In Pursuit of Mastering the Art of Setting (and Reaching!) Goals

July has arrived and so has the heat, the awkward tan lines and the evenings dips in the lake.  The one great thing about the heat is that my homemade Kombucha is finally fermenting and I’ll soon have plenty of it to enjoy after long hot workouts in the sun.  I am feeling fit and ready to tackle some bigger hours over the next month after building a solid base in May and June. My team’s general schedule for the past few months was pretty simple:

Monday: Off day

Tuesday: AM:  Z1 or intensity (we are mostly doing Z3 at this time of year). PM: Strength at Thrive in small groups of four with our strength coach.

Wednesday: Z1

Thursday: AM intensity or z1 PM: strength at Thrive

Friday: Z1

Saturday: AM:intensity or Z1 PM: Strength on our own at PUSH or Off

Sunday: Long Z1

Although the typical weekly training plan is the same for everyone on my team, outside of team training we are all encouraged to tailor our workouts to our own specific goals.

Recently, I read the book Grit by psychologist Angela Duckworth. Duckworth has studied the importance of the characteristic grit, defined as an individual’s perseverance of effort combined with the passion for a particular long-term goal, in success. One of the things that struck me most about the book was the concept of deliberate practice. In the book the author explains this concept using the example of kids studying for a spelling bee; the most successful spellers not only read the dictionary and were quizzed daily but they used the feedback from this training to assess their weaknesses. This assessment lead to hours and hours of more training that was tailored to these weaknesses; deliberate practice. The requirements for deliberate practice is nothing remarkable: a clearly defined stretch goal, 100% concentration and effort, immediate and informative feedback and repetition, reflection and refinement. A great quote that sums up the idea of deliberate practice comes from rower and Olympic gold medalist Rads Rasmussen: “It’s not hours of brute-force exhaustion you’re after, it’s high-quality thoughtful training goals pursued for just a few hours a day”. This may seem simple or maybe even obvious, but I have been guilty more than once of going through the motions rather than engaging in thoughtful deliberate practice.

I love setting goals. I am the type of person who sets goals on the daily and gets really excited about figuring out new ways to reach them. The only down side to consistently setting goals is that it can be pretty overwhelming. I am a strong believer that if you want to improve at something, the single best indicator of success is consistency; if you don’t put in the work regularly, you can’t expect to see any improvement. On top of that, if you want to work on your weaknesses using the deliberate practice approach, it takes time. If you are a big goal setter like me and have many weaknesses you are looking at perfecting, fitting in hours and hours of deliberate practice on a consistent basis can seem impossible.

Although I am still working on perfecting the art of goal setting, this book inspired me to come up with some key points to follow when setting goals that will hopefully increase my chances of success, so I thought I would share them with you.

  1. Make a clear plan
  2. First, I start by writing down my big performance goals, or “dream goals”, then I move down from there. Some important questions to ask yourself are: what will allow me to reach that dream goal? What do I feel is my biggest weakness that is stopping me from reaching that goal? How can I fit in time each day, week or month to deliberately practice that weakness?In my situation, my “dream goal” is to be part of the World Championships team and to get an individual top 30 and a top 8 as a team in the relay.

    A clear plan not only consist of performance goals, but more importantly, it consists of setting process goals; the goals that will allow you to reach the performance goals.

    It is extremely important to find the time to review these goals on a regular basis because setting them is pointless unless you actually follow through. I find it easiest to set aside a time each week to go over your goal plan.

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    1. Prioritize

    The crazy (and awesome) thing about sport is that you are never going to reach perfection. When there are so many thigs you can work on, I find it best to prioritize certain ones to make sure that I get in the consistent practice that I need to succeed at those goals.

    In my case, I believe that to reach my dream goal, putting my energy into improving my skate skiing efficiency will make the biggest difference. There are many different aspects that go into being a good skate skier though, so I have broken them down into different process goals. 1) improve my hip and shoulder mobility, 2) Improve core and hip strength, 3) technique work 4) Improve balance.

     

    1. Find time outside of regular training

    These goals are still pretty general which is why I go a step further and make goals for my process goals. How am I going to improve my mobility, strength, technique and balance?

    I have between 10-20 hours of training on my plan each week so if I want to fit in enough deliberate practice it is best to find ways to do so outside of those hours while using little or no extra energy.  A couple of examples that I have included in my weekly training are doing yoga to improve mobility, doing core and specific hip strengthening exercises to improve strength and slack-lining to improve balance.

  3. 4. Make it a habit.
  4. I can’t stress it enough: consistently is key, making deliberate practice a habit will make your chances of success much higher.

    In order to make it a habit, I make my goals as precise as possible. Improve my mobility by doing my corrective exercise every day, by attending yoga class every Wednesday and by booking a massage or chiro appointment every Monday. Improve my balance by spending ten minutes on the slack line every evening, aiming to do it 5 times a week. Improve my core strength by doing a core focused session on Wednesday’s and Friday’s. Improve my technique by asking for a technique session if there isn’t already one in the plan for the week.

     

    Thanks for reading! (look below for some pictures)

     

    Katherine.

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    Rollerski race on Canada Day
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    Slack Like practice
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    Technique work
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    Helping out at the bake sale with Sadie and Annika
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    Top of Sleepy G

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    Mid Workout “swim” in the splash pad

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