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PARKOUR CAN BE A VERY LONELY BUSINESS.
In regards to training, keeping yourself motivated will reduce the distance between where you are and where you want to be. Setting goals can save you from losing your way.

Anyone interested in athletics will be aware of the achievements of the US 200m and 400m sprinter Michael Johnson.


Credit: Getty Images/SHAW Ezra
Johnson rewrote the record books when he became the only man ever to win both 200m and 400m Olympic gold medals, at the 1996 Olympics.

However, according to the man himself, his achievements were based not purely on talent but on hard physical conditioning, mental strength, a clear vision of where he wanted to go, and a plan of how to get there.

Not everyone has the talent to be a Michael Johnson, but anyone can achieve significant improvements in performance by means of effective goal-setting.

Research on goal-setting in the worlds of business and in sport and exercise has consistently shown that it can lead to enhanced performance.

In fact, a recent meta-analysis (statistical technique used to evaluate the data from a whole series of experiments) showed that goal-setting led to performance enhancement in 78% of sport and exercise research studies, with moderate to strong effects.

Goal-setting is a powerful technique that appears to work by providing a direction for our efforts, focusing our attention, promoting persistence and increasing our confidence (providing we achieve the goals we set ourselves).

SHORT TERM GOALS

The key to success

Top athletes like Michael Johnson have understood that, although dream goals such as Olympic gold medals are important in helping to direct our efforts, it is the day- to-day ‘short-term’ goals that provide the key to success.







DREAM GOALS are the ones that seem a long way off and difficult to achieve. In time terms, they may be anything from six months to several years away;

INTERMEDIATE GOALS are markers of where you want to be at a specific time. For example, if your dream goal was to lower your 400m PB by one second over 10 months, an intermediate goal could be a half second improvement after five months;

SHORT TERM GOALS are the most important because they provide a focus for our training in each and every session. Past research on Olympic athletes found that setting daily training goals was one factor that distinguished successful performers from their less successful counterparts.

For every week and each training session you should decide what you need to do in order to take another small step towards the next intermediate goal, and ultimately towards your dream goal.

Focusing on one small step at a time – and achieving that goal – developed confidence, and confidence allowed us to move on to more challenging targets.

According to sport psychologist Terry Orlick, there are four prerequisites for successful goal-setting.

First, you need to decide what you want – develop a vision;

Secondly, you must be committed, so your goals must be worth striving for;

Thirdly, you have to believe that the goals you set are achievable.

Goals that are too easy to achieve provide little motivation; but, on the other hand, unrealistically difficult goals can lead to loss of confidence and eventual rejection of the goal.

The fourth prerequisite for successful goal-setting specified by Orlick is to focus on one step at a time.

 
SETTING GOALS

In beginning the process of setting goals, it’s important to be specific and realistic about what you are striving to achieve. Ditch such vague goals as, ‘to get fit’ or ‘to do my best’ for more objective alternatives. Objective goals allow the sports performer to measure progress and re-evaluate the goal if targets prove either too difficult or too easy.

The types of goals set in sport and exercise typically reflect what psychologists have identified as outcome, performance and process goals. All three are valuable in guiding athletes towards higher standards of performance, although you need an awareness of some of the potential pitfalls with these goals.

Outcome Goals tend to focus on an objective competitive result, such as beating an opponent, but they can never be completely under your control since the ability and form of your opponents on the day can influence the result. Outcome goals can provide motivation, but focusing purely on the result can lead to increased anxiety.

Alternatively you could set a Performance Goal, which are set in the context of comparisons with your own previous performances, such as completing more press-ups this week than last weeks total. Performance goals tend to be more flexible and within your control. In the event of injury, performance goals can be easily readjusted to provide meaningful and realistic targets.

Process Goals are to do with the actions or techniques that are required to achieve success. When practicing precisions for example, a traceur may focus on an imaginary point 30cm beyond that of the target.

One recent study found better results when using a combination of goal strategies (outcome, performance and process goals) than either one alone.

Most people set goals that are too difficult rather than too easy, which commonly leads to the rejection of those goals.

Once rejected, the goals no longer direct our efforts or our focus. It is also important to avoid setting too many goals. Instead, focus on one dream goal, perhaps two or three intermediate targets and two short-term goals for today’s session. That’s enough to start with, but be sure to give your short-term goals the highest priority. Through achieving these you will naturally progress towards the intermediate targets.


Goal-setting is a smart move for athletes who want to develop their self-confidence, increase their levels of motivation and achieve higher standards of performance.

Remember that time spent in preparation is worth it and can prevent disappointments. Take the advice of athletes like Michael Johnson and use goal-setting to change small steps into great feats.

To help remember the key principles of goal-setting you need to think SMARTER. That is, your goals should be:

Specific

Indicate precisely what is to be done. Avoid vague alternatives;

Measurable
You should be able to quantify your goal;

Accepted
Goals must be accepted as worthwhile, realistic and attainable;

Recorded
Write your goals down. This is the basis of a contract with yourself;

Time-constrained
Set specific time-limits;

Evaluated
Monitor your progress regularly;

Reversible
In the event of injury, or failure to achieve over-difficult goals, reset your goals accordingly.


References
Lee Crust.
Singer, R, Hausenblas, H, & Janelle, C (Eds), Handbook of Sport Psychology, Wiley, New York, 2001.
The Sport Psychologist, vol 15, pp20-47, 2001.
Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, vol 17, pp117-137, 1995.
The Sport Psychologist, vol 2, pp105-130, 1988.
Orlick, T, In Pursuit of Excellence, 4th edition, Human Kinetics, USA, 2000.
Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, vol 11, pp230-246, 1999.
 
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