Goal setting

Posted in: mental training, off season, Training articles, Triathlon

As I am getting ready to start training again after my end of season break, I am beginning to think about my goals for the next 18 months.  Something that I began working on this year at the urging of my coach Jesse Kropelnicki was mental skills training.  Admittedly, I hit the ground running at the start of the season, but let my focus and attention on this area of performance slide over the spring and summer.  This will be an area of intense focus for me over the next 18 months as I firmly believe you can be as athletically talented and physically fit as anyone, but if your mind isn’t trained, there is a good chance you will have mediocre outcomes.

So, I am starting first with a concentration on goal setting.  Makes sense, since if you don’t know where you want to be or what you want to be, all other areas seem a bit like putting the cart before the horse.  As someone who has spent a considerable amount of my life “achieving” – I was valedictorian, most likely to succeed, a 3 season varsity athlete, etc – I assumed I was already good at setting goals and following through.  What I have found is that I took it for granted that I already had this skill.  Now, that I am my own boss in life, there is no system or structure unless I make it that way.  So, I have discovered that I need to develop better goal setting habits to keep myself focused on the right things, and to stay free from all the distractions in life.

At first glance, goal setting can sound easy and simple.  However, I think if you are doing it correctly, it takes a lot of time and thought, as well as ongoing work to keep it relevant and useful.  There are basically three types of goals:  outcome, performance, and process goals.  We often don’t have total control over achieving outcome goals and most of the time focusing on these types of goals will not lead to success.  Instead it is much more effective to focus on process goals, these will in turn help us achieve certain performance goals.  More often than not, if we focus on these things, which we do have a great deal of control over, we will end up with the desired outcome without focusing on or thinking about the outcome at all.

Here’s an example … Let’s say you want to win your age group (totally an outcome goal – you definitely don’t have 100% control of this as you can’t control race circumstances or your competition).  So you think about what you can do to give yourself the best shot at winning your age group.  Let’s say you assess that if you improve your run split, you will be in contention – so maybe you set a goal of taking 10 minutes off your Ironman marathon (performance goal – you do have a significant amount of control over achieving this).  What specifically do you need to do to improve your running?  Possibly you need to practice your specific nutrition strategy in training, or lose a couple of pounds, or improve your run cadence, or make sure you train more consistently by staying on top recovery with proper nutrtion and rest.  You should take this list and get even more specific about things you can do on a daily and weekly basis to acheive these goals.  For example, maybe you will do each run with a metronome and have certain cadence targets for each week in order to progressively increase turnover.  Or maybe, you will make sure you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day in order to ensure you are getting adequate sleep and recovery.  These are process goals.  Focusing on process goals will ultimately lead to our long term success and achievement of those outcomes we so desire.

This is much harder than it sounds – or maybe it does sound hard to you.  I think that we need to write our goals down each day, week, month, etc. and we also need to be routinely evaluating whether we are meeting our goals.  This takes work.  Maybe you say you are going to run with the metronome, but are you really doing it.  Sit down and evaluate your progress routinely and write it down – hold yourself accountable.  It is far to easy to set the goal and then put is aside and forget about it unless you make a habit of accounting for your progress.

It is also important to mention that your goals should be challenging, but reasonably attainable with hard work.  A 10 minute improvement on your marathon may not be attainable for you, so you need to honest about that (for example, if you are already running a sub 3 hour marathon, a 10 minute improvement may be a bit too much to expect; however, perhaps a 5 minute improvement is more reasonable).





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