Set SmartER Goals for Athletic and Fitness Achievements

How often do you set a goal to yourself, only to peter out of steam 2 or 3 weeks into the process of achieving it? Today's guest post comes to you from Calah Schlabach, our pro triathlete super star. Calah has some sage advice about setting goals and how to actually accomplish those goals. 

When I was in high school, I set goals in my mind, and they were the same every year: win state. Or win all the state titles. At the end of the season, I was usually disappointed--no matter how much improvement I had actually made throughout the season.

In college, my coaches would gather the team into a room at the beginning of each season and we would write our goals down. Like in high school, my goal was the same nearly every year: become an All-American. Run such-and-such time in each distance. My coaches gathered up the papers and we never saw them again.

Up until a couple of years ago, I absolutely hated setting goals. I did it, but it was a routine that I did because I heard that I should.

Why did I hate setting goals?

Because it never seemed to work. Why take the time to reflect and set goals, only to get my hopes up and eventually be disappointed? I would rather spend that time doing an extra workout--which actually would help me, right?

At some point I learned about the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-focused, and Time-Bound) method of goal setting, and this was somewhat helpful for me in focusing my goal-setting, but even this method left something to be desired.

It helped me to realize whether or not my goals were possible, but still didn’t guarantee that I would actually achieve them.

After all, a lot of things are possible that I have never done. The question remained: Now I know what I want to do, I have confirmed that it is reasonably possible for me to do it, but I still don’t know how to go about doing it! (Like Shia LaBeouf says, sometimes we need to know how to “just do it.”)

Recently, in my coaching at Marymount University, we set up a new system for setting goals based largely on this article from Precision Nutrition. (Give it a read, it's worth it!)

The premise of this goal system is determining which skills I need to grasp in order to achieve my goal, and which practices I need to implement in order to master the skills.

An example comes to mind from something I have experienced in the weight room:

Say I want to deadlift x pounds. My legs are actually pretty strong (thanks bike and run!), but I can’t deadlift that much (I’ll keep those numbers to myself...). So what is holding me back?

Well, it turns out that my form isn’t great, and there are two main reasons my form isn’t great: my core strength and my ankle flexibility. So, I actually need to work on progressive core exercises that will help me learn to brace effectively, and I need to use voodoo bands and stretch with distraction in order to improve my ankle flexibility. Then I can progress toward my weight goal.

So, next time you set a goal, figure out how you will achieve it, and set a plan for doing so.