ASK THE HEALTH AND FITNESS EXPERT Evie Serventi is a health and fitness journalist who focuses on the body and mind connection. Currently studying sports psychology, Evie loves helping people connect the dots between mental performance, motivation, goal setting and dealing with injury. Email her or follow her on Twitter.
As the New Year begins, lots of enthusiastic runners are setting goals and making resolutions such as “stay injury-free” – usually as a result of nursing some hefty injuries in 2013 (often as a result from setting too high a goal!). One runner told me she would like to “become twice as fast in time for a corporate team event in March” and another runner mentioned he would like to run his “first half in two hours”. This got me thinking about setting such specific goals…
While setting goals can help keep you on track and motivated, it’s crucial they are realistic, to avoid disappointment, unnecessary pressure and, in the worst case, injury, as a result of talking yourself into ignoring niggles just to stick to your training schedule. Why not move away from time-based goals and focus on ‘improving your technique’ for example?
Running is supposed to be enjoyable, not a chore, and setting realistic goals will ensure you not only improve your physical fitness, but also your mental fitness, which coincidentally new research has confirmed plays a crucial role in terms of coping with, and successfully returning to sport, after injury.
In November 2013, researcher Clare Ardern and her colleagues at La Trobe University published a review of the psychological factors linked to returning to sport after injury. They found that athletes who were more positive, motivated and confident, and less fearful than others, had a greater chance of successfully returning to their previous level of sport, and of making a faster comeback.
So, next time you tie your laces and head out for a run, try to have a realistic goal in mind and remember to take your ‘happy’ mojo – you’ll not only get fitter and faster, if you do happen to get a niggle or an injury, your positive mindset will see you back on track quick smart.