How to Choose Running Resolutions You Believe In

One of the most popular New Year’s resolutions is to achieve a specific goal for a race. Sometimes these running resolutions involve big goals – such as running in the New York City Marathon, and sometimes they involve small goals – like finishing a local 5k. But no matter how big or small the resolution, some runners will achieve their running goals and some will fail. Why? One of the prime reasons for the success or failure of running resolutions lie in the sports psychology concept of self-efficacy.

The Concept of Self-Efficacy

Self-efficacy is the psychological theory that states that people are more likely to engage in actions that they truly believe that they can achieve, and avoid actions in which they feel they will be unsuccessful. But how does a runner come to “believe” that he or she can achieve a goal. According to a recent article by Human Kinetics, there are four different sources of self-efficacy: (1) past performance accomplishments, (2) verbal persuasion, (3) vicarious experience/modeling, and (4) physical/emotional states.

Past Performance Accomplishments

Perhaps the most important source of confidence in achieving a goal is past performances. Reflecting on great races or workouts allows a runner to form judgments about how attainable goals are. For example, if a runner ran a 4:20 mile a month ago, running a 4:15 mile in a month with good training is certainly possible.

Verbal Persuasion

When building confidence for a goal, runners should care about what they hear. Receiving encouragement from families, friends, and coaches can affect a runner’s confidence. Also, runners should engage in positive self-talk to reinforce their ability to achieve their running resolutions. It is amazing that the impact words have on a person’s assessment of themselves.

Vicarious Experience/Modeling

Another way that runners can come to believe that they will achieve their goals is to model themselves on other runners. For example, if your training partner has run a 3 hour marathon, you can obtain a great deal of confidence by modeling your training on your partner’s training program. If it worked for him, why can’t it work for you?

Physical/Emotional States

A runner’s belief about whether he or she can achieve a goal is heavily influenced by how they feel during training runs. For example, if a runner feels tired running 400 meters at 70 second pace, it is unlikely that he or she will believe that a 4:40 mile is possible. Additionally, a person’s emotions can influence self-confidence. If a runner is constantly feeling down or depressed, it is unlikely that he or she will have the will to achieve goals.


Running resolutions are a great way to motivate yourself to achieve running goals. However, it is important to set realistic goals that you believe that you can achieve. To set believable goals, reflect on past performances, verbal encouragement from others and yourself, the performances of your peers, and your physical and emotional states.

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