Adding Structure to Goal Setting

The New Year is a time to reflect on our achievements, lessons and failures from the past 12 months. On the other side, it is an opportunistic time in which we lay out what we would like to achieve. The problem is that we don’t always plan the pathway to the goal. This leaves us susceptible to failure because we lack concrete plans which serve as guidelines and reminders. Below are some of the simple strategies that I use with the athletes that I coach as well as the lessons I’ve learned myself. As you write down what you would like accomplished in the coming year, keep these in mind. Passion This may or may not be obvious but how much do you really enjoy the sport that you are doing? The litmus test is how much you look forward to getting back on the trail, field or track again. It shouldn’t feel like an obligation to train and instead be something you look forward to on a near daily basis. If you find it a struggle to get going for your run this suggests that you need to change things up. If you are a 10k road runner, you may want to try trail races or increasing/decreasing the distance you participate in. There are also duathlons and triathlons as well which can add variety by introducing another medium of activity. A change of scenery is helpful by running different trails or simply purchasing new equipment. In some cases you might just need a complete change altogether and try a team sport.  Make sure you are having fun out there and are not just going through the motions. Compliance Lay out the schedule for the week beforehand of when you are going to fit in training and determine when you like to exercise. Make sure that the sessions won’t be impeded by factors that tend to go long (ex. Meetings at work). Personally I like to get my workout in at the start of the day because of the sense of getting a task checked off my to-do list along with knowing the volume of work I have at the end of the day can be difficult to stray from. If you can schedule a run/workout at the same time of day for most of the week your body will find a rhythm and when that time comes it will be easier to get going. Also, make sure to have at least one person that you can meet to train with or at least a coach who will show up to watch your workout. Being part of a team is the most ideal. This will lower the likelihood of canceling a session for whatever excuse that you may come up with.
Team 3
The camaraderie of a team is hard to match.
- Photo by Jeffrey Chan
Goal Attainment How realistic are your goals based on your experience, background and accessibility? There should be three tiers: Easily attainable, Realistic, and Far-reaching. For example if your PR is 18:00 for a 5k, this is what it should look like: 17:55 (Easily attainable), 17:35 (Realistic), 17:20 (Far-reaching). The last two are fairly straightforward in terms of explanation. The purpose of the easily attainable goal is to reward yourself for incremental improvement. It is a benchmark that gives you momentum in that you are on the right track. If your PR is from a decade ago, getting somewhat close to that time shouldn’t be something to shrug off. Regardless, you should never be too unhappy with falling short of your time. Enjoying the training process and the competition should never be taken for granted. Training Design Periodization is usually the missing component when most people develop their training regimen. First you start with the goal race or event in mind and work backwards. For a runner, you want to have a 12 week period where you can fit your tempo runs, intervals and speed work. This is all preceded by a base period of roughly 1-2 months where you build up to the point where you can complete an hour run without feeling too taxed (This was Bill Bowerman’s rule for his athletes at Oregon). No matter where you are in the program, you should plan a recovery week every 3rd or 4th week to allow for adaptation, recovery and to mentally refresh. Lifestyle Are your daily habits conducive of someone that has an intention of achieving an athletic goal? Every time I ask others about the hours of sleep they get I always hear a number below 7. This is one of the biggest areas we can neglect as physically active individuals as this is when our body repairs itself. The amount of sleep we get each night dictates how we feel and operate the remainder of the day. Along the same lines is what we put in our mouths. I’m frequently asked dietary suggestions from other athletes and I always give them the simple answer of how we can all add more vegetables and fruit into our meals. A little more accountability goes a long way. Physical Self-Awareness I used to be a real stickler with my training regimen. I would do whatever the schedule said regardless of how fatigued or achy my body felt. If the schedule stated “mile breakdown”, I’d tried to force it and push right through no matter how out-of-whack I felt. This resulted in numerous injuries and bouts with illnesses during my collegiate career. No matter how ‘type A’ you are, you can’t ignore the sensory data that your body systems try to tell you. A perfect example of this was this past week when I woke up feeling overly fatigued despite the adequate sleep I’d been getting. It resulted in a 20 minute jog around the block that morning instead of the 3 x 2 mile that had been etched in. I ran the workout the next day and it turned out fine. Remember that your body will always give you more accurate feedback than your heart-rate monitor, GPS or fuel-band. - Jeffrey A Chan, DC, CSCS, ART