about how I lost a really good job and became (for the most part) unemployed. How I’ve had a really hard time finding full time work here and how stressed I allow myself to get over the fact that I am doing little to contribute to the family financially. I focused on these shortcomings and got ready to write 2012 off as a frustrating year, ready to get to 2013 and start over.

It looks so silly when I type it out. So melodramatic and immature. Fortunately I can say that all it took was a little bit of self-reflection to realize just how dumb I was being. The downs that I experienced this past year were relatively minor and normal. It’s just the cycle of life. And in the end, I’d say that everything worked out pretty wonderfully. So what if I didn’t run a ton of races or have a bunch of shiny new PRs to show for it. Does anyone really care what my marathon or 5K PR is anyway? Sure, I love improvement, but that PR certainly doesn’t define me. It’s not going to get me a job interview or a raise in life. In fact, no one besides my family and running friends is even remotely interested in how long it takes me to run 26.2 miles.

On New Year’s Eve, when Evan and I were reflecting on this past year and everything that has happened, I realized just how often I slip into this way of thinking. Of classifying an experience as “bad” simply because it didn’t turn out as wonderful as I had planned. And letting my running accomplishments (or lack thereof) impact how I feel about myself. Even if I’m able to take a step back and eventually realize how crazy I’m being, I hate that this is my gut reaction. And frankly, it needs to stop.

I don’t normally make resolutions for the new year. I much prefer setting goals – they are more concrete and often include relatively defined steps I can take to achieve them. But this year, I think I could benefit from one simple resolution: to gain a little perspective. And to stop reacting so negatively to little setbacks.

Which brings me back to last night. And my ridiculous fit when we couldn’t get the house to warm up. The fit that was only making a bad situation worse.

I realized I was doing exactly the thing I had resolved not to do, only a day after I had resolved to stop doing it. (Work in progress, I suppose). So I snapped out of it, put some pots of water on the stove and stood right there in the kitchen with Evan – bundled in our winter coats and ski socks, drinking tea in the warmth of the steam from the boiling water. We still had electricity, warm clothing, a roof over our heads, and each other. In other words, things could’ve been a whole lot worse.

steamheat

As we waited for the repairmen to come fix the heat, we warmed our hands in front of the steam and talked about our trip, our plans for the year, and what we could do to make sure this sort of thing doesn’t happen again. And for the first time ever, I felt a wave of gratitude for our electric stove.

evan_bundled

We ate soup huddled under a blanket and dressed in layers. I set Koli up under a bunch of blankets and tried to convince the cats to stay near us (stubborn little buggers wouldn’t have it, though). And then at 8:00, after the heat was fixed and we started the long wait for the house to sloooooooooowly warm itself back up, we crawled into bed to watch the season finale of Homeland on the computer. Was it the best way to spend an evening? Not exactly. But, I have to admit that in the end, it was kind of fun.

Koli_bundled…though I’m not quite sure Koli agreed…

I have high hopes for 2013. Things I want to accomplish, ways in which I want to grow. As excited as I am for the new year, however, I realize that it’s not going to be perfect. Life never is. I may not be able to control everything that’s going to happen this year, but I can control how I react to it.

Here’s to a fresh perspective in 2013.

Life{ontherun}: On Taking Risks

October is a pretty big month in the Conkey house. Not only does it mean fall temperatures, camping trips, apple pies, marathon season, and horror movies, but it also marks the one-year anniversary of our discovery of the tiny town in which we currently find ourselves residing.

It’s so strange to me when I think back on the past year and all that has happened. Sometimes life changes so slowly you don’t notice it. And other times – one small, seemingly inconsequential decision can suddenly shift the course of your life before your eyes.

So today, I want to take a break from the running chatter and the taper talk. If only to spend a few minutes thinking about something else besides NYCM, figuring out my marathon goals, and reading into every little ache and pain I feel in my legs. Instead, I want to tell you a little story about life in Vermont. Because it’s more than just a story about a move — it’s about taking risks. About setting a goal and going after it. About not being afraid of failure and refusing to live life with regrets.

I think we can all agree that this sort of mentality can apply to running too.

A Cheesy Tale

{In more than one way…}

Normally when people ask us why we chose to relocate from the city to a tiny little town in Vermont, we usually keep our response simple:

“Oh, we just love it here.” and “We were ready for a change.”

Which is true. Technically speaking. Plus it sounds a little less crazy than the real story. Because the truth about why we moved to Vermont? It was the cheese. I know it sounds like I’ve gone off my rocker when I say this but in a way — cheese changed my life. 

For Evan’s entire life, his family has been coming up to Vermont to camp during Columbus Day weekend. This vacation was the highlight of his year – a time to relax, escape from the stresses of everyday life (no cell phone service or cable will do that for you) and see family and friends. As the years passed, the people who came changed, but the spot didn’t.

When Evan first invited me along on the annual camping trip a few years ago, I knew things were official. Not just anyone was allowed to come to Vermont, after all. It was that weekend that I first experienced the cheese for the first time. But it wouldn’t be for a couple more years until we’d finally venture up to see where it was made.

In October of 2011, Evan and I made a trip north that would forever change the course of our lives. As soon as we drove into the tiny little town* we fell in love. The huge white Inn, the quaint little post office, the big white church and beautiful old houses – it was like something out of a movie.

inn

We walked around the tiny town that day, eating cheese and daydreaming about one day having a house in such a peaceful spot. We spent the entire day planning out our future. And as cliché as it sounds, it was then that visions of a family, white picket fences, and acres of property started teasing us. Right then and there we made a vow to each other that we would find a way to move to Vermont someday. Once our lives were more settled and we knew where we were going, we would leave the city behind for good.

townpond

But life is really funny. And we soon realized that we couldn’t get that little town out of our heads. So when Evan started planning a proposal for later that year, he knew there was only one place to do it.

Last December we drove up to Vermont again, and he surprised me with a dinner at the Inn in our new favorite town. Afterward, surrounded by Christmas lights (and rain), Evan took me out to the porch, got down on one knee and proposed. It was one of the happiest moments of my entire life.

Fast forward to the wedding planning process, and we knew without a doubt that we wanted to get married in Vermont. Although our entire relationship had taken place in the state of Rhode Island, Vermont — with its beautiful mountains, lakes, and rocky rivers — just seemed more us. So we set out on a venue tour around the state – viewing barns and lakeside venue locations. The Inn was our last stop. We almost didn’t go. I had been in contact with the wedding coordinator there, but she said she was all booked up for the fall (our original plan for the wedding) and only had a few dates available in November. Plus, the formal dining area with its separate rooms just didn’t seem right for the type of inclusive, low key, family reunion atmosphere we were going for.

But we figured we owed it to ourselves. We had really liked several venues along the way, but none of them had felt quite right. Had given us that unwavering sense that this was the spot we were meant to begin our lives…and, of course, fit into our budget.

Until we drove into town. As soon as we crossed over the little river, I knew I was a goner. I remember turning to Evan and telling him what a mistake it was, because no matter what happened that day, I’d never be able to say no to this place.

And it was true. The wonderful coordinator spent hours with us – going over our hopes for the day, explaining the flow of the venue, the use of the space. And letting us know that somehow, surprisingly, she had one cancelation for the summer. June 9, 2012 was going to be our day.

ECLB_tasting

Even though it meant that we’d have less than 5 months to plan, we decided to go for it. I knew it would be stressful to plan a destination wedding while working full time and living in another state, but neither of us had really wanted a long engagement and the timing fit perfectly with everything else going on in our lives. Plus, we had a great support system in the form of our families, who came together and made everything possible for us.

{Side note: after going through it and coming out the other side, I would totally recommend a short engagement! Wedding planning has a way of taking over your free time/thoughts no matter how long you are planning for. Having a short time frame to work with makes you more efficient, keeps you from getting lost down a maze of “Pinterest Fantasies,” forces you to figure out what is most important to you as a couple, and (best of all) means that you don’t have to wait a really long time to actually get to go to this huge celebration you’ve been planning!}

Anyway, we figured that would be it. We were so excited to get married in our little town. To share our favorite spot with our friends and family. And we were thankful to now have a good excuse to take periodic trips back up to Vermont all spring.

As the months went on, we faced another big issue. My lease would soon be up and my government, grant-funded job would be ending over the summer. We needed to find a place to live.

We toured apartments all over Rhode Island, looking for places that were close to the beach, or in neat areas of the city. But nothing felt right. I found myself dreaming about Vermont more and more, wishing there were some way we could just take the risk and move up there now. The more I thought about it, the less I wanted to stay in Rhode Island and the more desperate I felt to get out.

DSC 0051

And then – just like with our wedding venue, Vermont surprised us again. We returned to the town in early March for our tasting. On a whim, Evan decided to check out area rentals. We never expected to find anything (this wasn’t the city where renters are common, after all), but there, on the front page of the local realty website was a cute little house right on the main street. An entire house up for rent – for less than we would’ve paid for a tiny apartment in the city.

That’s when the scrambling started. We contacted the realtor, made an appointment, toured the house and fell head over heels in love. It was old. The floors had gaps in them, the walls needed painting, and the kitchen hadn’t been updated in over a decade. But it felt like home.

After a few bumps in the road, the lease was signed and the deposit was made. We packed up our lives, the cats and the dog, and moved everything up to the tiny town. A town surrounded by mountains and rivers. Where the nearest grocery store was a half hour away. A town where we would begin the next chapter of our lives.

DSC 0025

 

A year after this whole journey began, we are married. My younger sister lives in a room downstairs. With the addition of her little pup, we are now a small family of three who owns four animals (yikes). Evan has to commute long hours for work. I am still unemployed. We still don’t really know what our future holds.

CBLB_applepicking

But truthfully – I’ve never been happier. I love Vermont more than I’ve loved any place I’ve ever lived in my entire life. The summer here was amazing and fall has been even better. With every passing day, my love for this place grows and I feel like we are right where we are meant to be (talk to me after this winter to see if I still feel the same way).

Evan and I took a risk. We found something that we wanted, packed up our lives, and went for it. No matter what happens in the future, 20 years from now I will be able to look back on this phase of life with no regrets. So often in life we get caught up in the “what ifs.” We wait and wait until things seem perfectly aligned before we make some huge life change. Meanwhile, we’re stuck wondering about what could be…or what might be someday. I am so happy that I have a partner that was willing to take this jump with me. To put everything on the line and try out something new.

 

ECLB_applepicking

I don’t know if we’ll stay in Vermont forever (though I hope to be here for awhile!). But I do know that I wouldn’t trade this life for anything — not a high paying job, or a mapped-out, more-secure future. There are only so many times in your life when you can afford to jump into something completely new without fear of ramification.

I hope that everyone has an opportunity at some point to take a risk and go after something that they want — whether it’s a move, a new career, a race PR, or that trip you’ve always wanted to take. Life is short. Go after it.

*Although I’m sure you could probably figure out what town we live in if you really wanted to, I chose not to share the name just so that I can keep pretending that I have some privacy on the internet**.

 **But really, if you want to come visit me, you can just ask. We love visitors.

New Year, New Goals: 2012

One thing that is equally wonderful and awful about having a blog where you openly chronicle your running is that it keeps you accountable for your actions…both your accomplishments AND your failures. Even though I logically understand that no one really cares if I don’t run a certain number of races or get a specific PR but me, it still can be tough to publicly set the bar high and then fail.

But I also think that being open about your goals can be a great way to keep yourself accountable for them, even when motivation might be lacking a little bit. Plus it helps you track where you were and how far you’ve come. My big goal for this year was to run a sub 3:20 marathon, and I’m happy to say that I did it – twice.

320_visualization

So now, 6 days into the new year, it’s time to finally put my goals for 2012 down on paper the internet. I have a feeling that it’s going to be a pretty fantastic year on all fronts.

The Main Goal

First and foremost, my most important goal for 2012 is to marry EC. This may not seem like it would be a very hard goal to achieve at this point, but let me tell you – figuring out a date is proving harder than I originally thought! No matter what else happens, if I get to the end of 2012 married to my best friend, I will be one happy girl.

DSC_0501.JPG

Now enough with the sap. Let’s talk running goals, shall we?

Running Goals

Run a 3:10 marathon. Deep down inside I know I’d be happy with anything under a 3:15. But I might as well aim high, right? A 3:10 would be a pretty big PR for me (for comparison, I PR’d by a mere 9 seconds in my last marathon – this would be over 8 minutes!) but I think with some quality training and lots of dedication, I can do it.

Plus, Susan has a custom-made frame all ready for her post-Boston PR photo, and I really want to be in it with her.

nurseontherun310.jpgPhoto stolen from Susan

PR in the Half Marathon. My current PR was run in the middle of marathon training, through the snow, while I was sick. I’d like to think that in better conditions I have a sub-1:33 in me. And if I really train, I’d love to see a 1:30:xx (or below!) on the clock.

Run faster/PR in shorter distance races. I know I’ve mentioned before that I want to focus on other races besides the marathon, yet when it comes down to it, the allure of the marathon keeps drawing me in. Since I haven’t been able to give up on this torturous distance yet, I would like to train in a way that helps me get faster all around. I know I can’t expect to PR in every distance I run, but I would like to start really racing the shorter races, just to see how fast I can actually go.

Increase my mileage (slowly and safely) I’ve talked about how I used to run much higher mileage than I do now, but then had to back off because of how prone to injury my body can be. And although I still maintain that you can run a fast marathon without running 50+ miles and 6 days a week (my current marathon PR came off my lowest training mileage to date), I think every runner reaches a point where they realize they need to do more if they want to continue to get faster. I could tell during MCM that my endurance was not even close to where it needed to be for a 3:15/3:10 marathon. I think increasing mileage this training cycle can only help me run a faster this spring. And when I say increase, I still don’t mean anything crazy. You won’t see this girl running 70 or 80 mile weeks any time soon. But I would like to shoot for a couple of weeks that are close to/at 60 mpw. If I’m smart about it, I hope my body can handle it.

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Run a competitive relay. My sweaty friend listed this as one of her goals for this year, and I need to jump on the bandwagon as well. I love the 200 mile relay more than any other race, and I have fun running them no matter how fast we go. But I’m a competitive person, and there’s a huge part of me that would thrive on being a part of helping a team place in a relay.

CCrelay_hand off 1

Hold myself accountable for each training run. I’ve never been great about tracking my runs. I know most runners are a bit obsessive when it comes to recording their data for each and every run, so I probably sound weird when I say I just don’t care all that much. I usually just make a training plan and then keep track of what I did each day by looking at what the plan said. Last winter I got myself into the habit of logging everything into Daily Mile, but then I just sort of fell off the wagon. This became a problem when I tried to look back at my last training cycle to analyze what I did (and didn’t do) and a lot of the data was missing. I am making myself stick to regular tracking this time around.

Keep strength training/core work a regular part of my routine. Though I’ll admit this has slightly less to do with helping me become a faster runner than it does with a certain exciting day that’s coming up. And there you have it – my vanity out in the open.

Professional/Life Goals

Become a certified running coach. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time. The year after I graduated college, I worked as an assistant cross country coach and have been thinking about ways to get back into coaching ever since. I finally decided to take the plunge and sign up for an RRCA coaching class this spring. If all goes as planned, I’ll have my certification by the end of March!

RRCAlogo.jpg

Find a new job Yes, that whole job hunt thing is still ongoing. Luckily, recent events have made it look like I might get a few additional months at my current position (which makes things a little less stressful), but it’s still only temporary. By the end of the year, I would like to not only have a new job, but one that I actually love (yes, I know, this may be idealistic, but a girl can dream, right?). Bonus points if it helps me move out of Rhode Island.

Start actually saving money. I love running. And racing. And buying new running clothes. The problem with all that is that it’s sort of expensive. Since chances are I won’t be winning the lottery any time soon, it’s time to start redirecting some of those race funds into a savings account. Unfortunately, when you have some persuasive running friends, this is easier said than done.

So there you have it – my main goals for 2012. While there are a few other things that I’m hoping to get/do within the year, those are a little more out of my control. More than any recent year, I’m really excited to see what 2012 has in store.

And as for something that’s more short term – this weekend I’m running my first ever 10K. It seems weird to say that I’ve been running for over half my life and have yet to actually race a 10K. (Can you tell I avoid them like the plague?) My goal for the weekend: to not die. As long as I survive the race, it’ll be an automatic PR. Win.

What is the one goal you are working toward above all others this year?

How to Set SMART Fitness Goals

Even though we are a people that love to set resolutions at the beginning of a new year, the sad reality is that the majority of us will fail to achieve them. How many swear they’re going to lose weight for the umpteenth year in a row? Or say that this is the year they will “get healthy” only to stop going to the gym after one month?

sorry-statistically-speaking-wont-new-years-ecard-someecards.jpgpicture via someecards.com

Unfortunately, after a few years of this, setting resolutions can become something to avoid. After all, why would you consistently set yourself up for failure? Why not just live in the moment and see where the year takes you?

But what if I told you there was a better way? What if you could set yourself up with a better chance of success? The trick is, you’ve just got to be SMART about it.

Back in October, Jen wrote a great post about setting SMART goals for her marathon. You should read her post for more background (and for a great example of analyzing a goal to see if it meets the criteria), but basically, goals that are SMART are;

S – specific: this is the who, what, when, where, and how of your goal.

M – measurable: you’ve got to be able to measure your goal in some way. Otherwise how will you know if you’ve reached it?

A - attainable: if you really want to set yourself up for success, the goal should be something you can feasibly attain (i.e. winning the lottery so you can quit that job you hate is probably not a good goal).

R - realistic: something that you are willing and able to work toward. This doesn’t mean you can’t set the bar high — sometimes just fully believing something can be accomplished can make it realistic.

Ttimely: your goal(s) should have a specific time-line; a date by which you want to achieve them. This will motivate you to get started.

Transforming Your Resolutions Into SMART Goals

To make your health and fitness resolutions SMART, you just have to do a little crafting. For example, let’s take a common resolution: “to get healthy”

1.) Make it specific. This is actually why I prefer the term “goals” to resolution. A resolution implies you are deciding something; a goal implies a specific action you want to take.

Obviously as it stands right now, “get healthy” is not very specfic. There are many ways to get healthy — from stopping smoking, to eating more produce, to getting more exercise. But even saying something like “eating more fruits and veggies” or “exercising more” isn’t specific enough. To really be SMART about it, you need to define exactly what you want to do.

Specific goal: Exercise at least 30 minutes a day, at least 3 days a week. Even better: “do at least 30 minutes of moderately intense cardio a day, five days of the week” (this is the recommended guideline for healthy adults under the age of 65).

2.) Make it measurable. How are you going to track your progress? Making it concrete will not only help you stay on track, but it can also give you motivation along the way as you reach mini milestones.

tape measure.jpgphoto via Darren Hester

The specific goal above is clearly measurable. Success can be measured based on how often you exercise each week. But you don’t even have to be that prescriptive. The examples below are both specific and measurable:

Set a new 5K/10K/marathon PR (personal record)

Build up to being able to run for an hour

Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day

3.) Make sure it’s attainable. Now I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t set the bar high or shoot for the stars. But sometimes when we set grand goals that we really aren’t in a place to achieve, we’re actually setting ourselves up for failure and discouragement. I think this is why so many people give up on their resolutions after a few months. On January 1st they may be fired up to change and proudly declare: “I’m going to the gym every day!” only to find that life gets in the way and doing that is pretty near impossible. Instead, it’s much better to start small. Or to create intermediate goals and celebrate small victories along the way.

For example, an attainable goal for me is totrain for and complete the National Marathon in March.” An unattainable goal would be to run every single day, or to win that marathon (as amazing as that would be!!).

4.) Make it realistic. If you aren’t a runner (or just hate running), running a marathon probably is not a realistic goal for you at the moment. That doesn’t mean you can never do one, but if you want to make sure that your goal is something you can achieve in the next year, you have to look at where you are now, and start from there. Similarly, it has to be a goal you’re willing to put in the work for. For example, committing to doing yoga 5+ days a week is not a realistic goal for me. I love running too much to cut back on it enough to pursue something else — even if that something could be really good for me.

Sometimes making something realistic might mean adding in the phrase: “I will do my best.” We can’t expect ourselves to be perfect. I’m very committed to my goal of running a speedy spring marathon, but I still slipped and failed to get in my training runs over the holidays.

Realistic Goal: “I will try my best to limit desserts, aiming to eat no more than 3 desserts per week.” (vs. vowing to never eat dessert again — which isn’t realistic for me, anyway).

5.) Set a time-frame! This is probably one of the most important pieces. Without any sort of deadline, we don’t have any real motivation to make a change. I am pretty much the Queen of Procrastination. If I don’t give myself a specific date to start and a specific date to end, I will most likely put it off. Especially if the change is hard or the task is unpleasant.

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Telling yourself you’re going to start exercising or you’re going to build up to run for an hour isn’t enough. When do you want to achieve this by? Next year? In two months? Having a goal will keep you motivated, and will also help you keep track of your progress.

Timely Goal: Starting next week, I am going to do some form of cardio for at least 30 minutes, at least 3 days each week. I will to commit to this schedule for the next 3 months.

Setting SMART goals doesn’t mean you’ll never experience failure or setbacks. But it does give you something concrete to work toward and can increase your chances of being successful in 2011.

When you sit down to look at your goals for 2011, are they SMART? Or do they need a little tweaking?

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