Process Goals: The Road to Running Mastery

US Women's Steeple Team

US Women’s Steeple Team

Running is most certainly about getting fast times and it’s also about mastery of a process. In terms of fast times, none of us will win every race that we enter. We won’t run personal bests at all of our races either. Not even most of them. Wins and personal bests are extremely rare occurrances for the vast majority of runners. So having time based, performance goals for your running is a recipe for disappointment.


At a recent coaching clinic that I attended there was a great session with Paul Salitsky. Salitsky is a sports psychologist and a professor at UC Davis. He said a ton of great things that I am still digesting. One of the things he said that resonated with me was this idea of having process based goals every day. He said that each and every practice, workout, or race should have a process goal. Running a fast time or placing in a race is something that he would call an objective. Our goals that we set daily are the milestones on the way to that objective. They don’t guarantee that we will attain the objective, although they get us on the correct path. Very simply a process goal is something you have complete control over that furthers you on the journey toward mastery of running. Something like going out easy in a race when you usually go out fast. Another one would be trying our a more dynamic warm up before your race or throwing in some drills. Maybe there is an aspect of your form you are working on and you use a verbal cue to help remind you during your run. All of these are great example of process goals.


There is a great deal about running and racing well that has nothing to do with times or distances. With process goals you stand a very good chance of accomplishing them because they are completely within your control. Unlike race times, which are influenced by things like weather, other competitors, and course conditions, you are in total control of process goals. Process goals also teach us something about running or race tactics. Going out with the lead pack or trying a different warmup should increase your knowledge of yourself as a runner in a ways that a fast time cannot. You will learn how your body best responds and what race tactics are good for your specific strengths and weaknesses. By focusing on a a process goal, you can work on mastery of your running while not focusing on time or distance based performance.


So for your next run give it a try. Go out and think “run tall” to help you work on your form. Or maybe you need to work on the smoothness of your arm swing. One that I have been doing lately is trying to feel my glutes firing when I run. In your next race, maybe see if you can pass 5 people in the last third of the race.  Learn something new about yourself each and every day that you run. Don’t worry so much about the time or the distance and get yourself on the road to mastery of your running.


Enjoy the run.

3 pings

  1. […] than hers. In reading about this race on flotrack, two things jumped out to me. The first was a process goal and the second about running by […]

  2. […] versus outcomes. I did  a short piece on process goals not too long ago. This one will be more in depth and provide some real examples to use on a daily […]

  3. […] my previous post on process goals, I spoke about having process related goals for every time you go out for a run, whether that is an […]

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