How to hit your running goals while preventing injury, tip 2: Breaking down your goal into steps

(If you haven’t already, click here to read and/or watch Tip #1)

Whether you’re a high level competitive runner or an amateur runner who loves it and uses the sport as an outlet or you’re just getting into running – each of us has certain goals and milestones we’d like to hit.

My question is always this:  How do you set yourself up for success?

With all my running clients, I go through a detailed 5-part process that harnesses the science of behavior change, performance improvement, and injury prevention to help reach and surpass those goals.

Before you can set out on hitting your goals, it’s important to focus on the creation of the goals themselves.

(If you'd prefer to watch the vlog - click here.  If not, carry on!)

After you have set a specific and measurable running goal (as I detailed in tip #1), step and tip #2 is to:

2 – Break down your overlying running goal into measurable and digestible steps

After creating a specific and measurable overlying goal, reverse-engineer it into measurable and incremental steps. 

This is critical for creating momentum and a focus on the process rather than the outcome. If you focus on hitting each small step and short-term goal, eventually you’re at the top of the mountain.

Lets say my goal is:  "I want to run a 10k at the Chattahoochee road race".

If was starting to train from the turn of the new year until the date of the race (March 3rd), that gives me about 9 weeks.

Based on training protocol, I'd want to be at the 10k mark around week 8 as it’s not a good idea to try and run at a pace or distance that you haven’t hit during training. Not only in terms of physical acclimation - the only way to train for a 10k is by running a 10k! - but also because come race day, there are other variables that are tough to account for during training (the environment of the race itself, nerves, possible travel, etc)

Additionally, the general running rule of thumb is to not increase your distance by more than 10% week over week in order to allow your body and mind to acclimate gradually.

So based on those two principles, I'd have 8 weeks to increase my mileage by 5 kilometers (km), with a 10% week over week increase.  Therefore, my smaller steps and goals become:

End of week 1 – 5.5 km

End of week 2 – 6.1 km

End of week 3 – 6.7km

End of week 4 – 7.4km

End of week 5 – 8.1 km

End of week 6 – 8.9 km

End of week 7 – 9.8 km

End of week 8 – 10.8 km

Obviously the 10.8 kilometers is greater than a 10k but I always give myself a margin to work with.

Ugh that’s just more work, why?

It's not likely that everything goes to plan so this “over-shooting of the target” gives some margin for setbacks. The longer my timetable is, the more margin I give.  

That’s step 2. In step 3 we get into the meat and potatoes of improving your running performance while staying injury free – training principles.


Fed up with aches, pains, injury, or stress? We'd love to help. Click the button below to discuss your questions & issues with our Doctor of Physical Therapy.  Together, we'll come up with a game plan to reach & surpass your goals.