Goals are the foundation for hard work. Whether you realize it or not you are probably setting goals for yourself constantly. What do you hope to achieve in each workout? What do you hope to achieve on performance day? Even if you have no intentions of winning a race, it’s important to set clear goals to help yourself move forward and feel that success of achieving your objectives.
Goals can be intimidating to set because you might not know what is possible. It also might be intimidating because your goals feel small and difficult to write down on paper. “Improvement” is a goal that I hear often from athletes. That’s a great place to start, and with a few tweaks that simple goal can turn from a broad statement to a driving force behind your training.
Remember that while goals can feel difficult when you first write them down or plan them out on paper, they are also a reason to celebrate when you finally get to check it off as complete!
Set S.M.A.R.T Goals:
S.M.A.R.T stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. Start with a broad goal and then add all of these elements to create a goal that can motivate you every day.
- Specific: The first standard for your goals should be to make them specific. Let’s take our improvement example. Instead of just saying you want to make improvements, you might target a specific aspect of your riding. You might say you want to improve your 30 minute threshold power. Now you have targeted a specific area to work on.
- Measurable: Once you narrow down you goal, you’ll want to make sure that you can measure the progress. If your goal is to improve your threshold power then you should put an objective number to it. For example: You might say your goal is to improve your 30 minute threshold power by 10 watts. This way you have a concrete number of when you have successfully achieved your goal.
- Attainable: I don’t like to limit people, but it’s still important to really ask yourself if your goal is attainable (or if it is too attainable). The goal should stretch you, but also be realistic with your current abilities. For example, it might be unrealistic to improve your threshold power by 50 watts in the next month.
- Relevant: Pick a goal that is relevant to your work. If you are training for cycling don’t pick a running goal. If you find that your goals don’t align with the work you are putting in, then it may be time to re-evaluate where your effort is being put.
- Timely: Finally, put a time stamp on your goals. The time should be consistent with making the goal attainable. Pick a time frame that will push you but is also realistic. If you fail to put a time on your goal then it becomes too easy to push the goal aside and just hope that you achieve it one of these days. For example, your entire goal might read: My goal is to improve my 30 minute threshold power by 10 watts in the next 3 months.
Now that you know how to write a goal, it’s time to put some down on paper. But wait, there are so many different types to choose from. How can I set a goal that will encapsulate everything I’m working toward? How can I set goals that will motivate me on the way to a goal that is still months away?
Types of Goals
I set three different types of goals: Process, Performance, and Outcome.
- Process Goals: A Process goal is a goal that will help you to achieve a larger goal. I think of process goals as something that you are fully capable of doing right now, but you might be struggling to make time for it. For example, a process goal might be to stretch and or foam roll three times per week.
- Performance Goal: A performance goal is a goal that is a goal that you are working toward and is under your control. For example, a performance goal would be to increase your power for a certain time duration, to hit a technical feature you’ve never done before, or to ride a certain distance in a certain time.
- Outcome Goal: The outcome goal is the goal that will ideally be fulfilled if you stay true to your process and performance goals. An outcome goal is somewhat out of your control because it might involve other people or others’ performances. For example, an outcome goal might be to get onto a podium at a specific event. You cannot control how fast the other racers are so it’s not entirely in your hands, but if you have achieved your performance and process goals then you should rest assured that you have done your best.
Now that you know how to set your goals, get brave and write them down. Place them in a location that you will see them and be motivated. Maybe it’s a reminder on your phone, taped to your bathroom mirror, or just one word written on your bike to remind you what you’re working toward. Most importantly, have fun!