Coaching, Lifestyle, Training

Setting Goals for the New Year

Now that the celebrations for New Year are over it is time to settle down and reflect on the year gone by and make plans for the year ahead.  Resolutions are great if you can stick to them, but often fall by the wayside because they are temporary, vague or just plain difficult to achieve.  For me, I stick to a couple of detailed, SMART objectives for the year ahead and then support these by setting some simple annual targets to drive my training and thought I would share some ideas with you.

I use the goals to both change and balance my behaviour…

Why Annual Goals?

Sometimes a little nudge is all we need.  Although these goals are generally self policed, there is a satisfaction in setting yourself a target and then reaching it; who hasn’t felt the little rush of positivity when they cross something off their ‘To Do List’.  In my mind, I use the goals to both change and balance my behaviour…

Change – Knowing you have a target to meet and feeding on the emotional satisfaction of meeting that target often gets me out the door when I may otherwise have not bothered.  This effect, of encouraging action when inaction seems easier, over the course of a whole year, is very powerful and can account for hours of exercise/practice that would otherwise have not happened.

Balance – At any given point in the year I can find myself doing the same sort of activity on repeat.  It may be because it is the easy option, I am particularly enjoying it, it is part of a course or holiday I’m delivering or I’m cramming in training for an event.  However, seeing that I am falling behind on goals for other sports reminds me that I am a multi-sport practitioner and need to consciously add variety to my week to retain a balance across all my disciplines.

Employ a helper…

You are not on your own when it comes to setting and monitoring these goals; there is technology to support and make the process really straightforward.  Sure, if you prefer pen and paper you can manually track your progress with a journal type approach, but using some form of tracking app really does do the hard work for you.  I use both Garmin Connect and Strava to monitor my progress and there are pros and cons to both.

Garmin Connect allows you to set a comprehensive suite of goals

Garmin Connect – This is my preferred tool as it is free at the point of use and allows you to set a comprehensive series of goals.  You can choose a specific activity, such as ‘Mountain Biking’, or a general category such as ‘Cycling’ and then set a goal over any time period based on either distance, time or simply number of sessions.  It works especially well if you are uploading activities from a Garmin device, but you can add activities manually or upload a file from another source.  Once set up, you can monitor all your goals using the screen pictured above, with clear indications of your progress.

Strava’s more limited but monitors running, cycling and swimming goals well

Strava  – This can be used for goal setting too but has a few limitations.  Firstly, you need to be a Strava Premium member to access this functionality so it comes at a price.  Then, you can only set broad goals based on cycling, running or swimming (triathlon focused) distances.  It does, however, allow easy weekly and annual goal monitoring and the simple feature telling you exactly how far behind or ahead of goal you are is very useful.

Getting the targets right…

Be realistic – If the goal is either too easy or too challenging to achieve it will lose its effectiveness.  For example, setting a highly ambitious target and consistently falling behind stops the goal being a motivator.  Equally, if you know it is easy to meet your goal it is not going to change your behaviour and complacency kicks in.

Do the calculations – Try and target the goal carefully to what you are trying to achieve. If you want to ensure you keep a good strength and conditioning routine in place then work out how many sessions you need per week, how many weeks you will be free to train (accounting for holidays), how long each session needs to be and then do the maths.  It might not work out at a round number but that makes it no less valid as a goal.

Encourage the right behaviours – In 2017 I set an ambitious distance target for cycling and achieved it, but it came about through a negative change in my behaviour.  I almost completely stopped mountain biking, where distance is much harder to build up, and prioritised road biking where I could rack up the miles.  This was not my aim when setting the goal, I wanted to ride all my bikes more frequently, so be careful about how the goals can change your mindset and ensure they will have the desired effect.

…be careful about how the goals can change your mindset and ensure they will have the desired effect.

Time or Distance? – Think carefully about which metric is most suitable to measure success.  Following on from the above example, in 2018 I targeted hours on the bike rather than distance covered to provide a more meaningful measure of performance and found myself riding a much better balance of road, gravel, MTB and bikepacking.  This approach works well for a number of things where productive practice doesn’t necessarily correlate with distance covered (mountain biking, whitewater kayaking) but in other areas distance is arguably the most important metric (running).

Be a flexible manager – An annual goal that is no longer achievable, or achieved very early in the year, isn’t useful.  Review the goals every few months and, if it is consistent with driving the behaviours you want, adjust them as necessary.  For example, if you lose a few weeks to injury, leaving you adrift of your annual goal, then recalculate the annual goal based on having fewer weeks in the year and the target is once again valid and achievable.  This is an especially pertinent example as coming back from injury and immediately upping volume to ‘catch up’ can send you straight back to the physio’s couch!

Ultimately, the setting and achievement of training goals is a personal thing and, generally, you are the only one who is going to be holding yourself to account for them.  Remember this and set them up and manage them in this context and they can be a useful tool for keeping your training/practice on track throughout 2018.

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