This post was originally part of Episode 505 released in December of 2017 and is more or less copy and pasted from that post. The audio, however, is a new take on the topic that is actually quite different than my original thoughts on annual mileage goals.
I have a feeling that today’s quick tip might be a bit controversial.
Please note that it’s not my intention to cause your panties to become all bunched up, but if it happens it happens.
Let’s get after it, shall we?
Why Set an Annual Mileage Goal?
On the surface, yearly mileage goals sound like a great thing.
What better way to help you stay on track and train consistently from January thru December than to pick a number and continually chip away at it?
I mean, we are all runners. We are all going to be running (most likely) for the entire year anyway, so what is the harm in chasing a number?
Well, for one thing, is it even necessary?
If we all are runners and we all are going to be running on the regular for the next year anyway, why do we need a target?
Are you not going to run if you don’t have an annual mileage goal to chase?
So why do you need them anyway?
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High Risk, Low Reward
Let’s cut to the chase: there is no reason to set mileage goals for yourself in 2018.
Zip. Zero. Stingy with dinero. (Jay-Z for the win.)
Honestly, what do you get for hitting your annual mileage goal before the ball drops?
A little bit of self-pride? Maybe some props on social media?
There’s nothing wrong with those things, but in the grand scheme of things what are they really worth?
So what is the risk of chasing mileage goals then?
This is, in my mind at least, the biggest risk to having arbitrary mileage goals in place for the year.
Injuries can crop up at any time, obviously, but having a big goal hanging over your head doesn’t help matters at all.
At the start of the year, you decide on a target for the year.
Odds are, that target is going to be higher than the number of miles you ran last year, yes?
That’s what I thought.
So you do the math, figure out how many miles you need to average for each month in order to hit your target, and you come out of the gate hot!
Who knows what the rest of the year might have in store, right? Better start the year off with a big month so you’ll have some miles in the bank, right?
A sudden increase of miles at the start of the new year? That’s a good way to wind up injured… #justsaying
Additionally, mileage goals also increase your risk of injury at the end of the year (when you’re trying to get those last miles in before the New Year) and near the end of almost every month when you do the math and realize you’re behind for the month.
I’ll flesh these ideas out a bit more in the audio, but when you just need a few miles it’s easy to ignore your body telling you to take the day off.
Do that enough times? I bet you can paint that picture.
By setting big mileage goals at the beginning of the year, you can all of a sudden make running a chore instead of keeping it as something that you enjoy doing.
Now, you HAVE to get your run in to stay on track toward your goal for the year.
And if you miss a run for whatever reason, instead of being able to simply let the run go now you have to figure out how to make up the miles lost.
Missing a run on occasion is going to happen. That’s just life.
And honestly, in terms of your fitness or training for a race, it has absolutely no impact.
The only time a random missed run is going to impact you is if you have some kind of mileage goal in place.
No mileage goal? No extra stress when life happens.
Disappointment is something that we all have to deal with in various aspects of our life, and running is no different.
We are going to have to deal with bad runs. We are going to have races where things don’t go to plan. And we may have to deal with injuries on occasion.
Why in the name of everything Holy do we want to have another thing that can go wrong in our running lives?
When you set annual mileage goals, make a big deal about how you’re going to run X number of miles this year, and then miss the mark, how are you not going to be disappointed?
And even worse, odds are you’re not just going to be disappointed but you’ll be disappointed in yourself.
I don’t know about you, but there is no question that I am my own harshest critic.
When I drop the ball, when I don’t do what needs to be done, I can be ruthless.
As I’ve said before, there are enough haters in this world. The last thing we need to do is hate on ourselves.
Setting big mileage goals can be the same thing as setting yourself up for a serious case of self-loathing if things don’t go according to plan.
So why bother?
An Alternative to an Annual Mileage Goal
If setting big mileage goals are to be avoided, what can you do instead?
Set your yearly mileage goal near the end of the year.
Arbitrarily picking a number, now, and assuming that you’re going to run that many miles between 1 January and 31 December is a bit laughable, don’t you think?
I’ve done this in the past and I’ve had years where I’ve blown past my goal in October and years where I didn’t even come close.
So instead of setting mileage goals now, why not wait 10+ months to set your goals for the year?
We don’t know what the New Year is going to bring for us on any front, so go ahead and start the year with an intention of running consistently and intelligently for the entire year.
Listen to your body. Go easy on your easy days and take a day off when your body needs a break.
Then, around Halloween, see where you stand.
At this point, you’ll know what’s reasonable for the last two months of the year based on how the year has gone so far and what the next two months of your life will most likely look like.
Then, pick a target and give it a go.
Do You Set Yearly Mileage Goals? Why or Why Not?
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