Plan your goals right

By Jim on Thursday, May 10, 2012

 You train 3-4 times per week because paddling is a significant part of your life, but is not your entire life… You have a full-time job that takes up most of your week, and you may even have other social commitments such as family and friends that eat into the waking hours of a 168-hour week. So, when it comes to race day, the reality is that you may not be achieving podium finishes. The lack of top 3’s or even wins doesn’t necessarily mean that you cannot achieve a ‘win’ for yourself and your paddling endeavors.
There are practical ways to make your 3-4 training sessions valuable contributors to your personal paddling progress and satisfaction. More specifically, effective goal setting is a tried and tested strategy that can assist in achieving ‘wins’.
Goal setting is not a new nor unique concept to most dedicated paddlers, however paddlers can often fall short of engaging in effective goal setting practices.
Outcomes in sport are typically the main point of reference when performance accomplishments are assessed, however there are several other ways that you can measure your achievement, which will provide some inspiration for all of your perspiration.
Outcome goals are those that are related to results and competition compared to others. They involve aspects such as winning a race, attaining a certain ranking, or being selected into a team/squad. Outcome goals are important because they are often your primary drivers for all the work you put in and they also help to determine your required work rate. However, it is important to note that you have very little control over these goals and as such your paddling will benefit from having performance and process goals to support the achievement of outcome goals.

Although outcomes are wonderful to achieve, the reality may be that your quantity of training is nowhere near enough to achieve these comparative goals. You need to develop performance goals that help you to set realistic personal indicators of your own progress. This is particularly important if you are one of the majority of paddlers that are not intending to dedicate their entire life to training and competitive paddling pursuits.
Performance goals are those that are related to the individual components of your performance and they are your personal performance indicators of your progress. Generally, these goals can be broken up into four areas: technical, physical, mental, and tactical. For example, in paddling they involve things such as your posture for superior paddling technique, your power, your mind’s steely focus, and your ability to deal with a variety of conditions on the water, respectively. These goals are important because they are the areas of your performance that must be improved if you are going to achieve your outcome goals and/or improve your all-round paddling skills. They provide relatively objective measures of your progress towards your outcome goals as you can often set performance goals that you can measure. For example, one way to measure your posture for superior technique is via semi-regular video analysis and feedback.

And, now to how you make these changes occur…Processes are the little things that you focus on in training and competition to keep you working towards the changes you want to achieve in your paddling performance.

Process goals are those that are related to how you improve your performance goals and are the things you do each day, or each week or each month in order to improve as a paddler. They involve things like your training sessions, your eating plan, your use of certain mental skills. These goals are important because you have close to 100% control over them and whether you do or do not do them. They are the little things that whether done well or not make the difference between a good performer and a great performer.

Once you have dedicated yourself to setting effective goals, you can then refer and review your goals to ensure that there are ‘wins’ achieved in your training (e.g., when you break a certain time for a specific set) and racing (e.g., when you successful execute a race plan that you and your coach have been working on). These are two of numerous examples of personal ‘wins’ that you can achieve that undoubtedly contribute to personal excellence.
Working with a sport psychologist can help you to determine how you plan, monitor, and judge your ‘wins’. The state and national institute and academies of sport canoe-kayak programs have been successfully accessing sport psychology services within their sports science sports medicine team. Andrea Furst has been the national team sport psychologist for sprint canoe-kayak since 2006. Contact Andrea Furst from Mental Notes Consulting –, for further information on how you can integrate psychological skills into your paddling performances at training and competition.