Have you ever set a goal, and then had trouble accomplishing that goal? I think we have all experienced that at one point in our lives. Goal setting can extend beyond the realm of physical fitness. It could be financial, work, or social goals. If you have ever been frustrated with the inability to reach a goal, then I am going to provide some basic tips to help you set and reach obtainable goals.
First, you need to understand “why” you want to obtain a certain goal. I often hear athletes tell me they want to compete in the CrossFit Games or make it to Regionals. For the sake of this article I will use that goal as an example. Competing in the CrossFit Games is a lofty goal. The question those athletes need to ask is “why?” Why do you want to compete at this level? Do you want to compete at this level for money, notoriety, or sponsorships? Or do you want to complete at this level because you love your gym, the daily grind, pushing your body to its fullest potential?
Extrinsic motivation, like money or fame, is when we are motivated to perform to earn a reward or avoid some form of punishment. Intrinsic motivation, like working out with friends, is personally rewarding and very sustainable long term. How does this look in a CrossFit gym? People largely begin CrossFit for intrinsic reasons. They enjoy a team atmosphere, pushing their bodies to the limit, working toward a longer healthier life, but something happens to some people as they begin to improve their strength, conditioning, and skills. Those people’s motivation turns to beating others in class workouts rather than simply striving to reach their full potential. The shift to extrinsic motivation is often short lived because the results are often out of your control. Friendly competition can be good, but how do you respond if you lose a workout? Are you proud of your effort or are you disappointed in the result simply because of a score that was entered in Wodify? Take the same athlete that is truly setting goals because of intrinsic motivation. They may lose a workout in class, but they realize they improved in technique, score from the last time they performed the workout, cycled a barbell much better, or they gave the workout their absolute best effort. That athlete can now take pride in their performance rather than disappointment because they worked to maximize their potential. This mentality is much more sustainable, and is most likely to improve an athlete’s performance long-term.
When we understand our why, then we can learn how to set obtainable goals. These goals can extend well beyond the scope of the CrossFit athlete examples mentioned above. These goals could be about general fitness, diet, finances, work, social, or any other goal that applies to you.
So what advice do I have for goal setting? You need to keep the number of goals small. Try not to set more than 3-5 total goals. If we set too many goals, then it can become difficult to devote the time and energy required to accomplishing each goal. Be very specific in your goal setting. For example, I want to increase my Front Squat by 15 pounds is very specific. A bad goal would be to set a goal to increase my strength. This is too broad and open ended. Next, your goal needs to be measurable. How can you track success if it is not measurable? An example would be a goal to shave 20 seconds off of my Grace time. A bad example would be setting a goal to have a fast Grace time. In this example what qualifies as fast? Is it the fastest athlete in the gym, or the times posted by past CrossFit Games champions? Your goals should be realistic, but should still challenge you. They should put you slightly out of your comfort zone. This is where you need to be careful not to set a goal that is beyond common sense. An example of a good goal might include completing your first muscle up by the end of the summer. A goal that may not be realistic for the same athlete might include completing the benchmark workout “Amanda” unbroken by the end of the summer when you still have not hit your first muscle up. For reference “Amanda” is 9-7-5 Ring Muscle Ups and Barbell Snatch.
It is also important to set time frame to accomplish the goal. Examples of this would be specific dates. This will give you a target to work toward each day. Be careful not to set a date too far in the future. This will cause you to constantly be looking ahead rather than living and working toward your goals day to day. The exception to this could be a serious medical condition or injury. In that example we may have specific dates set by medical professionals that could limit you from quickly targeting your goals. In those instances, I would recommend setting smaller recovery goals to keep you motivated during that time frame.
I also highly recommend writing down your goals. You should post your goals somewhere that you can see them daily. Your goals could be posted on the bathroom mirror, on the front of the refrigerator, or on a sticky note in your office. It is great to have a daily reminder about what you are working so hard to accomplish. It will keep things in perspective.
The last tip is optional, but you should consider sharing your goals with a select few people you trust. You want to choose people that you know will hold you accountable, but you also want people that will be positive and encouraging during your pursuit of the goal. There should be no room for negative talk or discouraging comments. That type of thinking can carry over to your daily performance.
Every person has different goals and obstacles in their lives. This article is designed to help you target your goals and establish a path toward accomplishing those goals. If you are not sure how to attack some of your fitness goals beyond attending daily classes, then schedule a training session with one of the OPCF coaches of your choice. Our coaches can sit down with you and help guide you on the proper path to accomplishing your goals.