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How to set Goals by creating new Habits

You probably just touched the wall for your final race of your summer season…now what? After wrapping up your long course season, it is now time to turn the page and head to the next chapter of your swim career. Every swimmer is in a different position; some recently competed at the highest level, perhaps earning an Olympic Trials or Junior National cut. Other swimmers just finished their first season, still trying to perform every race legally. Regardless of where you sit on the performance spectrum, every athlete should have goals. Every organization has a goal. The military has a goal to defeat the enemy. Businesses strive to grow their companies by increasing revenue and decreasing expenses. Schools have a goal to educate students to the best of their abilities. In a similar manner, all swimmers and athletes should have goals. But when we sit down to write our goals, most of us get overwhelmed. Questions arise such as…

  • How should I create goals?

  • Should I make realistic or unrealistic goals?

  • Short-term or long-term goals?

  • How do I make my goals come to reality?

In this blog, we will answer all of these questions. Many swimmers set a goal at the beginning of the season, and fail to reach it. Maybe the goal is a state cut, or finishing on the podium at Nationals. Whatever the goal is, we often fall short. Why is that? It’s because we only focus on setting the goal without establishing the proper habits to reach that goal. Nationally renowned author and habit expert, James Clear, says, “You do not rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems.” Your systems are the habits you create in your daily life to reach your goals. Many people have the goal of making it to the Olympic Trials Meet. So what separates the swimmers who make the cut versus those who fall short? The difference is the consistency of your habits. Almost all swimmers follow a similar pattern of behaviors…

  • Swim Practice

  • Dryland

  • Sleeping

  • Diet

  • Hydration

  • Mindset

What separates the good from the great is how consistent you are with the above behaviors.

  • Swim Practice: Are you focusing on technique, times, and performance at practice? Are you really giving it your all?

  • Dryland: In the weight room, are you improving upon your athleticism so that your dryland makes a positive impact on the pool?

  • Sleep: Do you make an effort to optimize your sleep? Are you truly sleeping 8-9 hours a night to reach full recovery?

  • Diet: Are you properly fueling consistently on a day-to-day basis? How do you ensure that you are hitting your protein intake everyday?

  • Hydration: Are you properly hydrating for each practice and meet? Do you make a conscious effort to drink water and electrolytes throughout the day?

  • Mindset: Are you optimizing your performance by feeding your mind positive thoughts? Do you try to become tougher, grittier, and mentally stronger with each opportunity?

All of the above questions are focused on everyday habits, not your desired goals. So instead of focusing on your goals, focus on the habits you will create. Let’s run through an example. Goal: Be top 3 in the state in the 100 Fly. What do I need to improve? I need to work on my underwaters, shoulder strength, and endurance in the last 12.5 yards of the race. Habits I need to create:

  • Underwaters: Every day, I will stay after practice to do 6 x 25s with 15 yds being fast underwater.

  • Shoulder Strength: In dryland, I will place a special emphasis on overhead dumbbell shoulder press, increasing my weight by 10 lbs per dumbbell by the end of this 6 month season.

  • Endurance: I will increase my sleep time from 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night to improve my recovery. This will ensure that I can give a full effort at practice the next day; therefore, improving my endurance.

Notice how specific you should make your desired habits. The main takeaway remains to focus on your habits, not your desired goals. It is important and necessary to have goals. But more importantly, what habits will you incorporate to make those goals come to reality?



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