The Art of Endurance Training: How To Set SMART Goals and Stay Motivated

The Art of Endurance Training: How To Set SMART Goals and Stay Motivated

The Art of Endurance

Many of my friends admire my consistency when it comes to training. They think it’s funny when I do my resistance band exercises in the early morning before a race and get up half an hour earlier for this. For me it always seemed a “normal” thing to stick to my weird little habits. Recently I started to think what the reason could be for this, as I realized for many people this consistency is actually a real challenge. And I think I figured it out.

If you have a goal, a clear picture of what you want to achieve, then every action you take to get to this goal, has a meaning. This is the key to consistency, to my opinion. So, read on as I outline below how I believe you can get there in a couple of simple steps!

Women that are participating to a group bike ride

Shanghai Friday Morning 6AM Coffee Ride – Special Goodbye Edition with Fast and Motivated Endurance Angels

The first step: setting a goal for yourself. But how do you set specific and achievable goals for training? How can you measure improvement? How much time do you have at hand to spend on your (daily) training?

It is super important that you set yourself a SMART goal. What’s a SMART goal in this context?

S = Specific

e.g. I want to run 5km within 30 minutes over the next 3 months.

M = Measurable

e.g. You can now run 5km in 45 minutes. By measuring your running time, the distance you run and your Heart Rate (HR) during every session over a period of 2-3 months, you can see your progress.

A = Attainable

e.g. Running 5km within 30 minutes in 3 months’ time is an achievable goal as you are already able to run 5km.

R= Realistic

e.g. You are a healthy individual that is enjoying an active lifestyle, you have time to train a couple of times a week and are willing to prioritize your training.

T = Timely

e.g. You have 3 months to reach your goal. This is a reasonable timeframe.

Training for Open Water Swims

Training for Open Water Swims to Prepare for the 70.3 WC in Nice, September 2019

Taking One Step at a Time

So, once you figured out your goal, you can start thinking about the steps you need to realize it. Let’s say you are already a good runner and now you want to participate to your first marathon. If you completed one already, does the idea of training for another marathon now seem easy to you?

If that’s the case, take a minute to realize how you got to find it so easy. Take anything you achieved in your daily life, your career or in sports that before seemed hard and once you completed it successfully, suddenly you felt confident and strong about it.

Possible steps that you could think of when you are running your first marathon

Obviously, everyone must start with the first step, there is nobody who could just run a marathon without preparing in some way. I mean, you could run one of course, but the experience of running your marathon would not be a very pleasant one, most likely.

  1. Sign-up for your marathon of choice (luckily most of the time you need to sign up between 6 to 12 months in advance for one, so this gives you enough time to prepare)
  2. Buy a new pair of good quality running shoes, maybe even two: one for short and one for longer runs
  3. Find a coach to give you advice and help you with a dedicated training plan
  4. Find a running squad to keep you motivated
  5. Look for running routes near your house so there is no excuse NOT to go before or after a long workday
  6. Read some articles about running, marathons and most importantly, get excited about your new adventure!
  7. Start to run and measure your performance; having a HR monitor and a sports watch might be a good idea, but if not, there are ways around this (ask your coach, squad, or read online how)
  8. Start with strength exercises and stretch properly to balance out the sudden stress you place onto your body by running
  9. Give yourself a high-five for doing all the previous items already
  10. Speak to your friends about your new goals – I always find that things get real when I say them out loud; and your friends will keep you accountable for reaching your goals!
Me and my Bianchi

Me and my Bianchi Bike cycling around Lake Como

The Journey is Part of the Fun

When you want to achieve your new goal, this is hopefully because it is something that you enjoy and therefore you will have fun while training for it. Every time you go for a run, be mindful about it and realize that you have the privilege to do this. I think we all learned in Corona times what it’s like to be forced staying indoors when you like to go outside for runs, rides or hikes.

I remember the glory of my first outdoor run after 3 months of Lockdown last year in May 2020. It made me even more conscious of how important running is to me and how much I missed going to the park to think about nothing else but my breath and placing one foot in front of the other. Such a feeling of freedom!

Setting Priorities

The art of endurance does come with a price, and this means you must stick to your goals and prioritize training in your daily schedule. Remember that previous hard training session you did earlier this week? Focus on the amazing feeling of completing it. Think back of how you held on while getting through the last couple of minutes.

This is where consistency fits in. Whether it’s running, morning stretches, a hard bike interval session, a chilly swim or something else; remind yourself what your goal is when you lack motivation or strength.

Mental Preparation

You know that it’s more about mental strength than physical skills here, right? Of course for some it’s harder than for others to be regular with training, but if you told yourself why you are training for this marathon or other sports event, then you should also know why you are getting up at 6AM on a Saturday to get your 20 kilometers in.

So what, if it rains? It’s actually good for your mental preparation to practice a rainy run; imagine it is going to rain on your big day. Will that really stop you? Practice and imagine the lesser enjoyable scenarios for your race day. It was pouring on September 29th 2019 when I did my first Berlin Marathon, but that could not stop me from smiling along the way and enjoying the feeling of reaching my goal.

Motivate Runners to Set SMART Training Goals

Other Runners Might Think I am Crazy, but I was just Enjoying My Run during the Berlin Marathon 2019

Listen to your Body

However, we all have off-days where your body tells you to rest. On these days you should listen to your body signals and take it easy. This will give you the strength and energy to fully prepare for harder days where you dig deep and achieve progress in your performance. There is no improvement without proper recovery.

Take enough rest days and listen to the advice of your coach. Never force yourself to any training session if you are too tired, lack energy or do not feel well, even if it’s on your training schedule. Unfortunately, nobody else than you can decide when you should rest and when you are telling yourself you don’t feel well because you lack motivation. Just remember it’s perfectly fine to take a day off.

The Cherry on the Pie

Race-day is approaching, and you are getting all-set to rock your marathon (or whatever sports event it is) that you have been preparing for the last months. Have you picked your race outfit yet? Will your family and friends come to cheer for you? Are you feeling confident? Remember this is Your Big Day and hopefully you will enjoy it to the fullest.

Be proud of yourself that you got this far. And again, appreciate every minute of having the privilege to complete your event. For me race-day is only 20% of the fun. I really enjoy the whole journey and (almost) every training session that comes with it. But I believe it’s different for everybody and maybe once you completed your race, training for the next race will be easier. 😊