Why Setting More Than One Race Goal Is Not A Good Idea
Don't give yourself an easy 'out' for reaching your goals—instead, see why many coaches recommend working toward one thing.
Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
I used to think that setting three goals for each race was a smart way to train when really, I was just giving myself an “out” if my race day plans fell through. I would typically set an “A” goal, which was a reach, a “B” goal which I was pretty sure I could attain and a “C” goal of just to finish.
Here’s how setting one goal sets up your mind and body for success: If you are only visualizing your A game, you are more likely to bring it!
“If you plan on being anything less than you’re capable of being you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life.” – Abraham Maslow
What Do You Want?
If you can’t answer the question, “What do you want?” quickly and simply, you need to figure it out.
If you have one clearly defined, very specific goal, whether it be time, pace or “just to finish” be sure your body and mind agree on it. Go into each workout with the focus of working toward that goal. By practicing mentally and physically to attain it, you will be one step closer to reaching it on race day.
Expectation assimilation is the fancy science term for how our brain and body match and fulfill our expectations. In Dr. Stan Beecham’s book, Elite Minds, he shares a story about former University of Georgia basketball coach Tubby Smith.
Beecham found that Smith’s athletes were not getting injured at the same rate as other athletes and he wanted to know why. He went to Tubby and asked him what his team was doing differently. Here is what Tubby said:
“I tell my team we are not going to get injured. We will do the things we need to do to prevent injury, we will warm up before practice and do some exercises to keep strong, so we will simply not get injured.”
As a great coach, Tubby Smith formatted his athletes’ expectations around injury and shaped their actions and physiology.
In this same vein, you can shape your brain to focus on a singular goal and your body will follow. If you don’t completely expect to attain your goal, you won’t and, if you have more than one goal, you’re only confusing your mind and body. It isn’t luck that determines success, it’s expectation. If you believe you can achieve your goal and you believe you deserve to achieve it based on your training, there will be no stopping you.
Set One Goal, But Be Okay With The Outcome
The impossible is done by those who are willing to risk it all. Those who risk the most, achieve the most. Sometimes though when you risk everything, you lose. Trying your best and not reaching your goal usually only makes you want it more. Therefore, there is no need to set three goals since if you’re prepared and have trained hard toward a singular goal and do not achieve it, you have still won.