Goal setting hasn't really been a part of my life until the last two years. In my mind it was easier to not set any goals and avoid the risk of failing. What I've come to learn is that goals deeply motivate me and propel me toward achieving things I never dreamed of accomplishing. Are there failures along the way? Yes. And — the failures motivate me too.
Many people set goals and make resolutions as the new year arrives. In theory, resolutions should be a constructive way to push ourselves toward establishing new habits and/or reaching goals. Unfortunately, many people struggle to maintain the resolutions they declare at New Years because they're not specific.
I, like many of you will reflect and look back on 2017 to help with goal setting for 2018. Knowing that I have 3 races this coming summer also effects my goals. For setting goals I use the SMART Goals terminology:
Specific: Rather than a general statement, set goals with substance. The more detailed the better. For instance, I will run a 5k in 25 minutes or I will reduce my body fat by 10% by June, 2018. Setting specific goals help me focus my inner coach and cheerleader. Is is possible that I won't meet these goals? Yes. Will my world end? Nope. The goals help to keep me motivated and train (and live) with a purpose.
Measurable: It's important to have measurable goals, so that you can track your progress and stay motivated. Assessing progress and data helps me stay on target as I get closer to achieving a goal. For example, I set a goal in late spring that I would run an 8:00 min./mile average by the end of 2017. I set that goal based on the progress I had made the year before — and setting that goal was rather bold! The fastest mile pace I had run at that point wasn't even close to that. I knew I might fail to meet that goal, but I took the risk. In late July, I sprained my ankle on a run and thought the dream of the 8:00 min. mile was over. In October, I started back to running again and that goal I had previously set was my carrot. In late November, I ran an 8:03 min./mile average on a 4 mile run. BOOM! Goal achieved.
Attainable: An attainable goal should stretch your abilities and still remain possible. If I had set my running goal from above to run a 6:00 min./mile average pace, that would have been unrealistic and unattainable. Setting benchmarks that you and your inner coach can believe are achievable is critical for success. When I began my fitness journey in 2015 at 177 pounds, I set a weight loss goal of 35 pounds. When I reached that goal, I set another goal to lose another 5 pounds, and so forth. In total, I've lost 48 pounds and have one last weight loss goal to lose about 4-5 pounds before racing season begins in June.
Relevant: Design goals that are relevant to your training. For instance, in addition to swimming, cycling, and running, I also incorporate strength and core work 3-4 times/week. My goal is to continue to build lean muscle mass and improve my musculoskeletal system so it can repair and recover in a timely manner. I will tweak the volume of strength and core work as the season progresses, as I'll need to increase the volume of swim, cycling, and running as we get closer to race season in June. Re-evaluating and modifying goals is paramount to being successful with the outcomes.
Time-based: Set goals that have a specific time frame for completion. This allows you to determine if it has been achieved and also increases the probability that you will accomplish a goal since you know there is a deadline. For example, I chose to compete at HIM Maine in late August of 2018 as it worked with my schedule and gives me plenty of time to set goals and train so I successfully cross that finish line. Setting time-based goals for weight loss can be tricky and for the majority of my weight loss journey, I didn't use time-based goals. Why? The scale only offered me part of the story. I also used a measuring tape and clothing fit to gauge my progress. Now that I have lost the bulk of the weight, I'm using a time-based weight goal to reach my ideal racing weight.
"A goal should scare you a little and excite you a lot." - J. Vitale
Let's dream and plant seeds. Grab your tablet or a paper and pen and join me in setting some (scary) SMART goals!