The Importance of Goals

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If you grew up on a sports team of any sort, raise your hand. And if you remember your coach having you sit down at the wise age of 13 and write down your goals for the season while you groaned, rolled your eyes, and pouted, keep that hand up.

Not sure what I’m talking about? Lucky you. And by that I mean be thankful that you didn’t have to spend what felt like eternity wracking your brain for anything remotely resembling a goal when all you wanted to do was go to practice. And then head home to your afternoon snack (mine was always Poptarts and chocolate chips, I was so healthy…).

But what your hormone driven 13 year old brain didn’t know is that goals are extremely helpful for staying on track and keeping your focus.

Take one of my SwimBox clients as an example. She just came back from getting third at the ITU Multisport World Championship Festival in Denmark for Team USA. Getting on a podium at this level and representing her country has been a goal of hers for the past three years.

As you can imagine, she was thrilled. This was what she’d been working towards through countless training sessions, time away from her husband, and unwavering dedication to her sport. And she finally achieved her goal.

So, now what?

Turns out, she doesn’t know. And it’s making her feel a bit lost and unsure of her next steps.

This might not seem like a big deal. But for a lot of athletes having goals in mind is what keeps them motivated. It’s what gets them up in the morning for those swim practices before work. And keeps them up late at night to go on that group ride with their team when all they really want to do is sleep.

Even if you’re not a big goal person, there are usually little goals you make during your training that you’re most likely not even aware of.  For example, it could be moving up a spot in your lane at swim practice. Or pushing yourself to run ½ a mile farther than you did the day before. You’re making little goals all the time.

Say you’re not someone who sits down at the beginning of each season and figures out a specific goal for that year. That’s okay! Planning like that isn’t for everyone. It can even cause anxiety and unwanted pressure.

If you think that’s what would happen to you, start small. Maybe your first goal is to make it to 3 swim practices a week instead of 2. Or focus on bringing your mile pace down during one of your longer runs.

Now what should you do if you’re like our client and feeling a bit unsure of where to go next? At that point I would change the type of goal you’re setting.

So our client’s goal was to get on the podium representing Team USA at a particular level. Check. Now maybe she turns the goal into a certain number of podiums in a year. Or switches from competing in her age group to competing overall.

Lateral changes like those help to keep your goals realistic without having to do a complete 180 on what you’re training for.

Personally? I like to set food goals. Eat a whole pizza by myself? Check. Eat a dozen donuts before noon? Double check. Buy Target out of Pepto-Bismol? Ooof, yup, check.

Lissa Henderson, Tri Swim Coach