What is your goal for the coming year? Is it to qualify for Age Group Nationals or The Boston Marathon? Is it to make it through the summer without injury? Is it to move up from three miles running three days a week to running three miles a day four times a week? Whatever your goal, the off-season is the best time for setting goals for the upcoming season and for years to come.
A goal is an aiming point. It’s what a person wants to achieve or where a person wants to end a journey. Finishing an Ironman distance race is a goal. Finishing a workout is a goal. Each goal is typically achieved through a journey called training. Coach Joe correctly says we don’t become what we want on race day. It’s the training (journey) leading up to the event where goal achievement occurs.
Goals seem like easy things to set, but sometimes our desires and dreams get the better of us. Goals should be attainable but not easy. If goals are too easy, we may feel very little or no sense of achievement. Even winning an event that was too easy for us may cause a reduction in motivation. If goals are too difficult, no amount of motivation will get us to the summit. Having the proper perspective on what is and isn’t possible or probable is an important part of goal setting. We all have dreams (qualifying for Kona!!), but sometimes dreams may be just that.
A good coach will assist an athlete in setting goals. As long as the athlete is honest with him or her, the coach can help an athlete get past the dream portion of goal setting and get down to making goals which are achievable, but fulfilling. An athlete’s coach should know the athlete’s weaknesses and strengths and can help mold a goal for a race, month or season.
The first step is to have an event for which to aim. This can be a race, workout or life event. Whatever it happens to be, the event needs to have some importance to the athlete in order to become a goal. This is called motivation and without motivation, we will not achieve a goal. Unless we are motivated, it will be easy to quit short of achievement.
Next, determine what you want to achieve in the event. Again, this will be the motivator for that specific day. The goal for a workout may be to complete the workout under a certain time or complete a certain number of repetitions. A race goal may be as simple as finishing or as bold as winning.
The third step is to plan for achieving the goal. The plan begins with mapping out a training plan. This training plan needs to be complete but flexible in case of injury or illness. Your coach has a complete plan in mind, but may only show the plan a week or two at a time in order to keep it current with your fitness level or time availability.
Motivation will help you execute the plan to the best of your ability. If you miss a day or two of training, it’s usually not too big a deal. But if an injury, illness, or some other life event causes you to miss significant time, you may lose motivation and need to reassess your goal. As you journey through the plan, you build your fitness and confidence in achieving the goal.
Finally, you need to show up to your goal event healthy and ready to achieve your goal! Your coach and you will map out another plan, this one for the race. Nutrition, strategy and mind-set are important for each race, but as distance increases, these become more important. You can gut out a mile or 5K (depending on your fitness level) without too much planning, but a marathon or Ironman needs to be planned out completely.
So what happens if we fall short of our goal? Sometimes life deals us a difficult hand and we either miss our goal because of weather or some other outside source, or we just don’t quite get to the summit because the goal was just too difficult at this point. No matter how important the goal or how motivated we may be, this should not be considered a failure. It’s simply a setback and we may need to reorganize for another assault on our goal or reassess this goal. Getting up and trying again is one of the main traits of an endurance athlete. In this case, we need to recover from our event then start the process again.
Sometimes it’s tougher when we achieve our goal. We qualify for the big race or win our age group as planned. When this happens, our motivation may fall and we wonder what to do next. In this case, take some time to revel in your achievement, then look around for a new challenge, set a new goal and train to achieve!
Bob Hammond is a USAT certified Triathlon Coach and Run Coach with Experience Triathlon. As leaders in the endurance services industry, Coach Bob and the Experience Triathlon staff help athletes of all ages and abilities achieve success in training, racing and life. Learn more about Coach Bob and Experience Triathlon at www.experiencetriathlon.com.