Some thoughts about goal setting – Part 2
Sports Psychology, July 08, 2019
We continue our look at goal setting with Tony O
Some thoughts about goal setting – Part 2
Sometimes it is necessary to look at a problem differently in order to set the right goals.
For example I want to lose 4 kg by November 2011 is in many senses a smart goal but in other ways is not a particularly useful one. It tells me what I need to do, it tells me very little about how I need to do it. I may have set the goal of wanting to swim a minute faster at Taupo next year, but stood on the shore before the event, that goal will still not tell me how to swim faster. In most sports we confront this problem at one level or another.
To solve this problem a slightly different goal system is needed the principle goals are Process, Performance and Outcome.
Process – The how, how should I train? What should I do in the race?
Performance – The measure, am I getting better? How should I assess this? These aren’t targets in the strict sense, but ways of knowing if you are doing well.
Outcome – The win my best placing, my best time, who I beat.
Most of our goal setting should be targeted at process goals.
These tell you how to be better and how to stay good.
Process goals can be divided between work-ons and get-ons.
Set the right process goals and there should be no such thing as “brain dead” training.
Work-ons – The things that we should be doing in training.
Having work-ons means that I never do any session without a clear idea of what I want to get better at and why I am doing it. For example:
Swimming - “keeping my head still and forwards for better balance” because the correct head position keeps my feet up and streamlines my body meaning less drag in the water.
Running – “high heels for a faster leg turnover ” because high heels will automatically bring my knee through quicker and higher leading to a faster stride pattern.
Biking – “keeping my cadence up on the hills” this will not tire my legs as quickly as it requires more of my lungs than my leg muscles.
Get-ons - The things that we need to keep doing when racing. Over time work-ons should become get-ons. The idea behind a good get-on is not a body position or technique as such but rather a shape or thought that you are comfortable with and makes you perform better. Not only should you be comfortable with this, but you need to be able to remember it under pressure. That is to say when someone is chasing you or trying to pass you, don't just think “go faster” think about your get-on, confident that it will make you go fast or stay fast.
Swimming - “reaching over the barrel for a better catch” is better than “keep a high elbow”
Running – “run like a horse not like a duck” is better than “keep your hips facing forwards”
Biking – “wipe the pooh off my shoe” is better than “pull my heel back at the bottom of my pedal stroke”
Whenever you are training you should ask ”what's my work-on?” training is never wasted.
Whenever you are racing you should ask “what's my get-on” racing is never boring.
Performance goals start with a question “what should happen if I get this right”. Or to put it another way, if my work-ons work how should my performance change.
“wipe the pooh” should mean a lower heart rate for the same speed on the wind trainer, it should also mean a faster time on the bike leg therefore I can have more than one way of knowing whether I'm getting better.
“Reach over the barrel” should mean no elbow drop in my front crawl stroke and quicker times.
“Run like a horse not like a duck” should feel lighter, quicker and less tiring for my quads, it should also mean quicker times eventually, if I keep practising.
The thing to remember about performance goals is that we shouldn't expect work-ons to produce immediate changes, good results sometimes take time to emerge. We should however, expect our get-ons to make good performances. There should always be more work-ons and get-ons than there are performance goals.
These are the goals and in particular the images that keep us going. When it is cold in the pool think about how good it would feel to get out of the water with the front group for change. When it is drizzly and wet on the Sunday ride think how good it will feel when you pass people on the way up hills. When it is dark and you still have to go running think about how good it will feel when you start passing people in the second half of the run who have blown up. In the back of your mind you should always be able to visualise the processes and performances that will get you what you want. Personally I always think of the moment roundabout two thirds through the run at Taupo when I really know I can make it again.
Get the processes right that means your work-ons and get-ons right; performances and outcomes will look after themselves. Work-ons for training get-ons for racing.
In the Last installment we look at how you might identify goals to work towards.