Lakeland 50/100 – The Goal Setting Process (Blog 4)

The team at Lakeland 50 & 100 are pleased to have Dr Ian Boardley as a guest blogger. Ian is a sports psychology lecturer at the University of Birmingham and a 5 time Lakeland 100 finisher. He will be writing a monthly blog post to help you prepare for the 2017 event. You can follow him on Twitter HERE

In the first three blogs in this series, we have introduced goal setting and why athletes use it, discussed different types of goals, which goals to set, key characteristics of effective goals and key aspects of the goal-setting process. If you followed the advice in the previous blog, you should now have a target time for the Lakeland 50/100 2017, as well three to five performance-attributes that you most need to improve for you to maximise your chances of achieving this target time in July. You should also have developed a number of key training goals to achieve over the coming months to help you develop these three to five attributes to the required levels, and also prioritised and coordinated them into a logical order. These goals should incorporate a combination of process and performance goals (see Blog 1 for details on types of goals). Further, you should also have started to identify target races for your build-up that allow you to specifically develop/test the attributes you have identified for development and the performance/process goals you will set for these races. Now you (hopefully) have this information, in the current blog we will look at ways in which you can identify and avoid potential barriers to you achieving these goals, as well as ways in which you can monitor and evaluate progress towards them. We will also consider when it may be necessary to revise your goals (upwards or downwards) along the way, and what implications this may have for other goals if you do. As ever, as we go along I will provide examples of what we discuss that are of direct relevance to preparation for the Lakeland 50/100. When reading these examples it is good to reflect on your own running and how you can apply the information to your running.

So once you have your training goals in place, it is important to identifying potential barriers to achieving these goals and formulate plans that should allow you to overcome these potential barriers. Some of the best ways to identify possible barriers to goal attainment is to either reflect on your past attempts to achieve similar goals or speak to others who have successfully achieved related goals. For instance, if one of your goals is to develop your climbing-specific strength for long climbs – such as those in the Lakeland 50/100 – think back on past attempts to develop this attribute. What approaches did you take and did you encounter any barriers to success using these approaches? Did you plan to travel to mountainous regions and train on similar climbs more often, but find after a while this proved to be too much of a commitment given other pressures in your life (e.g., work, family)? If so, unless your situation has changed you are likely to find similar barriers get in the way if you apply the same approach. To avoid this, try to come up with a different approach that will avoid these barriers. For this example, are there high-rise buildings with stair cases or multi-story car parks that you have access to that you could use to supplement some of this training alongside less frequent trips to the mountains? This is just one example, but the same process can be applied to other goals you have set such as getting your race weight down, increasing your eccentric strength for repeated long descents, improving your speed and fluidity on technical downhills, etc., etc. The key here is to identify the potential barriers before they occur to minimise the likelihood of the emerging mid-programme when it can be more difficult to adjust your plan.

Once you have your plan in place and you start working towards your goals, it is important to monitor and evaluate your goal progress so that you know whether you are on track to achieve them. An effective way of monitoring progress is to keep a goal-setting log. A except from an example goal-setting log can be seen below:

Performance Attribute Goal Performance Indicator Current Level Target Level Activities focussed on this goal for week commencing: xx/yy/zz Goal Achievement / Barriers?
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
·         Body composition ·         Reduce body fat by 3Kg from last year Current weight 75Kg 70Kg Calorie deficit of 500Kcal each day
·         Power & efficiency on climbs ·         Develop ability to use poles without conscious effort Uphill miles/week with poles 2 10 1 mile 2 miles
·         Muscle damage on long downhills ·         Complete 7,500ft of descent in a day without DOMS  Muscle soreness following long hilly trail runs 6 out of 10 0 out of 10 12 x 30 sec. downhill sprints Long trail run accumulating 5000ft descent


By creating and completing a log such as this for each week, you will have a clear record of the key performance attributes you are working on, the goals (the example above just has one goal for each attribute, but you would often set more than one goal per attribute) you are currently working towards to develop these attributes, the indicator/s that you are using to evaluate goal achievement, the activities you have planned that week to work towards these goals and whether you completed these activities successfully. Doing this will allow you to monitor your progress towards you goals. Once you have been training for a few weeks and your goal setting logs start to accumulate, you can use them to evaluate whether your current training activities are helping you to progress at the rate needed to achieve your specified goals. If this is not the case, the first thing to do is look at the activities you are engaging in to achieve them. Do you need to increase the volume/frequency of these activities, or are there alternative activities you could try? For instance, for the first goal above you could adjust the target calorie deficit initially. If this didn’t help, then altering the macronutrient balance (e.g., reducing carbs and increasing protein) in your diet could be an alternative. However, reviewing your goal-setting log may suggest the problem is not necessary the effectiveness of the activities, but that barriers are preventing you from completing the activities in the first place. For example, you may be finding work/family commitments are getting in the way of your planned downhill sprint sessions; in which case would scheduling these sessions at different times/locations help?

However, it may be that even after you have made adjustments to volume, frequency, scheduling and type of activities a review of your goal-setting logs still shows progress is slower than needed. If this is the case then it is probably time to look at revaluating your goals. Is it that you originally set the goal too high, or that you are just not able to do enough of what is needed to progress at the required rate for this goal? If this is the case then maybe you need to lower your goal to a more achievable level within the remaining timeframe. If you do this then you should also consider what knock on implications doing so may have for your overall performance and outcome goals for the race. For some performance attributes though, there may be a better option than lowering your goal. Instead, what you could do is look at alternative goals to help you work towards the same performance attribute. Try to remember at this point that the overall aim is to develop the key performance attributes you need to improve most, so if there are other goals you can work towards that help you to develop the same performance attribute then adjusting your subservient process goals doesn’t necessarily mean you have to alter your overall performance/outcome goals. For example, for the second performance attribute in the example log above, you may find you are not getting on with poles, and you find them to be more of an annoyance than a facilitator of your power and efficiency on climbs. In such a case you could remove the goal to develop the ability to use poles without conscious effort, and replace it with a goal focussed on leg power, such as one based on gym work (e.g., max. squat in Kg) and/or plyometric training (e.g., number of box jumps in a minute) to help you become more powerful on climbs. These are just some examples to get you thinking, but the take home message is to keep monitoring and evaluating your progress in a systematic manner so that it isn’t too late before you realise the training activities you are engaged in are not sufficient to get you were you want to be to achieve your overall performance/outcome goals. I should also point out that such monitoring and evaluating can also identify when you are progressing more quickly than you anticipated. When this occurs, you may decide to increase your goal/s in that area, and/or replace planned developmental activities with those for another key performance attribute. Again, when making any such adjustments it is important to consider how these changes may lead you to increase your overall performance/outcome goals for the race.

To conclude, in this blog we have looked at potential barriers to goal achievement and how to overcome them, how to monitor and evaluate progress towards your goals and when it may be appropriate to revise your goals. If you have followed the recommendations across the four blogs to this point, you should not only have identified your training goals and the overall ideal performance goal you are working towards, but also have the skills required to monitor, evaluate and adjust these goals as you progress through your training. As such, hopefully you are now in a position to start the training that will allow you to achieve these goals and maximise your performance in July. As discussed previously, the aim of this series was to address and integrate both training and race-day goals, and in the next blog we will start to make the transition from training goals (which hopefully you now have set) to race-day goals. Whilst progressing through your training over the next couple of months, monitoring your goal progress will allow you to start to accumulate information that will feed into your race-day goals. In the next blog we will look at how you can use this information to inform your race-day goals. In doing so we will identify key information (e.g., process goal completion, performances in build-up races) that you should be looking to record, and how this can be used to develop your race-day goals.

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