Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national level swimmer based out of Victoria, BC. In feeding his passion for swimming, he has developed YourSwimBook, a powerful log book and goal setting guide made specifically for swimmers. Sign up for the YourSwimBook newsletter (free) and get weekly motivational tips by clicking here.
Do you set yourself big goals at the beginning of the season? Are there things you want to do with your swimming – know that you can do with your swimming – but you aren’t sure how to get from where you are now to where you dream to be?
If you want results in the pool, you gotta be willing to create a plan to get there. The fastest and easiest way to do this is by creating yourself some goals. By defining what you want to do with your swimming in measurable, actionable terms – and then breaking it down into doable steps – you build yourself the set of instructions necessary to make those results achievable.
Here are 7 questions to ask yourself as you develop your goals for this season:
1. How measurable is my goal?
Good thing about swimming is that our results are about as quantifiable as they get. The clock doesn’t lie, although I am sure there are times where we wish it would. Specify exactly what times you want to swim this year. Avoid going for placings, or other subjective goals that are reliant on the performance of others. If you desperately want to win a specific race at the end of the year, choose the time you estimate it will require to win the race and dial in on that instead.
2. Is my goal positive?
When we choose negative goals – “Don’t screw this up! I want to not get last! I just don’t want to get DQ’d!” we create a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. Our thoughts drive our feelings and actions, and when we fixate on not doing something we can’t help but drive full speed right at it. It’s reverse psychology at its finest – just like if I tell you not to think about elephants, under no circumstance should you think about elephants – what are you going to think about? Elephants. Lots of elephants. Dancing elephants even. Create positive goals and your thoughts and behaviors will follow suite.
3. Have I created actionable chunks from my goals?
Having the dream is step one – the next is creating smaller, short range goals that will help you scale the mountain. These are the steps that will lead you to the dream. What are the steps – baby-sized, if need be – that stand between you and your goal? A helpful way to go about doing this is to simply plot backwards from your goal, to the swimmer and result you want to be, and to discern what it is going to take to get there.
4. Do I have systems and routines in place to achieve my goals?
Having big goals is awesome – and necessary to achieve long term success. But to get there, to make those goals happen, to bring them down out of the clouds and into our reality requires implementing systems, routines and habits that will bring them to fruition. Once your goal is broken down into the chunks necessary to make it happen, think about what you will need to do on a regular basis to accomplish each of those chunks. So, for instance, if your goal is to swim a :55 100m butterfly, and you know that one of the big things you need to improve on is your underwater dolphin kicks, what kind of routine or system will you put into place to achieve that specific chunk of your goal? Will you add an extra ten minutes of vertical kick work after each practice? Perform additional mobility work at night before bed?
5. Am I monitoring and evaluating my progress?
Albert Einstein rather famously noted that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and to expect a fresh result. A powerful way to bust the endless loop of poor habits and behaviors that lead to consistently disappointing results is to track and monitor your training and extra-curricular stuff. It’s not always easy to figure out the reasons for why we perform well on one day, and then awful the next. Monitoring your workouts gives you a birds-eye view of your workouts, allowing you the opportunity to see patterns and habits in your training. (There are a host of other good reasons to track your workouts. Here are a few more.)
6. Am I creating daily goals?
Want the secret to never-ending motivation and focus? Set yourself some goals for each day and workout. Having an established set of goals or objectives for your workout not only keeps you focused and mentally engaged over the course of a swimmer’s never-ending season, but the piling up of small wins will do wonders for your self-belief and confidence. The goals don’t need to be astronomical in nature either. They can be simple: have perfect technique for all of warm-up and warm-down. Do 5 dolphin kicks off every wall in the main set. Don’t breathe under the flags. Keeping your head down on every finish. And so on. They don’t have to be big things, but they should be substantial enough that you get that little buzz of confidence after each practice.
7. Do I have back-up?
Yes, there will be times of struggle. Moments where the last thing you want to do is to crawl out of bed and go to morning workout, or where your muscles are drained and fatigue has become the driver of your decisions. Having a solid crew of people around you who are not only knowledgable of your goals, but actively supporting them is invaluable. Michael Phelps never would have achieved the level of success in the pool without the support of both his mother Debbie and his longtime coach Bob Bowman. There are a few different ways that you can build a supportive environment for your training: partner up with a teammate (the old buddy system!), let your parents and siblings know about your goals, and of course, share your aspirations with your coach.
YourSwimBook is a log book and goal setting guide designed specifically for competitive swimmers. It includes a ten month log book, comprehensive goal setting section, monthly evaluations to be filled out with your coach, and more. Learn 8 more reasons why this tool kicks butt.
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