SMART Goal-Setting for Swimmers: How To Effectively Chase Targets


SMART Goal-Setting for Swimmers: How To Effectively Chase Targets

By Vanessa Steigauf, Swimming World College Intern

The year slowly comes to an end and athletes now find time to reflect upon past performances and focus on what’s next. As we think about the practices and races of the past year, we automatically analyze what could have gone better and start our goal-setting for the upcoming year. But you don’t want to be one of the many athletes who set lofty goals and come back disappointed because they didn’t achieve any of them. It is important to understand how efficient goal-setting works and use those goals as motivation rather than experiencing setback after setback.

Be Specific

When you set your goals for the next year you want them to be very specific. It isn’t a big motivation to jump in the pool at 6 a.m. every morning when your goal is simply to swim fast. It won’t push you to perform your best during that hard threshold set. When your legs are burning and your arms feel like they are not moving anymore, you need motivation that makes you want to swim even harder. Setting specific goals for your individual races can help. What do you want to achieve in the 100 free? What do you want to work on to achieve this goal? Maybe your start and turns need improvement or you want to work more on your underwaters. Whatever it is, make sure you know exactly what you need to do in (and out of) the pool to reach those specific goals.

Make it Measurable

“I want to have faster finishes” is a nice and specific goal to have – but how do you know your race finishes actually got faster? And how fast do you even want them to be? Many times, it helps to make your goals measurable. Set specific times you want to achieve in your race finishes or your first 50 of the race. Measuring your goals is important to keep your planning on track and help you see how far you’ve already come. This can be certain weights in lifting, a specific time on a 50, or a stroke count throughout a race.

Set Attainable and Realistic Goals

When it comes to goal-setting, you should stay honest with yourself. Wanting to go below 20 seconds on your first 50 in a 200 is a specific and measurable goal to have, but only appropriate if you can call yourself one of the fastest sprinters in the country. When you set your goals, it is important to stay true to what YOU can achieve. Have a look at your splits from this year and see how much faster you can become next year. Your goals should be high enough to motivate you to perform your best in every practice. But they should never be so high you can’t achieve them, as that would take the motivation away.

Set a Time Limit

To add a little extra motivation to your practices, you can space your goals out throughout the year and set little step by step marks to achieve your final big goal. Plan when you want to achieve your big goal and think of little sub-goals. You can set specific mini goals for certain times throughout the year on your way to the big goal. For example, if you want to drop a total of four seconds in the 500 by the end of next year, you can aim at dropping one second every three months. This doesn’t only keep you on track for achieving your goals, it also makes them look more achievable and plays an important role in getting your mind in the right place to achieve your goals. One second every three months seems way more motivating than that big drop of four seconds, right?

Write Your Goals Down and Believe in Yourself

When it comes to goal-setting based on ideas and wishes, it is crucial to write them down. You don’t have to tell your goals to anyone. Internalize them for yourself, write them down and visualize them. Maybe hang a little note on the inside of your locker that reminds you of the steps you want to take each practice toward achieving your goal. Imagine how it will feel once you touch the wall at the end of a race and see your goal-time on the scoreboard. All the early mornings and hard main sets will be worth it. Reminding yourself of that feeling during hard times will keep you going.

When you stick to those S-M-A-R-T strategies for goal-setting (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timed), you’re already on a good track to achieving your goals. If you stay honest with yourself about what you can achieve, you can believe in yourself and do everything to achieve your goals. Don’t be afraid to fail on your way there – this is a normal part of the process. It is okay to not reach all your goals by the time you want to reach them. And it is okay to adjust your goals as you go. Track your progress and work hard every day to make the best out of the situation you are in. And you will see, the long way to achieving your goals will be full of motivation and joy.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

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