Dan Chabert |
Athletic endeavors and goals pretty much go hand-in-hand. If you’re an athlete in training, then chances are high that you’re also going after a goal, and it is the pursuit of realizing your goal that drives your training. Practically speaking, goals oftentimes give athletes some sort of metric or benchmark to determine their success. However, goals can also quickly become a double-edged sword because while goals can pull us along during the peaks and valleys, the high points and low points, inherent to training, they can also be detrimental, discouraging, or perhaps even dangerous to us if we don’t wisely choose them.
Setting goals that will help, not hinder, us is important for our long-term athletic abilities and our remaining healthy, so it’s critical that we don’t choose them in haste. Take some time and ruminate on these goal-setting tips before committing:
Process- and product-oriented goals, arguably the two major types of goals, each have their advantages and disadvantages. What matters most, though, for your goal-setting is that the goal you choose is measurable because without quantifiable feedback, you’ll have no idea if you’re progressing. You could want to “become stronger,” for example, but if you don’t have a measurable aspect coinciding with this goal, it’s more of a lofty ideal – a wish – than an actionable goal.
What else is going on right now in your life?
Training doesn’t occur in a vacuum; every aspect of life, such as career, family, and other special obligations and duties, will all affect your ability to achieve your goal. It’s important to consider life stresses that will surely affect your willingness to commit to intense training and a single-hearted pursuit of a goal. Having a new job with increased responsibilities or a newborn at home, for example, while both exhilarating, are major life stresses that will surely affect your training and your ability to pursue your goals. It’s not to say that it’d be impossible; it’s just that these life stresses (and others like them) will play a major role in your ability to train as you’d like. When you consider the goals you’d like to set, it’s imperative that you give some thought to your life, as a whole, right now (and in the immediate future).
Deciding on a goal you’d like to pursue is important, but so, too, is choosing one that you can focus on. With goals, it’s usually not helpful to have a laundry list of goals; instead, the fewer, the better. Having only one or two main goals, with maybe a few smaller goals included for additional feedback, will allow you to focus more than having a laundry list.
Go beyond the PR.
Shooting for personal records (PRs) is fairly straightforward because these types of goals are quantifiable, but realistically, PR performances are fleeting, and setting exclusively PR goals will likely hinder you over the long-term. Simply making the goal “to set a PR” is not inherently bad; however, there are so many other ways to measure growth in our athletic endeavors. Here are some additional go-beyond-the-PR goal that will not hinder your athletic performance over time:
- getting a sufficient amount of sleep each night, since sleep is vital to training;
- staying healthyand injury-free, measured by how often you become ill or how frequently you suffer from training-related injuries;
- makingbetter nutritional choices, beyond weight loss or changing body composition (though these could be goals), such as consuming more macronutrients on a daily basis;
- regularly incorporating strength workouts into training and later, creating mini-goals related to how much you can lift.
Setting goals that will help you and not hinder you over the long term can be a precarious task. Even if you are fully committed to pursuing and realizing your goals, it’s critical that you listen your body throughout the process. Allowing the feedback that you get from your body to supersede any goal that you have is important because if you’re not healthy, you can’t train! Fortunately, we have many ways that we can motivate ourselves to become stronger, fitter, or faster, and accordingly, we have many options for the types of goals we want to set. Making goals that will help you and not hinder you is the first step.