Stating the obvious here but athletes, including me, need goals to stay on course. Lets look at the 2010 Football World Cup. Take the French football team for instance, an uninspired team embarrassing their country. I would argue that their lack of motivation comes from the inability to set and chase goals. Thierry Henry can score goals all day long and has the potential to be a Maradona-like legend, but when it comes to setting a vision the French have severely disappointed. Everybody from the players, the coach and the managers had their own agenda with no common vision of playing well in the World Cup. The team had to be scolded by their sports minister Roselyne Bachelot before they made one decent appearance against South Africa. Think of the millions of football fans that would give anything to be in their place. I wonder how the Irish team feels as they were eliminated by the French with a handball goal. Probably elated that France will not be advancing, but also demoralized as they would have played a much better game. I digress, so let me take a step back and define what I mean by goals.
My parents taught me to dream; dream big and dream often. Nothing wrong with having unrealistic dreams…you may actually realize one. Do you think 16 year old Zac Sunderland could have circumnavigated the globe by himself in a sail boat without dreaming big. Along with my fantasies of flying to Mars, I also set several mini milestones. I guess this is similar to a check list that contains the item “create a check list”. It feels great to start a list and already have one item checked. The point is to make some of the goals easy to realize. Build on these mini milestones to eventually conquer a “long shot” goal. Even if you do not get the long shot goal, you have achieved numerous other goals along the way. It is about the journey after all and not the destination. Another way to illustrate my point is to consider the lack of goals. After accomplishing my one big goal of finishing Olympic wildflower on May 2, 2010 I have completely neglected my passion for triathlons (and blogging). I have jumped in a pool only a handful of times and only gotten on a bike once in the past two months. Sure I have family stuff, work, summer plans, injuries and several other things that get in the way. But if I set a goal to compete in another event, I would be back on my 6-8 times a week training program tomorrow. So what should I do?
Well for starters I should pick an event and sign up. There are several events in the Bay Area around the end of summer and I will update my blog with the chosen event by Monday next week. Now, an experienced triathlete (not me) probably already has several events picked out throughout the year and they are probably building up toward a big event such as an Iron Man. For us tribabies it is probably sufficient to pick a handful of events (3-4) for the year and build our 12-16 week training programs around these events. This should keep us training year round and will ensure optimal fitness; preventing injuries from sudden starts and stops in training. This is an endurance sport after all.
One final aspect of goal setting is to make it iterative. Here is where mini milestones and being flexible comes in handy. After my first triathlon I learned how bad a swimmer I really am. To make me a better swimmer, my modified goal is to shave ~30 mins off my 1 mile swim time. I would like to swim a mile in ~35 mins. Yes, it took me just over an hour to finish my excruciating Wildflower olympic swim. As I start training toward this goal I can set additional goals or even change the goal based on my improvement and on being realistic. This is what I like to call Kaizen goal setting. The incremental nature of setting and improving goals, by revisiting them and frequently changing them.