A fitness goal not written down is just an idea - get SMART and make it happen this winter

Running coach John O’Regan on the importance of goal setting.

THE ANNUAL RUN in the Dark event is taking place on Wednesday 16 November in Dublin, Cork, Belfast and 52 other cities around the world.

Ahead of this year’s edition, coach John O’Regan will be bringing us some advice running advice in the build-up. This week, we take a look at goal setting.


You want to do it but something is holding you back. You wait until tomorrow and that cycle continues until it’s too late. If you want to make it happen then you need to become proactive and start now.

A goal not written down is just an idea. Goal setting can help you focus on what you want to achieve while helping to avoid distractions and most importantly, having a finish date will give you a starting date.

A useful way of making goals more powerful is to use the SMART mnemonic and let’s use this event as an example.

S – Specific. A goal without a plan is just an idea and you can’t plan if you don’t know what you are doing. Decide on your chosen distance; 5k or 10km.

M – Measurable. Measure your progress by following a plan and looking back over what you’ve done as this will give you the confidence to keep doing what you need to do.

When you measure your progress you know that you are keeping your goal in sight and you soon realise that what you couldn’t do in the beginning you can do now.

A – Attainable (Action oriented). What do we mean by this? There’s a difference between running the distance and being capable of running it in a pre-determined time.

shutterstock_282089642 Shutterstock / SpeedKingz Shutterstock / SpeedKingz / SpeedKingz

If you haven’t run the distance before then you need to set a goal that you honestly feel is achievable based on your ability.

R – Realistic. IF you’ve never run 10k before then don’t set yourself a goal of running an unrealistic time. Base your expectations on your experience and use your training results to help set a meaningful but realistic target. You can get S.M.A.R.T again for the next attempt when you might choose to improve.

T – Time-bound (Trackable). A goal needs to have a time frame and a completion date. In this case it’s Wednesday 16 November. If there’s no end date then it’s harder to decide on a start date as there’s never a sense of urgency to begin.

I like to plan my goals from the scheduled completion date to where I am now and use the available time in the most economical and productive way.

Setting yourself a goal that is both meaningful and achievable will make it worthwhile and increase your chances of success. Achieving success will more than likely increase your enjoyment of the activity and success leads to further success.

So remember, instead of saying I would like to take part in a running event this winter or I would like to get fit, you can turn it into a SMART goal and say I am running in an event this winter and I am getting fit.

Sign up to Run In The Dark on Wednesday 16 November to run 5km or 10km and support The Mark Pollock Trust to find and connect people worldwide to fast-track a cure for paralysis.

6 great snack ideas to keep you on track when those cravings hit

I’m too old to run and my knees hurt! 3 myths we use to avoid running