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Can targets create too much pressure?

Running is incredible.  Not only is it good for our physical and mental well-being, it also gives us the opportunity to spend time in the great outdoors, to get some sunshine and to enjoy nature.



Running can also challenge us to become a better version of ourselves.  We may want to run faster or to run further.  Many of us set ourselves targets in our running journeys — these targets are often to achieve a personal best (PB) or to complete a race within a certain time.


Goal Setting

Setting a goal can be a fantastic motivator for our running.  There are many people who don’t train unless they know they’ve got something to aim for.  Trying for a PB can provide direction in our training schedules and can give us a tangible outcome to invest our time and energy in.

As we work harder and start to see an improvement in our performance, we get a well-deserved boost in our self-confidence and this often fuels a positive cycle of harder training/improvement/harder training.  Having a goal to work towards can help us to plan our time and gives us a sense of pride when we see the progress we are making.


Too much pressure

But, aiming for a PB is not always the best thing for our running.  There is a fine line between having motivation and feeling pressurised or stressed.  Achieving a PB requires a huge investment of time and usually involves following a rigid training schedule.

Many of us have busy lives and are trying to juggle the demands of work and home.  Sometimes it’s just not possible to run when we we’d like to or feel we should do.  Illnesses, the weather and other commitments often get in the way. It can knock our confidence and create a sense of frustration when we’re not running the way we feel we should be running.

Sometimes training schedules can take over our lives in a negative way, for instance we might avoid going out in the evening to see friends if we know we need to get up early the next day to run.


When running loses the fun

One of the biggest negatives I have encountered with runners following a schedule is that the fun can go out of running and it becomes a chore. Rather than being something we do for pleasure, it is yet another thing to tick off the ‘to do’ list.  The enjoyment of running vanishes and all the focus is on the destination rather than the journey.


Smell the roses

My wonderful Grandad always tells me to ‘smell the roses along the way’ and I believe this is a fantastic philosophy, not just for running but also for life.  Yes, setting goals is a good thing, and nothing beats that sense of achievement when you smash your PB, but it is always important to ensure this doesn’t come at a cost.

My advice would be to keep setting yourselves targets, but only if you want to.  Make sure that your goals are realistic and obtainable and don’t put yourself under unnecessary pressure.  Above all, make sure that you enjoy your running.  You’re getting out there, you’re improving your health and you’re inspiring your children.   Remember, you are awesome!

About the author:

Dr. Emma Short is a mum of two girls, a doctor and a huge fan of running and fitness. She’s a big advocate of lifestyle medicine – addressing how factors such as what we eat, how active we are and how well we sleep impact upon our lives, our health and our well-being.

As well as working as a doctor in the NHS, she is currently training to be a fitness instructor and personal trainer. Follow her at @Emma_thefitnessdoctor

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