Falling short of a running goal is frustrating, to say the least. We spend a great deal of time setting goals, getting excited, and making plans—but sometimes we underestimate how difficult accomplishing a goal can be. Especially if the goals weren’t practical to begin with!

If you want to set goals you’ll actually achieve, here’s what I suggest. 

Build the goals into your schedule

When you constantly feel pressed for time, achieving any goal can seem daunting. So when you start the process of creating goals, it’s wise to shape them around your schedule. We often do the opposite—bend our schedule around our goals—but that strategy can backfire, leaving us resentful and ready to tap out. Instead, sit down with your calendar, map out your existing commitments, and then block off time that you can dedicate to goal-chasing. 

Start slower than you think you need to

An error that many runners make when setting goals is aiming too high. We all aspire to achieve lofty feats, and you shouldn’t underestimate your abilities, but the path to goal fulfillment is slow and small. Next time you want to set an ambitious running goal, I challenge you to make your first step your smallest. Instead of going zero to 60, go from zero to five or 10, and then 20, and so on. The more attainable and progressive your in-between goals are, the more likely you are to achieve your end goal (and stay injury-free). 

Attach your small goals to a reward

As humans, we respond well to incentives. Hopefully, your end goal will be gratifying enough to power you through your training plan, but you may need an extra boost. If you’re training for a race that’s months away, rewarding yourself periodically for sticking with your training plan can help you, well, stick to your training plan. Treat yourself to new running gear after you complete 30 runs, take an extra rest day, or cook your favorite meal. You’ll be surprised how much more willing you are to run week after week when you get to pursue your long-term goal AND enjoy some perks.