“Goals are really important. They’re standards that we set for ourselves. One thing that we learnt from 2020 is that we might not always get to achieve those goals. We need to be adaptable, we need to be flexible, we need goals that are achievable.” Dr. Sharleen Hoar, Ph.d., MPC
We first spoke with Olympic Mental Performance Coach Dr. Sharleen Hoar about strengthening our mindset in a chaotic year (check that out here). Now that we’ve got tools to focus our minds for maximum training efforts, she’s provided us with 3 effective strategies to guide our goal setting that she uses when working with Olympic athletes.
Define your Athletic Ambition
The phrase athletic ambition may mean different things to different people. At Blonyx we define athletic ambition as a goal you want to achieve that you need to prime your body for through training.--whether you’re running your first 5K or competing at the CrossFit Games. Athletic ambition is similar to what others refer to as understanding your “why”. Grounding your why, and understanding your purpose, is the first step in setting meaningful goals.
Only once you have grounded your athletic ambition or athletic why, you can start to build out your goals in an effective way.
1. Don't Set Unrealistic Goals, Set Bandwidth Goals
Dr. Hoar emphasized that setting unrealistic goals is one of the most detrimental things you can do for your training. Although it’s good to have big aspirations, setting a standard that you can’t meet will only detract from your focus and motivation.
She suggests setting a bandwidth of goals starting with a bare minimum goal, a goal average, and an exceptional goal. This way you’re almost always guaranteed to achieve part of your goal and feel accomplished, not discouraged.
For example, let’s say you’re nervous about the handstand walk event in an upcoming CrossFit competition because it’s a weakness for you. Instead of setting one unrealistic goal like finishing the walk on your first go, set a bandwidth of goals, starting with one you’re likely to achieve. In this case your bare minimum goal could be to make it to the first 10 foot line, the average goal could be to make it to the halfway point, and your exceptional goal could be to finish all 100 feet.
2. If Your Goals Aren't SMART, They Aren't Useful
The SMART method is one of the most widely known and used methods for goal setting and is the framework Dr. Hoar uses with all her athletes, even the Olympians. If you want to set goals like an Olympian make sure they’re SMART goals and satisfy all of these criteria;
For example your SMART goal could be to run a half marathon, in under two hours, by March of 2021.
3. Turn Your Big Goals Into Ladder Goals
Similar to bandwidth goals this method of goal setting involves setting subgoals. Breaking your biggest and overarching goal into small steps will help you identify your progress towards the achievement of your biggest goal.
For example, if your goal is to master the muscle up, start with ring rows, and strict pull ups as progressions, working your way up the ladder until you get that full muscle-up.
As you continue on your athletic journey -- training your mental performance, and setting effective goals -- consider bettering the often neglected cognitive side of performance. Did you know creatine has been proven to improve cognitive function? Check out the research on it and how it helps you improve your game here.