Tips, Tactics, Techniques and Procedures for Racing and Training
Home>>Tips and Techniques: Goal Directed Training and Racing
Setting goals for 2011: While goal setting is typically an activity that receives a great deal of attention around the end of the racing [now], it should be a key component of your overall training program.  It is important to review your goals fairly frequently and assess your progress through either supporting goals or meeting objectives that lead to goal achievement. 

Goals provide focus and structure to your training. Even the best intentioned athlete is likely to lose focus and motivation for sustained training without a clear (and compelling) goal or set of goals to orient your training. Goals and the supporting objectives serve as your conscience reminding you of the upcoming event and the type of effort you must put forth to meet the goal. Achieving goals is like putting money in the bank; each successful attainment serves as the foundation for the next round of goals. Facing, enduring, and ultimately triumphing over adversity in pursuit of your goals builds mental toughness, providing a reference point that you can reach back to and remind yourself, “I’ve suffered more in training than I have in this race!” On long races—marathons, ultras, or 24 hour adventure races—thoughts of slowing or quitting are banished when you think about the amount of time and commitment you have already dedicated to your goal.  Goals help push past perceived limitation and your concept of what is possible.  To quote Vince Lombardi, "The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender".  Each time you step out the door for another run or bike workout when you would rather watch television and eat Cheetos or sleeping-in build another block in your mental foundation and strengthen your commitment to personal excellence.

Your goals should personally inspire you. The mere thought of the goal should get you excited and motivated to invest the time and energy every day to achieve your goal. Selecting goals is a personal matter, but here are a few guidelines to help you pick goals that you can live with and successfully attain:

Growth oriented. The goal should be oriented to achieving more than you have done in the past. It should require both a mental and physical stretch to achieve.

Achievable. Ultimately, through discipline, hard work, and commitment you want to achieve your goal. So pick a goal that you can realistically achieve. For example, I accept that no amount of training will result in my running a sub 4 minute mile, so that would not be a realistically achievable goal for me.

Measurable. Pick a goal that is easily measured. This could be anything from cutting time on your personal record marathon (preferably the same course), or dropping 5 pounds to increase mountain bike climbing ability.

Personally meaningful. Put some thought into what you really want to accomplish and what you can be passionate about, not only now but also in a few months down the road.

Use objectives to provide incremental, measurable gains toward your goal. Objectives provide milestones to measure progress toward your goal…or think of objectives as building blocks that incrementally move you forward toward your goal in a measured fashion. Objectives provides feedback on how your training is progressing, giving you time to adjust your training approach to address any shortcomings.

Goal visibility. Make your goal highly visible to you to provide motivational support.  Cut out an advertisement for the goal (if it exists), use the race poster (Leadville Trail 100 Mountain and/or Run and some triathlons) or make your own individual daily reminder of your goals and place it somewhere you cannot avoid seeing it everyday.

Use your friends and family as motivational support.  Once you publicly let friends and family know of your goal for the next year or years, they will ask about your progress.  Training partners will ask about your progress almost every time they see you--even if you see them daily.

Training log use. A training log book can be a powerful ally in your quest to achieve your goals, and it can provide an unbiased report of how much and what type of training you are actually performing.  A log can "guilt" you into at least performing some minimal training in order to place something in the empty date [I find that my training log actually mocks me if I do enter a workout]. Most heart rate monitors and many wrist top computers offer a download function that allows you to record your workouts and then download your workout data to a computer for further analysis. The programs that come with the heart rate monitor facilitate displaying the data in many formats. Examine the training volume and type that led to setting your current personal record [PR] as well as the rest and taper phases.

Try some of these suggested techniques and see if setting goals improves the quality of your training and competitive experience.  The next step is using your goals to develop a training and racing plan. More>>