In the Northern Hemisphere, the tri season is coming to a strong close, while in the Southern Hemisphere is just heating up. However, regardless of whether you are ready to hunker down in your hibernation training cave or whether you are emerging ready for longer hours outside, you are most likely laying down your goals for the coming months. In this phase you need extra motivation to set goals for your triathlon training.
It’s at both of these points in the season (the opening and the “closing”), that I like to sit down with my athletes, swimmers and personal training clients and take them through what I have dubbed my “Raising the BAARR” (pronounced just like “bar”) exercise.
The purpose of this exercise is to do more than to just set goals; that is not enough. Setting goals is good but will fail unless you have the psychological infrastructure to achieve it. I want to help them set a goal, solidify it, get them excited for that goal, and then lay the mental framework for them to reach and then surpass it.
To start the exercise, you actually start from the end and work backwards.
The last “R” stands for Results:
Ask yourself, what result do you want to achieve this season be it your offseason or your racing season. Be as specific as possible especially if you are in the former category. Also try to sort your goals into two groups, performance and behavioral, and it is ok to have a mix of both. Performance goals are those that relate, as the name implies, to your performance such as “I want to qualify for 70.3 world championships,” “I want to go sub 1:05 in the 100m,” “I want to break 35 minutes for the 10k off the bike” or “I want to get down to 140lbs”.
These are great goals to have and needed for certain A type personalities but are out of your control to some extent. Qualifying for worlds is largely dependent upon who shows up that day and racing conditions. Behavioral goals though relate to how you behave and thus are 100% in your control. They also directly impact your performance goals.
While qualifying for world might be out of your control, going to the pool four times a week, completing 95% of your scheduled workouts, and eating a cleaner diet are certainly within your power to do. These goals should get you excited just thinking about them. You should be motivated by picturing achieving them. If they do not light that fire in you, choose a different goal because in two weeks from now, when your alarm clock goes off at 4:30am, if you are not motivated now, you will not be then.
The second to last “R” stand for Reason:
This strikes at the core of your results. Why do you want to achieve those results? Why do you want to qualify for worlds? Why do you want to get leaner? This step is hard at times and requires you to do some honest soul searching but without a “Why” your results will wither.
The first “A” stands for “Actions”:
Ask yourself and ask your coach, what actions you need to take to achieve your results. It could be that you need to swim an extra 4000 yards a week or focus more on your drills. To get to a 1:10/100 you will have to include more swim sets. If your results are more physique based, the actions needed to achieve that ideal body could be like including more vegetables in your diet, hydrating more, etc.
It might be tempting to include things as “not hitting the snooze button on your alarm clock” or “not eating doughnuts” but I prefer to guide my athletes to positive actions, which are more powerful and more likely to stick. By focusing entirely on the positive, you do not have time or energy to focus on the negatives. Positives will push you towards your goals while negatives will pull you. They both will get you there but you are stronger and faster when you pushing yourself.
The second “A” stands for “Affect”:
What emotions or affect do you need to adopt to achieve these actions. Many goal setting practices skip this step entirely, but I see it as essential. Actions arise from emotions. Think about the last time you were depressed and you ate a pint of ice cream because of it. Or when you were really motivated and you had an awesome workout. Emotions lead to actions and by priming our emotions we can lead to better actions and the ones we need to adopt to achieve our results.
The emotions that I like to awaken are not the typical happy or joyful but rather ones like “beast mode,” “determined,” “unstoppable” “focused,” and “flow.” I then conjure up these emotions at the beginning of the day during my morning meditations and pre-warm ups to get me in the right mood for the day and for my workouts. I also focus on these if I am struggling in a workout. Music can help a lot in this step.
Finally the B stands for beliefs, which is the driving force of all the sequential steps.
As the saying goes “To acheive, you must believe” and as corny as that sounds, it is 100% true. Unless you believe you have the potential to be a good swimmer, a leaner athlete, age group champion, you will never become it. Kevin and I talked about adopting a growth mindset on our last podcast.
What that means is that you cannot shut down and say “I am a bad swimmer” or “I am a slow triathlete” or “I am fat;” that type of mindset will only lead you to what you think you are. Instead accept where you are right now (“My swim times are slow right now”) then accept that you have the power to change them (“but I am going to work at it through the structured training plan”) and then confirm your belief “because I am a dedicated swimmer and triathlete).
With the right beliefs, you will prime the right affect, which will lead to the desire actions, which are powered by your reasons, which finally lead to your results. So are you ready to raise the BAARR this year? What are you waiting for.
-Coach Chris and Kev