Whether you’re trying to finish your first 5K or slog through an ultramarathon, getting to the finish line can be a challenge. Mike Kuhn, owner of Power On Coaching and curator of the Trans-Sylvania Mountain Bike Epic in Pennsylvania, offered these key tips to achieving race goals:

Pick a realistic goal. It’s great to reach for the stars, but that requires the proper training time. If you only have two months to train, run the half-marathon and work up to the full next season.

Know your challenge. Make sure you research your upcoming race course. Ask former finishers about the tough spots, and give it a test run ahead of race day, if possible.

Wear familiar gear and apparel. Race day is not the time to break in a new pair of shoes or try on a fresh pair of shorts. Unexpected blisters or chafing could end your race early.

Avoid burnout with variety. Of course, the majority of training for a running race will be running or a bike race will be riding. But if you don’t want to hate your sport by race day, devote one day a week to some kind of different athletic activity or cross training.

Don’t try to copy the pros. Remember that professional athletes get paid to train and structure their schedules around training. Don’t try to do a pro’s volume when you have all sorts of other demands on your daily schedule.

Proper training requires rest and recovery.
According to Kuhn, the biggest mistake people make during training is going too hard on days designated for light recovery workouts. “Then they wonder why they have no energy left for the tough workouts,” he says. “I see this kind of self-sabotage all the time. When you’re putting your body through a new challenge, you have to compensate with proper rest.”