Training, July 12, 2018
Its time to get SMART with your goal setting and really smash that PB! Take a look at how being effective in your goal setting can help you develop your training and racing!
Most of us do some form of planning during our lives, but how often do you really sit down and plan out exactly what you will do? Be it training, racing or just getting to the pool on time at stupid o'clock in the morning. One of the areas we seem to short change ourselves is planning out our training year to include working on our weaknesses, without the rest of our season suffering. So, today we are not going to give you a set plan or a training system. We will look at one tool to help you set those goals effectively, efficiently and above all, actually reach, see and feel the results you are looking for.
Many of you will undoubtedly have heard of SMART targets, and many will probably use them in a work environment, but how many of you use them when setting out your training year or focusing on a block of training? This article will give you a better understanding of using SMART targets and implementing them into your training planning for the season.
Let us look at what SMART targets/goals are and how they apply to our training:
S = Specific. This is ultimately why lots of targets are not met, especially in sport. The typical 'I want to race faster this season is something we see more often than you think. This sounds great. 'I want to be faster, that's specific, right? Not quite; what does this 'faster' consist of? Do you want to improve in one or multiple areas? How much faster are you looking? Seconds? Minutes?
So then, how do we make it more specific? We really need to think about what tangible results we want to see or be more exacting in our wording. A more specific target could look like this:
'I want to PB my long course time at Ironman UK by 10 minutes to qualify for the World Championships'
This is more specific, but there is still room for improvement; we now know Kona qualification is the main target and that an improvement of 10 minutes from last year is required, but we can delve even deeper:
'I want to PB my long course time at Ironman UK by 10 minutes overall, made up of a 3-minute improvement in the swim, 1 minute in T1, 5 minutes on the bike and 1 minute during for the run.'
Now we are talking, and we are becoming really specific in what we want from the season. We now have obvious target times for each area that require improvement and know that they make up the overall reduction time.
Now we have specificity to our target, making the rest of this target setting a bit easier.
M = Measurable. If we take the first target from above, we can now see how it would be almost impossible to see how this improvement could be measured with a good detail level. If we PB'd at a race during the season, we are going faster, but by how much? However, now we have our super-specific target; life becomes that much easier. We can easily see that our target will be easy to measure, in that we know if we have met it overall if we knock 10 minutes off our previous year IM UK time. Also, we can see if that is made up of the individual reductions we have targeted. Our best measure here would be to use time as that would reflect what we are originally looking at, we could be tempted to use race position and/qualification as a measure, but these would be really subjective due to the field out there, the weather and other racing conditions, it could be quite possible to race slower at this year's event yet still podium and qualify due to a weaker field or other influences.
A = Achievable. Is the target attainable? Can you be sure that it's not too much of a stretch to reach it, or do you have to rely on others to make sure it can be completed? How much effort, cost, and time will it take to get there? Do you realistically have the funds and/or the time available to chase this goal, or are you really pushing the limit on something? Because if you are, you probably aren't going to get there. Really spend some time thinking and discussing this with your family, your friends or your coach. Using the swim time target of 3 minutes over 3800m, equating to approximately a 1.2 seconds per 25m improvement or close to 5 seconds per 100m improvements, we can now make a bit more informed decision if this goal is achievable. This time improvement is approximately a 5% improvement which can be a considerable ask, especially if you are already swimming well. Maybe we could pass that time saving on to another part of the race (bike or run?), or we could go back to the original goal and reset a more achievable time.
R = Relevant. It is important to make sure that the goal you are looking at is relevant to you and have the skills, knowledge, or contacts to achieve the goal. This is about looking at the goal objectively and asking yourself why you want to reach this goal? What's the objective behind it? Will the goal you have selected really achieve that? Is improving your swimming to the tune of a three minute PB worth the investment and time dedicated to it, or could you save that time somewhere else for a much less considerable time investment?
T = Time-bound. Time to set yourself a deadline for completion. This could be the race date or some weeks before through some form of testing, but the main thing here is setting a date that this goal will be met, which should give you that impetus to drive towards it. Try to be as realistic as possible around this timeframe, factor in anything that could potentially derail the goal (family commitments, pool closures, holidays etc.) and give yourself a bit of room for manoeuvre if possible. A good bit of advice is to set some interim dates to meet smaller parts of the goal or check the progress and see if you are still on target to complete by the date you originally set.
Now you have a clear SMART goal; you can start to flesh out how you will reach it and break it down into smaller chunks to manage it. You can also pass this over to someone you trust to take a look and see if they agree and/or get them to give you a gentle reminder now and then about what you have written down and how close you are to getting there. As with all plans, there will be things that get in the way, and there will be times when it feels like it's miles away, or you can lose focus. Remember that the time you invest at the beginning will make for a stronger plan and make for a higher chance of successfully meeting that goal, no matter what it is!
Chris has a BSc. (Hons) in Sports, Health and Performance Science is a British Triathlon level 3 coach; Ironman certified coach, Level 3 Personal Trainer, Training Peaks Level 2 Certified Coach, British Triathlon coach educator, and coach mentor. With over 20 years of experience in teaching and coaching, he is passionate about developing all levels of athletes, especially athletes new to the sport, to allow them to meet their goals. Chris has raced over every distance from Sprint to Iron Distance.More about me