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Whether you dread or look forward to it, most athletes at least recognize the importance of setting goals. But setting the right kind of goals—the ones that inspire action and positive change—can be tough. We enlisted the help of certified mental performance consultant Abby Keenan of Atlanta-based brain-training consultancy, Intrepid Performance, to give us her top five tips on winter goal setting.
We all want to have a better swim, bike, and run. But if you’ve been training for a while, you probably realize that prioritizing is a must in order to continue to improve.
Instead of viewing it as a boring off-season, think of the winter as an exciting opportunity. You’ll never have the chance in May to put your run on autopilot while you bring up your bike, because too many races will interfere. Take advantage of this time period to improve your weaknesses.
2. Choose Performance Over Outcome
An example of a performance goal is to finish a run race with a time improvement instead of a certain placement. Keenan advises to pick your goal based on variables you can control as much as possible. For example: Don’t worry if the world champ in your age group shows up— focus on your own time rather than on your performance relative to theirs.
3. Work Backward
Start with your big goal for the season, then work backward to figure out what you should be doing between now and then. Keenan says to think of this as backward planning, or walking down a “set of stairs” with the bottom of the stairs representing your current fitness. This will help you determine goal checkpoints along the way. Smaller goals as you go will keep you accountable and the motivation high.
4. Be Specific
Not only does the goal, “improve swim form,” sound not fun, but it’s also really tough to measure. Choose an exciting goal with metrics to quantify your progress, like to improve your turnover by 10 percent.
5. Think In Terms of Big Payoff
By “big payoff” we mean getting the most you can out of your effort and time. For instance, if you’re new to cycling, you can probably make a lot of improvements with some focused training. Conversely if you’re a former competitive cyclist, then it probably makes more sense to focus on another sport.
The Top 5 Mistakes Goal-Setters Make
- Keeping their goals to themselves It’s important to let others know and ask for support to facilitate accountability, motivation, and helpful feedback.
- Trying to change too much too quickly Don’t go “all-in” too fast and then risk getting overwhelmed or burned out.
- Lack of documentation It’s not enough to think about a goal, it’s more effective to write it down, whether you use journaling or a tool on your phone.
- Setting unrealistic goals You want your goal to be huge, but not impossible.
- Not putting in the work Truly going after a long-term goal is about taking small actions on a daily basis to get slightly closer to the end result.