5 Steps to Goal Setting with Heart
Achieving goals is fun and rewarding and gives us a sense of empowerment and satisfaction. It is what drives a lot of triathletes, whether it means setting their sights on completing their first triathlon or racing Ironman in a destination they always wanted to visit. The path towards goals is an adventure in itself: a world full of unexpected learning and opportunity for daily success along the way. The quality and nature of your goals is important. The extent to which the goal is both meaningful and attainable requires some diligent and thoughtful planning as you start looking towards 2015.
Traditional goal setting asks athletes to analyze their current physical and mental skill level and find out where there is a potential for improvement. It helps to understand your weaknesses relative to your strengths over swim, bike and run, as you can adjust your future training to bring them more closely balanced.
Most people have a good idea of where they would like to improve. They can say things like: I am a great cyclist, but I have problems on the run, or I can swim fast in the pool but I swim a dog’s leg course once I get to open water. They know if they are good hill climbers or strong flat course riders and if they waste too much time in transition. A list of your current skills and level will give you a solid starting point when it comes to setting your goals for next season.
Because training and racing should be happy and positive, I encourage athletes to also look within themselves as they start dreaming about next year. Here are five things from your heart that you should take into consideration when choosing next year’s goals:
Choose a race that pulls you. One you have always wanted to do, a place you want to travel. Even if you have qualifying as part of your season goals, choose at least one race that is your HEART race. This can be a race you have done well on before and which you love, a place that inspires or perhaps a race in a location you have always wanted to visit. Wanting to be there, and showing up inspired is something worth looking at.
2. Quality Time
Training should be fun and should make sense. When is a good time in your year to train and when is a good time to race? Taking into consideration weather, kids, school and summer holidays, work schedules and family vacations, find spots where your goal race training (the 6-12 week prior) will fit in nicely with your life and commitments.
3. Cultivate New Powerful and Positive Habits Through Sport
Which races will allow you to elevate and grow? Are there challenges you feel a little afraid of? Are you ready for a longer race but still not sure. Look carefully at your fears and decide whether they are worth staying latched onto. When an athlete gives me reasons she should not do a race, I usually see fear lurking in the background. I then ask the athlete to give me five good reasons why she SHOULD do the race. When listed side by the side, the 5 negatives are almost always problems that can be worked out and the 5 positives will take the athlete closer to personal success. Try this the next time you feel anxious or like avoiding a goal. It is a very powerful technique.
4. Invest in Yourself
This means taking your decisions and goals seriously, not just buying yourself a new racing bike or power meter. Races are probably the most amazing places to become a better athlete and a stronger person. They are the culmination to training and work, and they are small pockets of your life where you get to focus your energy into something you really want to do well at. Look at all races as a chance to gain valuable insight into racing and how you respond to various courses and conditions. Even secondary races are opportunities to practice good habits and reconnect with the fun that sport is.
5. Learn and Trust
Trust is a liberating feeling. Whether it’s trusting your coach or trusting that your plan and goals will work out for you, trust means you can take out the anxiety and the second guessing. It doesn’t mean that you won’t change things up when necessary, and you may even re set your goals, but developing a sense of trust in your plan, your coach and your schedule allows you to fully enjoy and benefit from the process. We have a lot of options in our lives now, more than ever before, and this includes our recreational and athletic choices. Whether it is technology and equipment, coaching software or type of workouts, there are a plethora of ways to get to the same goal. Nothing will ever replace good judgment, commitment, trust and merely working hard and putting the effort in.
If you take the time to consider what you truly want from sport, and how you really would like your training and racing experience to look like, you are much more likely to find the process rewarding and fulfilling. Your time spent training will make sense and will be empowering.
Run For Joy!
Unplugged but Switched On…
I have talked and written about the magic in running before, about how participation in sport can often act as a spontaneous and joyful catalyst to challenge all we think we believe about our abilities and limitations. These are special moments, when we are engaged in the doing, the moment when our minds stop their ceaseless chattering about whether we are good enough, fast enough, fit enough—WORTHY enough—of being there. The action-engaged mind becomes still for a moment, we stop analyzing and things just click. That is what the sport scientist calls ‘flow’ and what I call joy. It is no secret. There is a reason that millions of people run races every year.
Another kind of magic occurs when you race, and sometimes it is only once you are at the finish line, in those moments right past the final step of effort, when the energy of the race both washes over you, and through you, like a freight train that has been bearing down on you for the last 10k, and now you have stopped it can finally catch up. I am often bowled over by this freight train and suddenly, in its impact, aware of how much I love it. The train represents the whole intensity of what I just did, how it comes and envelopes me with that profound feeling of satisfaction, and elation. That state the sports scientists also have a name for: ‘runner’s high’– the result of all those exercise induced endorphins as they surge through your brain.
I love the first big race of the year, like the way I welcome the change of seasons: so wrapped up in summer, it isn’t until the very first crisp day of autumn that I realize how much I love the cooler air, the change. In the first big race-as I put it all on the line again—the love of the commitment becomes more real and the training feels extra meaningful.
Racing isn’t just there to let you test out your fitness and strength and see where your speed is at. To look at racing as only a way to get a time—or to the finish line– is to fail to see the many dimensions that racing really is. For me, the first big race of the year gives me a chance to revisit and refine how I want to exist in this environment. Personally I love racing. I love the gradually building excitement to race day, the environment of celebration, community and being part of something larger than my every day training and life—breaking out of the comfort of the 45 minute run through my favourite trail. While I frequently feel nervous before races, the sense of anticipation reminds me of how much I love just being alive!
The first big road race is fun, a chance to step back into the higher stakes world, where we expect more of ourselves and use the runners around us to push ourselves greater than in practice. After my first big race of the year I am reminded of why I love running and racing and coaching. An early race is like a kick starter for your season: all it takes is one starting line—those moments waiting for the countdown, the lifting of the bar, running more intensely than you have yet this year, and you are up and running.
Your first race switches you on, or makes you hungry, some people say. Hungry for more of that, faster times, and better results. For me it draws me in and makes me want to give more, and the more I give the more I feel in touch with that magic, with a world that is full of it. And so I want to do it again, and do it better, with more focus. Physically, the first race boosts fitness…lubricates the system so to speak, so that the following week, my training runs feel smooth and efficient—it is apparent that the race has lifted me to a new level.
Because of the momentum and energy of this first race, there should always be another race planned, something concrete to look forward to, a point in the not too distant future in which to lift yourself again.
I believe strongly in the personal power of running. Races are a chance to be strong, empowered, to take charge and to be engaged. Open your heart and lungs, and let the magic happen.
Lucy Smith, April 19th, 2012
Promoting running and physical activity one joyful heartbeat at a time!
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