Goals are an important part of your everyday life. They allow you to track your progress and help you to achieve some of your biggest ambitions. But is there a correct way to set goals? In the past, I myself have just put a lofty goal up above my bed and hoped that now that I have a goal I should be able to achieve that goal, whatever it may be. But throughout the years I have learned and practiced a different way of setting goals. I originally learned this method through my high school gym class, but the thinking behind it has stuck with me and it is still the way that I set my goals today. I’ll share this goal setting template with you and share some tips I found useful in regards to setting goals for swimming. Also, I will discuss why goals are so important in swimming.
The goal setting template is called SMART. I’m sure most of you have probably heard of this format as most of my coaches have talked about this template before. In my opinion, this is the best way of setting goals, as the format makes you think deeply about the goal that you wish to achieve and the many parts of a goal that you need to think about before achieving it. The SMART stands for:
S: Specific; What do you specifically want to achieve?
M: Measurable; Can you set up landmarks on the way to achieving your goal to show your progress?
A: Achievable; Are you able to physically achieve this goal?
R: Realistic; Is this a realistic goal?
T: Time Orientated; Set a time where you will work towards your goal and set an end date for your goal to have it completed by.
Some useful tips that I found help me make my goals work in regards to swimming are; make these goals at the start of your season, set little SMART goals for each meet or each practice. Get in the habit of setting goals. Talk to your coach about your goals. If they know that you are striving for a goal in the pool then they will be able to help you achieve those things. Purely when it comes to swimming I feel like this goal-setting template has helped me achieve some of my biggest goals. For example, when I was trying to qualify for my first nationals in 2015 I used one of these goal-setting templates and I found it worked well for me. My template looked something like this.
S: Specific; Qualify for my first nationals (2015)
M: Measurable; At every practice, I will do at least 5 kicks off the wall and race my hardest whenever we have timed sets. If my times get faster in those timed sets then I know that I am getting faster.
A: Achievable; Yes, I need to drop 3 seconds in my 200 bk, 2 seconds in my 100 bk, and 1 second in my 50 bk.
R: Realistic; Yes it’s realistic. I have 3 months before my last chance to qualify. With a meet in the middle of that block.
T: Time Orientated; I will work on getting faster every practice, and I want to have these times by the end of the season.
With this goal setting template by planning out my goal this way, I was able to achieve it. I worked every day at it and I was able to make all three of my times at my last chance meet, then I went and competed at my first nationals in Calgary when I was 14.
Goals are an important part of any sport. But I feel as though this is amplified by the fact that swimming is such a time orientated sport, national meets are only held during specific times of the year. Therefore it is imperative that you set goals for yourself to help build up momentum. Start with small goals, make one for every practice during the week. These goals can be as simple as during the main set I want to do at least 5 underwater kicks off every wall. If you complete these goals it will help you build momentum and you feel as though you are able to complete any goal you set. This will help you build confidence in yourself that you can complete even your big season goal by establishing a record of success. Goals are important, but by breaking them into smaller pieces, you can see your success. Then they become easier - obtainable!
In light of our current situation, there is not much you can do in terms of swimming since many if not all the pools are closed. This is the perfect time to adjust your goals for this global crisis. You can still have your main season goal, but you have to reevaluate how you will achieve that with minimal time in the pool. Make smaller goals that focus on dryland training, your mental performance, or general overall fitness. Just because you aren’t spending time in the pool doesn’t mean you can’t improve. Stay focused and motivated, and once you get back into the pool you’ll be stronger and better equipped to accomplish your goals for the season.
I’ll see you in the next one :)