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Goal Setting 101

Improving swimming speed. Perfecting stroke technique. Building endurance. Optimizing starts and turns. There is a lot of work that goes into becoming a faster swimmer. To figure out where to start, you need to set your swimming goals. Determine what you want to achieve, and break it down to identify your next steps.

In doing this, there are 3 types of goals that will set you up for success.

1. Outcome goals

Outcome goals are your ultimate, big-picture goals. These are the major milestones and long term results you aim to achieve throughout the swim season.

Some examples of outcome goals would be:

  • Set a meet record at state championships
  • Qualify for the national team
  • Win a medal at a provincial meet
  • Beat a personal best in the 100 fly by the end of the season

Accomplishing outcome goals are typically out of your control, as there are plenty of external factors at play. Someone in your heat might beat you to the wall and set a faster record or edge you out of a podium finish. Or maybe you didn’t get enough sleep the night before your race, throwing you off your game.

Anything can happen come race day. What’s important is that you’ve done what you can leading up to the event and focused on working on the things you can control.

2. Performance goals

Performance goals are the benchmark goals you set that will ultimately lead you to your outcome goals. These are the goals that track your progress throughout the season.

Take the outcome goal of beating your 100 fly personal best, for instance. Some examples of performance goals for this could include:

  • Consistently complete a 50 fly with 25 strokes or less
  • Underwater dolphin kick to the 15m mark off the starts in 5 seconds
  • Clock in even splits when training race pace this month, and negative splits in a few weeks

Tracking your improvements this way is an excellent motivator and can give you better confidence in your training process. But, it also informs you if you are still on the right path towards your outcome goals. If you find you’re not making as much progress as you’d expect at a certain point in time, checking in on your performance goals regularly gives you the opportunity to re-assess and adjust your training with enough time before the race.

3. Process goals

Process goals are the specific, day-to-day actionable steps you need to implement that build up to your performance and outcome goals.

Some examples of process goals could be:

  • Attend every practice, including both the morning and afternoon sessions
  • Approach each set with the proper mindset
  • Put in the effort from start to finish, including turns and underwaters.
  • Get adequate amounts of sleep each night

Accomplishing these targets is something you have full control over, so having process goals keeps you focused and accountable to your training. The best way to reach your outcome goals for the season is to consistently hit your process goals.

The key to setting goals at each of these levels is to keep it SMART.

Specific. ‘Swim faster’ shouldn’t be your only goal. Define it.

Measurable. Have a criteria for success so you can track your progress.

Attainable. Is your goal something you can reasonably accomplish given where you are today?

Realistic. Commitment is absolutely critical to achieving any goal. Are you willing to commit to the goals you’ve set?

Time-bound. Have an end date. Deadlines drive action.