One of the most important parts to a successful training program is goal setting. Without a clear goal, it will be difficult to achieve your best form at the right time. Goal setting helps the athlete to know when they need to be ready for an important event, and what they need to do in order to be at their best. The aimless athlete will often times end up at their races under-trained, over-trained, burnt out, or unprepared. As the new year starts, the season will be upon us soon. I'd like to review some effective goal setting strategies that can help you have a breakthrough season.
Step 1: Review the last year
Before setting new goals, it's a good idea to take some time to reflect on the previous year. Chances are that you have already had plenty of time to do this during the off season, but now is the time to put it into writing. First, write down what your 3 biggest successes of the season were. These can be a podium at a race, a power record, a personal goal, or anything along those lines. Below that, write what you think you did specifically that attributed to that success. Was it working on your sprinting? Being more consistent with your training? Improving your nutrition? I've found that reflecting on your successes if an important step to becoming a well-rounded athlete. As athletes we always strive for more and tend to become complacent or jaded. Reflecting on how far we've come can add to training motivation for the coming year; we are able to see the direct result of all the hard work we put in.
Next, write down 3 things that could have been done better. Again, these can be results based or personal. And write down the reason why: "I didn't do as well as I could have at X because I didn't do Y."
Step 2: SMART Goals
Now it's time to set goals for the new year. The acronym SMART describes a goal setting method. Goals must be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound. A good example of a smart goal is "I want to go sub 16:00 on Cheyenne Canyon by the end of the season." Here we have a relevant goal (that measures climbing improvement), that is measurable (by time), it is definitely specific, and this athlete want to achieve it by the end of the year.
Your goals should also be within you control. Don't set a goal that depends on external circumstances. This includes race results. Don't set a goal like "I want to finish top 10 at Nationals." If you get a flat tire or something and lose the lead group, you didn't achieve your goal. Not because of anything you did wrong, but because of bad luck. Instead set a goal like "I want to be in my best possible form for Nationals this year." That is something you can control.
Write down 3-5 SMART goals. Then, write down next to each goal what you need to do in order to accomplish it. It may help to look at your previous end-of-season review to see what worked and what didn't work. "In order to be at my best for X, I need to work on Y, and eliminate Z."
Lastly, put your goals somewhere where you can see them to remind you. This can be on TraningPeaks, on a 3x5 notecard, or a face-tattoo. Having your goals in view will keep you accountable. When adversity strikes (and it will) having your goals in view will allow you to keep on track.
The End Result
Congrats! Now you have some attainable goals to motivate you for the new season. Having a direction with your training will help you to push through the tough days and improve your weaknesses. The next step is to assess the demands of your target event, and train towards that goal. A coach can help identify the demands of your target event and prescribe the best workouts to keep you on track. With clear goals in mind, you can now begin to plan in detail what you will do in order to achieve that goal. You will train each day with a purpose in mind and be one step closer to success.