Goal Setting

I ran 4.2km today!

Just a couple of months ago I used to struggle to run 2km at a stretch and after running 4.2km at a stretch, I feel totally energized! So how did I manage to double my capacity in just 2 months?

Goal Setting

January 2017: It was new year and I have never really kept resolutions. But I read a post by Mark Zuckerberg that he ran 365 miles in 2016 and he mentioned that it was a tough goal to achieve. I was intrigued. How tough could it be? Maybe I should try to run 365 km (we are in India!) and see it for myself. It was not a serious thought or anything, and I casually disclosed to my family and friends that I had resolved to run 365 this year. It felt good.

No, thats not me, its Alex Wong from Unsplashed. Go run!

In the first week of the new year, I was not really serious. The first week ended without me moving the counter. I usually run 2km at a stretch in about 15–16 mins, so I started with my 2km in the second week. Usually I run once or twice a week (that means mostly once) and I know what you are thinking.

Then I began calculating, even if I run thrice a week, it will still be 6km in a week and I will be behind by 1 km every week. So one day, I decided to stretch myself and ran 3km. It was tough! After running 3km for the first time, my blood pressure started dropping and I was almost going to faint. I sat down for a few minutes to recover.

Then I ran 3km a few more times, but I was still 7–8 km behind my required rate of 1km per day. By the second week of running, my knees were beginning to ache. That is when my sister told me that running on a treadmill is very bad for the knees and she scared me! So I googled a bit and found that this was indeed true. In one blog, they said that one way to reduce the impact on knees is to keep varying your speed, because our bodies are not designed to run at one consistent speed. So I decided I will try that out.

Slowly I was beginning to set a rhythm, but Murphy was lurking just around the corner. This time the treadmill broke down. I smelled smoke from the plug and the motor was not sounding right. The treadmill was almost 5 years old and maybe it was time to change the bearings and the panel. But I was determined to fix it soon. We called a service provider and I followed up aggressively to get it fixed. Thanks to great support by my colleague Prakash, we got it up and running within a week.

This meant one more week down the drain.

The break was good for me since it helped my knees recover, and I decided to start off slowly. So as per my new routine, I would start to run slowly and steadily increase my speed. I discovered that this was such a better system. The most painful part was the last 20% when I ran at the highest speed, but most of the run was pretty easy now. I then started experimenting with different peaks, instead of right at the end, I added a slow-down cycle, so I gradually reduced my speed towards the end. The slow down cycle helped me add some more distance on my run and I was easily able to stretch 3km to 3.5km.

Today, day 55 of the year, I was still at 44 km. The gap was looking big, so I told myself at this rate I will keep falling behind. I need to run at least 10km in a week, so I should try and run 4km today. I calculated that it should take me 30 mins to run 4km. I started off slowly as usual, and increased my speed even more slowly. Usually I cross the 8km/hr mark, at minute 15, and since I wanted to run longer, I pushed it to minute 20. This meant that the first 20 minutes were easy as I was running under 8km/hr. After that I steadily increased my speed until minute 28 which was the most painful. After that, I started the slow down. Finally, I was able to run 4.2km in just about 32 minutes. The biggest surprise was that I was not tired and actually I feeling energized and elated on breaking my own record. (I am sure you have already sensed it in my writing!)

So the moral of the story is that goal setting seems to be working.

Can this be applied to my work too? I am going to give it a try.

  • First, I will set daily goals. I have already certain goals I need to achieve by end of March, but I am going to break it down into daily goals and then even smaller ones. If I am working on a feature, I will list down the things I need to complete by the end of the day. Or if I am fixing issues, I will set a target for that too, or documentation, or whatever.
  • Second, I will ensure that those goals are met even if I have to stretch. Like in my run, I know that the last 20% might be painful, but it will also help me increase my capacity.
  • Third, I will be consistent. This system only works if it is tied to a longer term goal, so that I know if I am slacking off. This will force me to be consistent.

If I am able to do this, I think it will give me a lot more focus on what I need to do and make me spend less time on what I can avoid (I am thinking about you, Twitter). I think goal setting is also the right balance between inspiration driven work (without targets) and highly stressful arbitrary deadline oriented work, and I am really excited about putting it in action.

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