I was at a work picnic a couple of weeks ago when my friend Pat asked a question I hear quite often: “How do you stay motivated to keep running?” I usually shrug and say: “I really enjoy it.” I said something similar when asked this time too, but the question has been nagging in my mind ever since.

I do enjoy running, and I really should write a bit on that particular subject, but the real key for me to stay motivated is to set goals. I set measureable goals and develop a plan of action to meet them. “Getting fit this summer” or “exercising more” isn’t measurable, and therefore an impossible goal for me to actually meet. It really is as easy as making your goals measurable. Let me give you a few examples.

My Weight Watcher leader Jill challenged all of her class to walk a 5K (3.1 mile) race sometime during the summer of 2009. I decided I was going to run the entire 5K race instead of just walking it, so I had a measurable goal, and began planning how I was going to achieve it. I discovered that I could jog really slow and make it a mile without feeling like I was going to die. I decided I would try to go a little further each week until I was there. I also discovered that I couldn’t run two days in a row, so I set my training schedule to be only every other day. By keeping my pace really slow, running every other day, and keeping focused on my goal of simply completing a 5K, I gradually saw improvement. I registered for a race when I thought I was ready, and I completed what I set out to do!

Sue’s cousin LeAnn is walking/running in West Fargo, and she set the goal of walking every single block of every street in the town. She got a map and started highlighting each street as she and her friend covered them. Last week they completed their goal and in the process they covered a lot of miles. Nothing motivates a person like watching yourself inch closer to a goal. Way to go LeAnn!

Last January I set the goal of completing the 2011 Fargo Marathon in less than 4 hours. I knew if I increased my training in terms of speed, and worked more on strength, I would have a good chance to meet the goal. Every time I put in a work out, I thought about my goal, and it motivated me to work harder. I managed to cut 30 minutes off my best marathon time, but still failed to break the 4 hour mark when I finished the race this past May. Was I disappointed? Yes, but I’m using that disappointment to motivate me to work even harder as I train for my next marathon in six weeks. I want to complete the Twin Cities marathon in fewer than 4 hours SO BAD, and I know if I don’t complete my training plan, I won’t even be close. How’s that for motivation?!

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