Goals goal goals…

Personal Project: Resolution
photo credit: Jessica Patterson

I love setting goals.  Setting goals is so easy.  I just let my mind wander a bit and bam, I’ve written down a goal.

Usually when New Year’s Eve comes around I go a bit crazy on the goal-setting front.  I end up with a list as long as my arm with things such as ‘be kinder’, ‘be tidy’ (HA!), ‘lose weight’ etc etc etc. These vague goals sit in the notebook app on my phone (goal-failing 21st century-style) and occasionally I look at them and eventually they fade away.

This year I decided it would be different.  I would limit myself to a very small number of goals that were (here come the management buzzwords – forgive me) SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time pressured.  I limited myself to four major goals, with a few subgoals.

1. Run a half marathon

This one is tantalisingly within my grasp.  The furthest I’ve run is about 18km, which is only 3km short.  It doesn’t have to be in a race, just me and the road.

Sub goals:

– Run 120km in a month

– Run 5km in under 25 minutes

– Run 10km in under 50 minutes

– Run 800m at 15km/h

You can read more about my running efforts here.

2. Get down to 8.5stone (120 pounds)

This one, I’ll be honest, is a bit ‘pie in the sky’.  It should in theory be quite realistic: I am a 5ft2, active woman.  But let’s just say I’ve got a while to go.    I’m hoping the teetotalness and the running will help with this, but unfortunately replacing booze with cake is not really proving a lucrative strategy.  The ‘chunky’ gene also runs in my family.  Thanks family.  You love to share.

3. Get a first in my psychology degree

I’m studying with the Open University and I’m in my final year.  This is perhaps the most realistic goal as I’m somehow on track for this (by some kind of mystifying miracle).  But complacency, laziness and sheer exhaustion are starting to set in.  It’s been an intense few years, and studying alongside a full time job is a lonely and tiring preoccupation (something I will write more about).

NB.  This goal is highly incompatible with goal 2.  High fat snackage is essential.

4. Do 100 hours of driving practice

This is the goal I really hate to think about; this is the fruit in the bowl I never want to eat; dare I say it, the coffee one in a pack of revels.

You see, I HATE driving.  I possess a dangerous combination of zero spacial awareness, a nervous disposition, an inability to think on my feet and a disregard for speed limits.  But if I want to pursue a career in Clinical Psychology (which is not something I’m totally set on), I need to get over that.  I did the hard part and passed my test in 2009, and haven’t driven since.  O.H. is an ace driver and there’s never really been a need.

So I’m determined to book some refresher lessons, join a car club (http://citycarclub.co.uk) and get those hundred hours.  So far it’s mid February and I haven’t done any of those things.  But I will… just give me a little longer…

5. Save £5,000

Again, this is perhaps far-fetched.  But I am very careful with money and I have a decent amount in the bank.  O.H. and I are busily saving for a house deposit – assuming, that is, we ever stop bickering about where we’d like to live.  So this goal may be a little unrealistic but it is just this side of impossible.  Barring any accidental mishaps such as a splurge on an electronic drumkit or similar.  In which case I hold no responsibility, obviously.

So those are my goals.  What are yours? Do you like goal-setting? Or do you just go with the flow? As always, please feel free to comment.

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What do you think about when you run?

Hmmmmmm...
photo credit: Hvnly

I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I’m doing a long run, I’m not sure what to do with my mind.  It just kind of sits there, a useless, untrained organ.

Sometimes I try and get lost in my thoughts by thinking about the usual things runners say they think about… what to wear today, what to cook for tea, where to go on holiday, what to write for my next blog post.  But I find that, especially when I get tired, my thoughts seem impossible to grasp.  Like a DVD that alternates between freezing and skipping ahead.

This is something I want to work on.  All that time spent running could be used so much more wisely if I could train myself to think properly.  Some of the things I’ve been trying to focus on are as follows:

– Listing categories.  I think of films, animals, countries etc beginning with every letter of the alphabet.  This always starts so well.  ‘Argentina’, ‘Brazil’ and ‘Chile’ spring to mind in an instant, as do ‘Atonement’, ‘Bridesmaids’, and ‘Cars’.  But just try and find a film beginning with ‘X’.  Yeah, it took me a while to get ‘X-Men’ too.

Incidentally, I know listing categories is a waste of time, which is exactly what I’m trying not to do.  But it’s a good way to practise mental distraction and focusing.

– Focusing on form.  This is a form of running meditation I have read about.  Ignore everything else and focus on your body: how your legs move, how your feet strike the ground, how you breathe in and out.  If thoughts creep in, gently push them away and return your focus to your body.

I’ve had mixed success with this.  Meditating is notoriously difficult anyway; but especially so when your body and mind have been through the ringer.  Still, I’m going to stick with it.  The benefits of meditating are well-documented, not just for mental health but for strong running.  Proponents claim to be able to ignore pain because they transport their minds elsewhere.  Hmm.  We’ll see.

– Mindfulness.  Yesterday I was on the treadmill, staring at the wall, and I started trying to notice things.  The pattern on the wall; the gap in the display on the treadmill monitor; the sound of people grunting as they lifted weights; the feel of the (frankly pathetic) fan on my face.    It can be very refreshing to centre your mind on the moment and simply observe what’s going on.

– Positive thinking.  This is a good one to do during a run, while those endorphins are flowing.  Sometimes I think about things to look forward to, or good things that have happened; things I’m gateful for (‘counting my blessings’); or things that I’m proud of.  Sometimes I just think of things that makes me happy.  This includes sunny days, candles, coffee, my other half… it’s hard not to feel great after doing this.

All this is really difficult for me.  At the moment my mind is like a badly trained dog, constantly running off the lead and refusing to obey my commands.  But I truly believe if I could just nail this, it could totally transform my running from dead time into a time of lucrative, productive thoughts.

What do you think about running? Do you have any ideas for me?