Are you ready to lace up your running shoes and set some goals that go beyond chasing those race Personal Records (PRs)? While aiming for faster times is exhilarating, there’s a whole world of running achievements waiting for you that don’t involve the ticking of a stopwatch. Join us as we explore 10 exciting running goals that will fuel your passion, boost your motivation, and make your running journey even more rewarding.
1. Monthly Mileage Target: Set a monthly mileage goal that suits your fitness level and long term goals. It’s a fantastic way to measure consistency and challenge yourself. How to do it: Look over how many miles per week you’ve been running consistently for the last few months. Add 5% to your weekly mileage and aim for that distance each week next month. Use a running log to track your progress and check in with your body.
2. Mindful Runs: Dedicate one run each week to mindfulness miles. Instead of focusing on pace or distance, tune into your breath, surroundings, and the rhythm of your steps. It’s a beautiful way to find mental clarity while moving. How to do it: Leave your watch at home (or your running app off). Run a route you’re familiar with so you can focus on checking in with your body. Focus on what you see, how you feel, what you smell, what you hear and enjoy the simplicity of running and what your body can do.
3. Hill Mastery: Embrace the uphill battle! Conquer the biggest hills in your neighborhood with determination. It’s a great workout AND helps build your confidence (especially if you run hills you usually avoid). Work on your uphill running technique to build strength that will pay off in your regular runs.
4. Speed Play (aka Fartlek Run): Inject spontaneity into your runs by adding bursts of speed at random intervals. It’s like a game of tag with the wind, making your runs thrilling and unpredictable. How to do it: After a thorough warm up, choose a landmark in the distance (examples: street sign, specific house, street light, etc.) – speed up your pace until you get to that landmark – then, slow down to an easy pace to recover. Once you’re fully recovered, repeat this with another landmark. If you’re new to speedwork, do this a few times and return to your easy pace to complete the run. As you progress you can add in more speedy sections to this workout.
5. Fix Your Running Form: Fine-tune your running form, focusing on individual aspects like arm swing, stride length, or posture. Mastering your form can lead to improved efficiency and reduced risk of injuries. How to do it: Every mile check-in with your running form and reset as needed. Proper running form reminders: Relax your shoulders, Arm Swing should around 90 degrees forward and back (not crossing in front of you body), Standing tall with a slight forward lean, Feet under your body (not overstriding), Quick steps…
Bonus: Ask a buddy to record you running OR set up your camera and record yourself running by a few times. Try to keep your form as normal as possible to get an accurate example. Look for things like: tense shoulders creeping up towards your ears, arm swing, forward lean, stride, differences in left/right sides, etc. Do a ‘running form check-in’ run once a week for a month and then do another video to see how you’ve improved.
6. Exploration Runs: Rediscover the joy of running by exploring new routes and locations. Uncover hidden gems and landmarks in your city while satisfying your inner explorer. How to do it: As you plan your workouts – choose a day/time you can make 1 run per week a ‘new location run’. It doesn’t have to be exotic or far from home.
Examples: Local Parks – have you run through all the parks in your area? If not, check ’em out., School Track – if the school campus is open, hit the track for a speed workout., Bike or Pedestrian Paths, Local landmarks (these may have well maintained landscaping and walking paths nearby too). Or if you have more time – drive to a nearby lake, hiking trail or beach.
7. Off-Road Adventure: Trade pavement for trails and experience the magic of trail running. The varying terrain engages different muscles and reconnects you with nature. How to do it: Look up local trail running groups or races for the best info on where to run and safety precautions. Trail running and hiking groups often share current animal sightings, current trail conditions and other important information that can help you have a safe adventure. Join a local group for a trail run or hike to get to know the area and make new friends. In my experience – trail runners are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met.
8. Social Runs: Share your love for running with friends or join a local running group. The camaraderie and shared experiences will uplift your spirits and add a social dimension to your passion. How to do it: Check with your local running shoe store for info on local group runs or meet-ups. Many running stores host their own runs, but if they don’t – they’ll have information about local running groups. Then, GO! Try it out, if you don’t like the vibes of the group you don’t have to go again – and at least you got in a good workout!
9. Consistent Cross-Training: Elevate your fitness game by incorporating cross-training activities like swimming, cycling, or yoga into your routine. Not only will this enhance your overall performance, but it’ll also give your muscles a refreshing challenge. How to do it: Swap one run a week for another workout you may enjoy. It can be something new to you or an old favorite you haven’t done in a while. Bonus points if it’s an activity that may improve your running! Here are some great cross-training options to consider: Swimming, Pickleball, Strength Training class, Yoga, Tennis, Zumba, Cycling…
10. Dynamic Warm-ups: Prioritize dynamic stretches and warm-up exercises before your runs. This goal will not only improve mobility but also help prevent injuries and ensure you’re ready to conquer the miles. How to do it: Before every run walk in place and begin to move around as you check in with your body to start getting warmed up. Then, do a handful of dynamic warm-up moves for 10 minutes. Dynamic warm up move examples: March, Hip Circles, Arm Circles, Heel Walk, Toe Walk, Crab Walk, Knee Hugs, Hip Cradles, Straight Leg March, Forward Lunges, Lateral Lunges, Leg Swings…
11. Speed Work Switch Up Challenge: Aim to try a new speed running workout each week, such as fartlek, ladder intervals, negative splits or tempo runs. This can help beat boredom if you’ve been running the same loop around your house at the same pace for months on end. Swap one of your usual long or harder runs with a new speed workout. (Note: You should not increase distance AND difficultly in the same week. So, choose 1 run to incorporate into your plan and adjust your other days to balance out fatigue and recovery time.)
12. Recovery Rituals: Implement post-run recovery practices like foam rolling, stretching, and hydration to aid in muscle repair and overall well-being. Tip: When I get back from a run I sometimes set a timer for 10 minutes. This is my time to stretch and foam roll. The times always ends up going off before I’m done or bored of stretching and I’m glad I did it.
13. Fun Running Photos: Keep an eye out for 3 funny, beautiful, strange or notable things you see on your run. Snap a pic and share on social media after your run. (Should we make this a group project on Instagram? LMK – and follow me @RunEatRepeat )
14. Inspirational Playlist: Curate a new motivating playlist that boosts your mood and energy levels during your runs. Make a new one each month to keep it fresh and beat boredom.
15. Running Journal: Keep a running journal to track your emotions, thoughts, and reflections after each run. It can provide valuable insights into your progress. (Note: I have a free printable Running Log if you’re not currently tracking and noting your runs. Complete the form at the bottom of this page for that.)
These are just some ideas to get you started towards a non-PR or race related running goal. Choose one of these or create your own unique goal that will keep you motivated and accountable.
Note: No matter what goal you choose – make it a SMART Goal (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound). This ensures you have a way to measure progress and sets some boundaries that will help keep you accountable. Once you choose a goal – decide how many times/week you will do X // how you will track X // how doing X will help or make you feel // when you will be done with this initial goal.
For example: Your goal is to work on cross-training. You goal can be: “I will do a 30 minute yoga session once a week for the next 4 weeks.” Then, decide which day of the week is best to fit this in and find a yoga session (on YouTube or in person class). And finally – show up and do it.
Embrace the diversity of the running experience, celebrate your progress, and remember that every step counts. So, are you ready to sprint toward these new goals? Let’s lace up and make every run an adventure!
Remember, running is a personal journey, and the goals you set should reflect your desires and aspirations. Whether you’re an experienced runner or just starting, these alternative goals can add depth and excitement to your running routine. Happy running!