Swimmers are very ambitious people, but often times, we’ll bite off more than we can chew and as a result we’re left with an unmet goal. The key with large goals is to change your frame of reference and become short-term focused, so you make regular, measurable progress more often.
When setting goals, it’s crucial that they be very defined and methodical in your approach. If you want long-term success, be clear about what you want to accomplish. To help you succeed, use the S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound) goal process.
Make sure your goals are precise and stated in performance terms. For instance, if you want to drop time, your goal might be “to drop 2.00 seconds in the 200 meter butterfly at the state championships in 12 weeks.”
If you want to improve your flip turn, your goal might be “to complete my first 500 meter swim with flip turns before the end month.”
A goal is measurable when it is easy to determine if it has been accomplished. In swimming, dropping time is easily measured. 12 weeks from now you will either drop 2 seconds or not. Likewise, with the flip turn goal, it will be easy to determine if you are successful. Conversely, a goal to “swim faster” is not very measurable. A better goal is to “swim under a 1:55.00 in the 200 meter butterfly” at the state championship”.
One of the biggest mistakes people make while setting goals is that they set unattainable goals. Goals should be set high, but they must also be realistic. A goal to drop 20 seconds in four weeks in the 100 meter freestyle is both unrealistic and unhealthy. Likewise, if you are new to swimming and set a goal to finish a 5k open water swim in one month, you’re setting yourself up for both failure and pain. Make your goals challenging, but attainable.
Your goals should be important to you. Don’t set a goal just because your friends, family members or teammates have set that goal. Your goals are your motivators to continue exercising, so make sure they are important to you.
Make sure each goal has a specific time frame for completion. This allows you to easily determine if it has been achieved. It also increases the likelihood that you will accomplish each goal since you know the clock is ticking. For example, the goal “I want to drop 2.00 seconds at the state championships in 12 weeks” has a time frame.
Turning Simple Behaviors Into Rituals With Process Goals
Process goals focus on the implementation of your swimming program. For example, a good process goal is “to swim four times per week for 60 minutes.” You have more control over accomplishing this goal and it will help you get in the habit of swimming to achieve your goal.
Other process goals include:
• Take at least three dolphin kicks off every wall in every workout
• Log and keep track of all your workouts
• Complete two dryland sessions per week in addition to swimming
• Pullout past 10m off every wall in breaststroke
• No breathing off the walls in workout
• Swim an additional 200 meters of cool down after every swim
The final thing to remember when it comes to achieving large goals is to actually jump in and get started. That’s why breaking your goals into rituals and process goals is so important. As human beings, we’re wired to avoid disappointment. If your goals feel unachievable, you’ll start to self sabotage.
Don’t work against your brain. Embrace our limitations as humans and work with smaller, more manageable goals and rituals.