As we head into shorter days and cooler temperatures, I know that my training can easily get off track – ha ha, get it? We’ve all been there – when the thought of hibernating with a hot bowl of mac n’ cheese and watching Netflix on the couch sounds far more appealing than heading out the door for a run or to the gym for a lift. While rest and recovery are important, so is making a commitment to yourself and achieving your goals! Couch days are totally fine, and needed, but if you’ve gotten into a one- or two-week slump, it may be time to check in with your headspace and revisit your goals.
We all have dream ideals of what we want to achieve or who we want be, such as buying a bigger house, earning that promotion at work, lifting heavier or running a faster 10km. Those “dreams” keep us working and striving for better. They keep us motivated. However, as the adage goes – a goal without a plan is just a dream. But what is the best first step? How can we move from daydreaming to acting, and what’s step one?
FOCUS ON MINI-GOALS
Goal setting and execution are different for everyone, so experience can play a big part in personalizing your plan of attack. For me, step one is setting smaller goals and achieving them! This helps keep me motivated towards accomplishing my big-picture goal.
Reaching those “stepping stone” goals allow for celebrations along the way to my overarching goal and drives a level of positive reinforcement that drives momentum. I compare those achievements to checking off boxes on my to-do list, which shows progress and gives me a feel-good boost!
“I think having realistic short-term and long-term goals are important. These will help direct your training and to keep motivation going,”
– Marilyn Arsenault, U. VIC. Running Coach
Marilyn, a run form coach and assistant coach for the University of Victoria’s cross country and track teams, says “The short-term goals could be a series of races in the near future to help boost fitness en route to a key race further down the road or could just simply be growing your volume over a few months. Long-term goals could be some sort of fitness test like a time-trial or a race or a series of races that have realistic goal times.”
You can dive deeper into your mini and big-picture goals by outlining SMART goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. Regardless of how much time and effort you prepare to invest in your goals, it is valuable to have a solid understanding of your fundamental “why” – the reason behind pursuing your goal in the first place. Here’s an examples of one of my own SMART goals, as well as sample of what another athletes SMART goals might look like!
My SMART Goals
Although I’m working towards getting fitter to race 1,500m on the track later this year, running a faster 8km plays a role in that. It’s a step along the path towards my much bigger goals, and gives me something to focus on between now and when track season starts. It’s important to wire in those small wins as objectives along the way to a larger goal to keep motivation, like I mentioned earlier.
A Basketball Players SMART Goals
Visualizing and writing down SMART goals help you identify gaps and opportunities. You can see areas where you can improve and work on weak points of your training!
Writing out your goal(s) and having them somewhere visible every day also helps with motivation. When things get tough, you can go back to your notes to remember your “why” and move forward. You can write them on your bathroom mirror, so your goals are front and center when you wake up or have them on a sticky note at your work desk or on the fridge door. A regular reminder of what you’re working towards can help guide the decisions you make throughout the day.
Is sitting for 8 hours straight on my computer going to facilitate running fast? Probably not. A note acts as a reminder to get up regularly, move around and stretch. Do I go for the soda or a glass of water after practice? Seeing the note on the fridge reminds me that water is the better choice to rehydrate after a hard workout. When my goal pops up regularly throughout the day, it motivates me to make choices that propel me towards my goal rather than pull me back.
Taking care of your diet and nutritional choices is always part of the game too. PERFECT Sports has been relentless in supporting my training recovery with DIESEL New Zealand Whey Isolate Protein and their other Informed Choice check marked products like HULK. As an athlete, 3rd party testing for WADA banned substances is paramount in making sure I’m using the right supplements, but everything matters, including the way we view “working hard”.
Achieving goals also takes balance and patience. We won’t get very far by running ourselves into the ground. Yes, discipline and consistency are important pieces of setting and pursuing goals, but flexibility is equally as essential. When you are chasing your goals, no matter what the time frame, there will be hills and valleys. Injuries happen, family happens, life happens. It can be helpful to regularly check in on your progress, whether that be on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Rome wasn’t built in a day and circumstances change.
” Focus on things you can control and try not to fret about those you can’t. “
Focus on things you can control and try not to fret about those you can’t. For example, you can manage your sleep habits and nutrition, while sickness and injuries are generally beyond your control. It’s okay to reassess and revise goals as needed. If a cold had your down and out for a few days, don’t throw in the towel because you’ll no longer meet the original timeline. Instead, you can extend the timing of your goal by a week or two. When things aren’t going exactly to plan, give yourself grace and do what you can in the moment. Rest when you need, put your best effort forward when you can, trust the process and keep showing up.
Kate Ayers – author
Kate grew up on a beef and cash crop farm in Simcoe County, Ont. She completed a degree in agricultural science at the University of Guelph while competing in athletics internationally. Kate combined her passions for agriculture, sport and storytelling by becoming a freelance writer. Now in Victoria, she’s an Athletics Canada 1500m runner training for the Olympics and is a PERFECT Sports sponsored athlete.