Elaine Doll-Dunn, Psy.D.

A fresh mind set is the gift of a run. Today the dog and I ran a nice five mile loop up the canyon and back to the creek, he cooled his big white body in the swirling water while I celebrated the respite from his eager tug as he “tight leashed” his last mile toward home. Goals are the focus today, and goals are what he and I are about. I set an unofficial goal of five miles, steady pace, and a sunrise “fix” to rest my mind on during a busy day. He, I’m sure, had a canine goal of smooth lope, maybe an escape to chase a deer or rabbit, and probably a treat for heeling nicely when I had to catch my breath; perhaps even a stop at Fred’s real estate place to flirt with Millie through the big glass window. But whatever, we arrived home with him tired enough to sleep the morning away, and me eager and ‘fresh minded’ to be at my computer…nice partnership.

We all have goals. Whether we articulate or even acknowledge them, goals are the fabric on which we paint our lives. Why do we run? A thousand possible answers. We run for fitness, release, stress management, escape, the joy of competition. And why we run determines our goals. If I set out to run just to manage my life, I take the time to enjoy the sunrise, appreciate the canyon, or savor the season. If I have as a goal to run a better my time in the next 10K or marathon, I’ll focus on speed, form, strategy and endurance. And if my goal is just to get away from it all, I may slip into the ‘zone’ and not notice anything at all, nor work on any aspect of the runner ‘s body or mind, just move through time and space to some quiet place to replenish my soul.

The reality of setting physical goals hinges on genetics. Like it or not, there are limitations even for the most positive and dedicated of runners. The best determinant of a gold medal Olympian is great parents. Yeah, it is a lot about genetics; not fair, but there it is. Y’got what y’got. If a sylph-like self is your goal and your mom and dad were sturdy Nordic stock…all the miles in the world won’t trick you out like the elfin sprinters you see whizzing around the Black Hills State University track.
So you take what you have, develop a plan, and be realistic. No matter who you are or where you start, you will improve. If you set a realistic expectation, start with short-term goals and keep an eye on the distant goal; you will improve and you will get there. It’s a matter of dream it, dare it, do it. Works every time. Determination can go a long way toward expanding your possibilities. I vote for heart over talent any day.

When I pull on my shoes every morning, I assess my reasons for leaving the comfort of my home that day. Is it race training? Weight control? Stress management? Or just to keep the dog happy? Many days it’s “all of the above” but just putting one foot ahead of the other for a measured number of steps is instrumental in furthering whatever goal, covert or overt, is inherent in the act of tying those shoes. I run because I must.

Here are a few short tips on successful goal setting:

1. Be patient, it takes a while. “Small increments of desired behavior,” to quote
Dave Little, you can only change one thing at a time. Set short-term goals
to deal with the set-backs and fluctuations of a beginning runner, it will get
better; you’ll be amazed. Twenty-six miles is impossible, I realize that
every time I do it.
2. Be realistic, but don’t be afraid to dream. I only regret those things I haven’t
2. Set goals that help you strengthen the values you desire. Is it time alone?
Time with your partner? Or control of your body and emotions. What do you
4. Write it down. There is a power in the very act of committing your goal to
paper. Doesn’t hurt to tape it to your mirror or refrigerator door either!
5. Re-evaluate your goals yearly, I promise you will under-estimated yourself.

As you choose to maintain, retrain, and sustain this marvelous vehicle you inhabit, you will learn more what to eat, how to run, when to rest, when to pick it up, and when to simply lie fallow. In short, you will begin to know yourself. You will realize when your mind needs the run or when your body needs the run. You will become more in tune with the realities of your physical body, with your mental capacities, and with the power of emotion over rational self. And isn’t knowing yourself what it’s all about? The sense of knowing, controlling, and establishing your special niche on the planet is a wonderful gift to yourself; I invite you to the experience.

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