Running Goals: 8 SMART Ways to Track Your Progress in 2022

Thinking about big running goals in 2022?

Maybe you’ve already set some fresh ones as a new runner, or an experienced athlete ready to take things to the next level. 

Or you’re just stepping into the New Year after the holidays thinking about where you want your feet to take you over the next 12 months. 

👊🏃‍♂️ For example...WeeViews contributor David Moore just announced his plan to run 1,200 miles in 2022.

Big running goals can be a great motivator.

It’s kind of like raising your hand and shouting…”I’m going to do this.”

Here’s the problemcurrent research shows that about 64 percent of people who make resolutions (like big running goals), quit within a month. Been there, done that?

Why? There’s a long list of excuses…right? The real problem, too many people (including runners), set goals without a way to measure success, besides the ONE big thing.

And that’s not enough. It takes time to get faster or train for a marathon. Progress happens just a little bit at a time.

If you’re not tracking those small daily/weekly wins, you’re more likely to think your plan isn’t working. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Got big running goals for yourself in 2022? How are you going to measure success and track your progress to get from where you are to where you want to be?

👉 In this post, we're going to show you 8 SMART ways to track your progress to help you crush your running goals.

SMART goals will help you get from where you are to where you want to be.

SMART goals for runners

First...a quick lesson on SMART goals for runners.

Setting big running goals is awesome. There's a serious dopamine hit when you click "SUBMIT" and sign up for a race.

You know...a mix of excitement, nervousness, and maybe a bit of "what have I done?"

But if you're serious, you need to be SMART about breaking down that big running goal into bite-sized steps. Your running goals should be:

  • SPECIFIC. Describe your running goal and what you'll do so anyone reading it can understand it. (e.g...Run a marathon. Run 25 miles a week. Walk 10,000 steps per day)
  • MEASURABLE. Describe how you'll measure your running goal in an objective way. (e.g. Race medals, mile pace, daily step count)
  • ACHIEVABLE. Your running goal has to be realistic based on where you're at. (e.g. Move up from a 10K to half marathon. Lower average mile pace by 30 seconds. Go from 10,000 steps a day to 15,000 steps) 
  • RELEVANT. Your running goal needs to make sense and fit your current situation. It needs to be important to you. It needs to be your goal, not someone else's.
  • TIME-BOUND. Every running goal should have a deadline. (e.g. Run a marathon on DATE. Run 100 miles a month (Yes, you can David!))

So how are you going to track your progress to achieve your running goals?

Here are 8 metrics every runner can measure...

1. Miles

1. Miles

It's easy to do with a running watch or mobile app like Strava designed for runners.

  • Click a few buttons. 
  • The device connects to a GPS signal, and you're off.
  • When your run is over, click a few buttons, and there's digital proof you did it.

It's one of the easiest ways to track your miles, but it isn't foolproof.

Ever been unable to get a GPS signal, have a battery die, or see your watch glitch out in the middle of an epic run?

It happens. The good news...You can usually add runs manually to your digital footprint to track your miles.

If you really want to make sure you track every mile, consider recording your mileage in an old-school paper notebook, whiteboard, or separate document on your computer.

2. Steps

2. Steps

Did you know the average person only takes 3,000 to 4,000 steps per day?

That's about 1.5 to 2 miles a day (from home to your car, the office, the grocery store, and the refrigerator). If your big goal is to run a 5K, that might be enough to walk/jog your way to the finish line.

But it's not enough if you're training for a longer race or want to walk and run to improve your health.

Looking for a simple way to help you be more active?

Track your daily steps with a smartwatch, mobile app, or even an old-school pedometer.

  • Fun fact...steps per mile depend on your stride and walking vs. running. But on average, you take 2,000 to 2,500 steps per mile of walking, and 1,000 to 2,000 steps per mile running. 

What's a good daily steps goal? Aim for 10,000 steps per day or more.

3. Days Active

3. Days Active

Maybe running every day doesn't work for you.

Or maybe you like mixing things up with strength training, biking, swimming, yoga, and hiking.

Some form of physical activity every day is a great way to help you become a better runner, manage your weight, and improve your health.

But the truth is most people aren't active enough.

In fact, only 23 percent of adults get the minimum amount of exercise recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Setting a goal to be active every day can help you.

When runner Jeremy Pietzold realized he needed a nudge to be more active, he decided to jog or run at least 1 mile every day. 

And you know what? He's been on a run streak for more than 1,800 days now (FIVE YEARS!)

Keep track with your watch or digital device, or check off a walk or run on your calendar.

4. Mile Pace

4. Mile Pace

Ever go for a run and feel slow?

Maybe you run with friends and feel like you're the slowest one in the group?

Or you set your sights on qualifying for the Boston Marathon, but you need to clock a faster marathon finish time.

Track your mile pace, and work on getting faster one run and one workout at a time.

  • You can compare your mile pace from week to week on the same runs.
  • Evaluate your average mile pace in a race
  • And work on getting faster with things like speedwork, intervals, sprint workouts, and strength training. FYI...if you need to lose weight, getting leaner can help you run faster and more efficiently, too.

This year runner Kelly Cole is working on lowering her mile pace and running faster marathons.

5. Races

5. Races

Here's a fun way to track your progress...

Hang up your race-finish medals where you can see them.

Every time you walk into the room, you see those race medals hanging up.

It's a visual reminder of finishing a race, and represents the days, weeks, and months you've spent training to get there.

Maybe you've got a goal to run a certain number of races this year. Keeping track of your race finishes like this is a fun way to document your journey.

6. Heart Rate

6. Heart Rate

Mile pace and distance don't always tell the whole story.

If you're running to improve performance and boost cardiovascular endurance, measure your heart rate. This can include:

  • Resting heart rate. The average resting heart rate for most adults is 60 to 100 beats per minute. But if you run, walk, and exercise regularly, your heart is stronger and healthier. And your resting heart rate may be closer to 40 beats per minute.
  • Heart rate training. You can also adjust your runs and workouts to improve performance with heart rate training. Using a heart rate monitor on a smartwatch or wearable strap can help you train for speed and endurance.

Instead of just going by how you feel, tracking your heart rate can help you decide if you need to slow down or speed up to achieve your running goal. Check out this Heart Rate Training resource by Polar and use the Heart Rate Zone Calculator.

7. Weight

7. Weight

Running to lose weight? Step on the scale and track your progress.

Running can help you burn calories and fat. But you'll need to do more than just run.

If you're serious about losing weight and keeping it off, combine running with a healthy diet and strength training.

Translation: You can't outrun or out-exercise a bad diet.

However, research shows weighing yourself daily can help you make better choices (as in...running or working out and making better food choices.)

In one recent study, researchers found that people who weighed themselves daily maintained their weight or even lost weight...during the holidays.

Keep track of your weight from day to day, and chart your progress. There's lots of apps that make it easy to do this like: 

Achieve and maintain a healthy weight, and you'll run more efficiently.

8. Feel

8. Feel

It's by far the most subjective way to track your running progress.

But you can learn a lot from keeping track of the way you feel when you run.

A calendar or old-school journal might work for you.

But  if you prefer a digital option, use Strava, to keep track of the way you feel when you run. There's two options in the app:

  • Add a description
  • Add private notes

So how do you keep track of how you "feel" when you run?

Simple details can provide you with information to help you become a better runner.

Here's some examples of how to keep track of how you "feel" after a run:

  • Legs felt heavy and sluggish
  • Felt like quitting and cut the run short
  • Perfect run. Everything is awesome.
  • Shorts rubbed some parts raw. Ouch!
  • Hydration pack/belt bounced all over the place. Annoying.
  • Ran out of food, drink, fuel early. Aid station, please!
  • No porta-potties or bathrooms on this route. Gut bomb!
  • Trail + views were amazing. Run this one again.
  • Race was epic!

Starting to get the idea? 

When you keep track of details like this, you start collecting qualitative data about your running habits, routes, and performance. 

And you can use this to change your training plan, upgrade your gear, make better fueling choices, work on your mindset and so much more.

Track your progress to keep going

Nobody makes New Year's resolutions or big running goals with plans to fail.

But if you don't break down those goals into action steps you can measure (daily, weekly, monthly...), those big running goals can seem too lofty and hard to reach. And you know where that leads.

Take a closer look at your big running goals this year, and decide how you'll measure your progress.

Then lace up your running shoes and make it happen.

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Evan Jensen
SANDY, Oregon
2 Following

I help RUNNERS reduce injuries, fix running form, run longer & faster by strength training without running ragged. I'm a NASM...


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