This post is inspired by the Olympics currently underway in London. Impressed by the medal haul of
the Olympic cyclists I was interested to find out just how the GB cycling team had been so successful.
As reported by their coaches, their answer is “peaking”. By this they mean that their training has
been so specific that they know they would be at their absolute best come race day of London 2012;
in many cases the result of a specific training schedule designed over 4 years.
While most of the population can never hope to compete in an Olympic event, we can take a
lot from the precision planning demonstrated by these athletes and their coaches in terms of
structuring an exercise agenda.
The solution being regular goal setting; because, without goals you’re just doing “stuff”.
When setting exercise and fitness goals, it’s essential that you follow these following steps and set
yourself “smart goals” (S.M.A.R.T) goals; here’s what you need to consider:
S – Specific
“I want to lose some weight and get fitter”. Not an uncommon explanation of goals, but not a very
good one. You need to decide how you’re going to define success and by doing that, set your goals
in-line with this. If “fitness” is your goal, how do you define “fitness” and how will you know when
you get there? Losing weight, getting fitter, feeling stronger, being better are all non-specific goals.
M – Measurable
Where are you now and how will you know when you get to somewhere better? Unless you have a
method in place to measure your capabilities and how they improve then you’ll be forever training
in an aimless way. Whether you want to “test” yourself every month or more through taking your
weight, measurements, strength tests, cardio vascular tests etc or if you want to use your everyday
life. If you find an every day event such as a large set of stairs at work challenging or impossible but
can perform if comfortably two months later then this is a measurable improvement. You won’t get
the same feeling of success in 2 months time if you just “feel fitter” as you would if you could say “I
can now work at a much higher pace on the rowing machine and have reduced my 1000m time by 5
A – Attainable
So you might like the idea of competing in the Olympics on day, but the likelihood is, for now you
need to set some shorter, more attainable goals. Instead of setting just one goal such as “I want a
six pack” which may be a longer term goal, put all of the building blocks in place by setting more
intermittent goals which will help you to your end goal. For example: I want to train 5 days per week
every week, I want to remove sugar from my diet at least 6 days per week, I want to drink alcohol no
more than once a month, I want to have lost 2% body fat in 2 months. Achieving shorter and more
achievable goals will keep you motivated and on track for longer-term success.
Why do you want to achieve whatever it is that you’ve set your heart on? If it’s not going to offer
you a warm fluffy feeling of success when you get there, then the likelihood is that it won’t happen.
If it doesn’t mean that much to you, then you probably won’t get there. If it’s a passing fancy such
as “I wouldn’t mind being a bit thinner for the summer”, then you probably aren’t willing to make
any sacrifices to get what you want. Find your “why?”. If it’s something that you think about on a
daily basis then that’s a good enough reason to stick to it.
T – Time Specific
Whatever your goal, make sure that you set a realistic timescale and end date that you want to have
achieved each goal by. Firstly, it puts a bit of pressure on you. This is a great thing as it can cause you
to make smarter lifestyle decisions knowing that “D-Day” is imminent. Without these deadlines it’s
likely that you’ll carry on as normal. Also, it means that if you’re aiming at a longer term goal, you
can check your progress as scheduled intervals along the way and know that you are either ahead or
With all of these steps in place it’s much more likely that you’re going to make regular progress and
be aware of how you’re changing as your training changes. Without these steps it’s likely that you’ll
end up training for the sake of training; rarely making significant changes or progress in any form. Be
aware of where you are now and look back in comparison every few months – if there have been no
significant changes then you need to re-start this goal setting process.
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