You should set a mix of short term, intermediate and long term goals. Short term goals can be things that you’d like to accomplish in the next few days or weeks, intermediate goals can be targets that you’d like to achieve in the next six months and long term goals can be anything from six months to several years.

• Pick a long term goal you’d like to achieve and then work backwards to plot how you are going to get there. To do this you will need to set short term and intermediate goals to use as stepping stones, to help you to reach your long term goal.

• Short term goals can be very specific. For example, perhaps you want to try and run at your intended marathon race pace for five miles tomorrow.

• You can use races as intermediate goals to give you a focus. It will break up the monotony of training and help you assess your level of fitness. I like to use 10k, cross country and maybe one or two half marathon races en route to a marathon.

You can also use the SMARTER principle to help you set effective goals:

S is for Specific. Just saying that you want to improve your running is a bit too vague. Be specific! Which distance times do you want to improve? Remember too that whatever your goals, they must be specific to you. It’s what you want to achieve!

M is for Measurable. Goals are sometimes the only way that you can measure your progress, so they must be measurable. By how much do you want to improve your 10k time?

A is for adjustable. No goals should ever be set in stone. They may need to be adjusted as your fitness or personal circumstances change.

R is for realistic. You should set goals that you think are attainable but also challenging. Setting a goal that is too easy will leave you feeling underwhelmed when you achieve it.

T is for time-based. Setting a deadline to achieve your goal helps to maintain your motivation and gives you a  clear focus.

E is for exciting. Make sure that your goals excite you to ensure that you stay motivated and interested. Why not aim for a race that you’ve always fancied doing, or perhaps something different like swapping the roads for some cross country?

R is for recorded. You are much more likely to achieve your goals if you commit them to paper.

That’s why my fitness test that I run every 6-8 weeks is so important and should not be avoided. All major elite athletes do fitness tests all the time and they want to improve or maintain very high levels.