Weekend Reading: 5 Tips for Setting and Achieving Your Fitness Goals

January brings optimism and new beginnings, especially for athletes looking forward to another exciting year of training and spectacular performances! If you’ve been waiting to set a goal for yourself, now’s the time to do it. Whether this is the year you swing for the fences with an audacious goal or keep it a bit more low-key, I want to see you succeed!

Skip the New Year’s resolution, though. More often than not they encourage radical – and therefore unsustainable – changes in a person’s behavior. I prefer to have athletes set goals rather than make resolutions, because a goal is something you’re working toward. Achieving a goal is a process that involves gradual changes and persistent attention, and in my experience people have more success at achieving goals than sticking with resolutions.

To be valuable and provide the motivation necessary for you to follow through, your goals need to be personal. The only person they need to matter to is you. They don’t need to impress the neighbors or the guys at the local group ride; setting goals based on other people’s expectations is a bad idea.

There is a ton of literature out there on goal setting, and I don’t think I need to rehash the basic ideas of setting specific, measureable, attainable, realistic and time-based goals. (The SMART acronym was developed originally by George Doran, I believe, and it’s a good, basic framework for project management and athlete development.) After many years of helping athletes refine their goals, here are a few guidelines I think you should consider for 2014:

#1 Commit to an event: I mean register for it. Now. Put your money where your mouth is and sign up for an event. It could be your first century, your 12th Ironman, a CTS Camp, or the Amgen Tour of California Race Experience, the important thing is to commit to it now and get it on the calendar. We’re all busy and free time will get scheduled for other things if you don’t claim it.

#2 Seek Consistency: Athletes who make the most progress are not the ones who train harder, but rather the ones who achieve the greatest consistency. Training hard but haphazardly is just a lot of suffering for small rewards. But even if you can only train 3-4 times a week, sticking with those 3-4 sessions each week for 4-6 months will do wonders for your fitness and performance!

#3 Reduce Stress: Some of your goals for 2014 should revolve around reducing the stress in your life, because all stress – lifestyle, anxiety, training, etc. – impacts performance. When there’s additional stress on top of training stress, it becomes more difficult to achieve your sports performance goals. Consider getting more sleep – even by setting a bedtime if need be. Simply your lifestyle where you can; it is important to prioritize your training when you’ve set your sights on an important, time-consuming, and energy-intensive goal.

#4 Simplify your eating: The path to both optimal weight and superior performance is by going simpler rather than more complex. Fewer supplements and more real food. Fewer animal products and more plants. Even sports nutrition should be simpler, which is why we’ve partnered with OSMO and PROBAR to support CTS Coaches and CTS Athletes. Stacy Sims, the scientist behind OSMO, was the Director of R&D for CTS a while back and I like the simple, effective, and science-based hydration products she's developed for athletes. And PROBAR has a wide variety of whole food bars that are vegan and made from organic and sustainable ingredients (and they taste awesome!).

#5 Get help: You’ve been reading my blog for a while now, you’ve probably been training for even longer, and maybe you are or have worked with a coach. But many of you haven’t. Give it a try. I’ve been doing this for more than 20 years and I know coaching improves an athlete’s performance. The greatest value isn’t the training plan and the data; it’s everything else. It’s the relationship, communication, support, experience, expertise, encouragement, inspiration, and problem solving. I’ll prove it to you: Sign up for Premium coaching in January and if your performance hasn’t improved within the first 90 days I’ll refund your coaching fees.

And for those weight loss goals, check out the CTS Raceweight Weight Loss Program.

Have a Great Weekend and a Happy New Year!
Chris Carmichael
CEO/Head Coach
Carmichael Training Systems

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