Header image photo by Rob Hammer Photography.
Let’s talk goals. Modern social media behaviors expose us constantly to the goals of our friends and acquaintances, just as we use social media to project our own goals to others. This can be great for holding oneself accountable, but how realistic are some of these?
Someone will post a pic of a gaggle of supermodels, with the caption “Squad Goals.” On the more serious side, someone applying to grad schools may have a lofty goal as to which program he or she will be accepted to. Lots of people post that they want to start eating healthier or lose weight. All of these are bad examples of “goals” because they’re either things that the person has absolutely no control over, or general “want” statements without any concrete end in sight. So when I see things like that, I’m glad people are going for the gold, but also feel like there is a huge knowledge gap when it comes to goal setting and people don’t know how to do it correctly – which includes being okay with failure based on the context.
As my more avid readers know, I ran the America’s Finest City Half Marathon this past weekend. I did a good job of setting goals for myself as far as training, but in context, it just didn’t work out. My goal was to finish at least 10 minutes faster than last year’s time (2:24), but I (stupidly) went out dancing 2 nights before, and busted my GOOD knee running up and down nightclub stairs and breaking down some sweet moves. What I get for having way too much fun.
Anyways, waking up after the show, I knew I wasn’t ready for the race the next day. After spending literally all of Saturday resting, icing, elevating, epsom salt bathing, using topical pain relievers and doing yoga, I was still experiencing some pain and stiffness in my left foot and hamstring, and getting seriously worried that I wouldn’t be able to run at all. But I woke up before the sun, feeling just good enough to give it a try, and honestly just hoping I’d make it through the race in the allotted 3-hour time limit.
The day of the race was also SUPER HOT, in fact they sent out heat advisories the day before, warning that if you moved too slow and the temps rose too quickly, you might have part of the course closed off to you. The course was also a lot more hilly than I expected, especially around the last 2 miles (DEAD).
So I paced alright, and finished, with a time of 2:41:35, definitely feeling sour because it’s more than 15 minutes slower than last year’s time, but I know a lack of training wasn’t my downfall. In spite of the pain, I felt very strong almost all the way through. My stride was even and my cardio felt great until the bitter end. I know that if my knee had been 100%, and if we weren’t in the middle of a heat wave, I could have smoked my personal record. But I got that medal.
As an elite youth swimmer I learned that goals should be two things: concrete and attainable. So in training for my next race, I already know what I need to do in addition to my regular training: practice hills successfully, in weather, for 45 minutes without breaking stride.
Goal Setting Dos & Don’ts
NO: I want to lose weight this year.
OKAY: I will lose 10lbs this year.
YES: I will maintain below my goal weight of 135lbs for at least 2 months by the end of the year.
Being more specific is great, but try to remember to focus on body composition maintenance rather than the “how many pounds you want to lose.” Weight fluctuates from day to day and even from morning to night; your “goal weight” can always be changed based on your BMI and progressing nutrition needs, which are in flux along with your exercise habits.
NO: I’m going to eat healthier this year.
YES: This year I will track my meals and macros daily, and will give up all soft drinks.
“Eating healthier” might as well be meaningless; you’ve got to be specific and make informed decisions about diet. Even cheese can be part of a healthy diet – the key is portion control. Setting a goal to track your meals every day is the best concrete way to shift toward healthy eating. And, you don’t necessarily need to have something to give up, but soda is a great start.
OKAY: I will get a best time for the half marathon this year.
BETTER: I will finish the half marathon in sub-2:15 time this year.
Shooting for a best time is one of the most exciting goals you can set! But your first goal should be to finish the race – it’s a huge accomplishment in itself and not to be overlooked just because you ran a not-so-great time. If I learned one thing in my years of competitive swimming, it’s that you’re capable of SO much more than you think. At first it may seem like you’re setting yourself up to fail by setting a lofty time goal, but in reality, you’re pushing yourself to the limits and beyond. And if you only end up finishing, that’s okay too.
Did you start the year with any goals? What are some of your goals for the rest of the year and beyond?
As for me, I’ve still got to complete 300 miles total for the year (I think I’ve got a little over 100 to go), run a mile under 7 minutes, and hold a pull-up for 30 seconds.