On goal setting and running

Gun Run 2014Here is a thought about running and goal setting. It is very seldom that I don’t have a big race coming up in the future, hence a lot of my runs are training runs for that race.

There are broadly two ways in which I often run: either just going out and enjoying the run, or by watching my watch all the time – checking my pace, heart rate etc.

But while I am almost always working towards a goal, I still want to enjoy the experience of the actual run, and to just be in the running moment. And I often find that when I am not really focusing on pace, heart rate etc and just enjoying the run (this happens mostly when I am having a slow cool-down run) I get a personal best (PB) on a segment of a route.

This week when I was running back home from St James I got a PB on the St James – Muizenberg segment, but it was meant to be a chilled and slow run after a hard race on Saturday. I have run that segment (quite literally) hundreds of times, but the time when I was just being present and not worrying about pace or goals is when I ran fastest. And at the time I genuinely thought that I was running slowly.

On Wednesday I went for an evening run up the mountain. But it was extremely hot (over 30 deg C). The uphill run was tough. I was sweating, out of breath and taking strain up the steep sections. But I was not particularly concerned because I knew the heat would play a big role in my performance. But when I analysed my data afterwards I realised that I had missed a PB on the green-belt climb by 2 seconds. Now 2 seconds is easy to catch up. In the hottest weather I have ever done that route, when I was not expecting to have a particularly good run, and I was not paying much attention I almost had my best time ever!

This happens a lot on races when I don’t have a particular target time in mind and I just go to see how the run goes. I have got a few PB’s from there. In particular the Gun Run 21k (1h53) and Hohenort 15km (1h17) come to mind.

What is the lesson here? I think that if you purely focus on your goals, and you only work towards achieving them you won’t enjoy the journey, and it may even slow you down. If you train, work hard and most importantly enjoy the experience you don’t need to worry about the goals; they will just happen.

A few lessons from Gary Bailey

Gary Bailey
Gary Bailey

Some tips I picked up from Gary (ex goal keeper for Manchester United) at our Toastmasters conference. Enjoy!

Manchester United:

  • Is a $1 billion business
  • Has 300 million customers
  • Delivers weekly to its customers

The principles of a good soccer team apply to business as well…

  • Be tough- learns to takes knocks
  • Build on gratitude
  • Appreciate staff and all those around you
  • Things go wrong for everybody at some time
  • It’s how you deal with life, not what happens to you that is important
  • Plan for the future
  • Don’t send emotional emails because there is no emotion in email
  • Make time for others
  • Raise your energy
    • Body; food & exercise
    • Spirit; helping others
    • Mind;
    • Emotions;

How much effort are you prepared to put into your passion?

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods

I was listening to an interview with Malcolm Gladwell recently on the Radiolab podcast in which he was speaking about the performance of Jamaican athletes when he was growing up. He made a comment that part of the reason for their performance is that they trained harder than anybody else.

When Darren la Croix won the 2001 World Championship of Public Speaking, he said that he did not want any of the other competitors to be more prepared than him – he wanted to out-prepare all of them, and he won.

When I was in school, I studied music as one of my matric subjects. In my final year, I would probably practice about 2-3 hours a day, and I was a far better pianist then than I am now. It was because I was putting in the time to prepare.

Tiger Woods is such a great golfer partly because he puts in approx 6 ½ hours training every single day, as well as about 2 ½ hours in the gym  . I have no doubt that if I put effort into golf every day for a few years, I would be a mighty fine golfer as well. Maybe not as good as Tiger Woods, but a lot better than I currently am.

According to Fortune Magazine,

“The evidence we have surveyed … does not support the [notion that] excelling is a consequence of possessing innate gifts…. that nobody is great without work…There’s no evidence of high-level performance without experience or practice.”

Ok, so the bottom line is that you can be excellent at just about anything that you choose, but you will need to put in the effort to get there.

How much effort are you prepared to put into your passion?

3 things they don?t tell you about goal setting

Here are three things that will make a huge difference between achieving a goal or not quite making it. There is a fine line between succcess and failure, and these will help you to cross that line. 

  1. You need to really want to achieve the goal. How easy is it going to be to achieve the goal if you are only 50% committed to achieving it? That gives you only 50% chance of success. If you want to achieve a goal, be fully committed.
  2. There is no room for doubt. If you allow room for doubt, it will creep in and hold you back. Make a decision that you WILL reach the goal.
  3. Sometimes achieving a goal actually requires work! When Darren le Croix won the world champion of public speaking, a colleague told him how lucky he was to have won. The colleague had no idea how much work and energy Darren had put into that goal.

What else don?t they tell you?

Many Little Steps make a few Big Steps

Steps_2About  six weeks ago, I had minor back surgery to sort out a problem with a slipped disc. A large part of the rehab process consisted of resting, with limited stretching and exercise.
Over the first few days, my routine was relatively unchanged, I spent the majority of the day in bed. I only got up to eat, shower or use the bathroom. I tried to spend more time out of bed, but I could not – I was frustrated by the perceived lack of progress in my recovery.

I didn?t see any progress between Monday and Tuesday, or between Tuesday and Wednesday, or between Wednesday and ?ok, you get the picture. However, when I looked back from Friday to Monday, I started to realize how much progress I really had made. On Monday I was in bed for 23 hours a day, while on Friday I was only in bed for 22 hours (one hour is a big difference after back surgery), and I had cut my paid medication in half.

By the next week, I was only in bed for 20 hours with the occasional pain pill, and the week after I was in bed for about 15 hours a day. Now, I am in bed for my regular 8 hours a day, I am back at work, and I am completely off pain medication. Over the weeks there was huge progress, but hardly any from day to day.

So, when you are working towards a goal, how often do you abandon the journey because you are so focused on the your progress that you don?t see the progress over the weeks? Do you get frustrated because you don?t see any weight loss from day to day, or because you aren?t running further each day? Do you realize that over a week you have lost weight, or you are running further, faster and with less effort?

It is so easy to get caught up in the detail, and to forget the bigger picture. Each little step, no matter how small is a step forward, and without those little steps, you are not going to manage the bigger steps.

Here are a few steps to help you to focus on the bigger picture. Do this whenever you feel like giving up.

  • Decide what your goal is (remember SMART)
  • Commit yourself towards working towards that goal
  • Plan your milestones towards reaching your goal
  • Look back from time to time
  • See how many little steps you have taken
  • Realize that many little steps make a few big steps

Now, with the back surgery, I didn?t really have an option except to move forward, but when you do have the option of dropping out of a programme because you are frustrated at the perceived lack of progress, remember to  keep the bigger picture in mind, and remember that if you persevere, you will move forward, and you will achieve those goals.