In honor of my upcoming workshop at the Wipro San Francisco Marathon Expo, I decided to write a post for all of you amazing athletes out there with an upcoming race!
(If you’re going to be out at the expo the day before marathon, come check out my workshop at 9:30a the day before the race! The workshop is all about mentally preparing for the challenges of race day. I’ll be sharing the top 5 essential mental skills training tips for “enduring your endurance event” and accomplishing your race day goals!)
“Do I have to have a race goal?”
No. But you may decide that you want to after you read this post. Some athletes shy away from having race goals because they feel like it puts too much pressure on them to perform. For those athletes, just thinking about setting a race goal produces anxiety. If you find yourself in this category (and even if you don’t!) here are three specific benefits to convince you to reconsider the importance of having a race day goal:
- Race goals help direct your energy and focus –Race day is full of excitement, energy, and distractions. Having a specific goal for your race will make it less likely for you to be distracted by cues that are unrelated to your performance. With a clear goal it will be easier to conserve energy by deciphering what is important to pay attention to and what isn’t.
- Race goals help you persevere in the face of race day challenges –When you have a specific goal you are working towards and you are committed to that goal, you are more likely to see ways to adapt and adjust to race day challenges. Rather than seeing them as insurmountable obstacles and giving up, your goal helps you to be resilient and keep moving forward.
- Race goals help you push through when your body is ready to give up –If you’re just along for the ride, you are less likely to push yourself in that moment when the going gets tough. When your body is suffering due to the exertion you are putting out you often come to face a psychological hurdle.
“Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up.”– Gen. George S. Patton, Olympic Pentathlete
If you reach the end of your race and feel like you could have done better, there was a moment during your race when you held back. Having that specific goal helps you dig deep in those moments and overcome that psychological hurdle so you know that at the end of your race you gave everything you had to give.
Time to Set a Goal
If your heart starts racing, palms start sweating, and you feel a little nauseous when it comes to setting race goals, chances are that you’re only thinking about an outcome goal for your race. Think about an upcoming race and finish this sentence: “It would feel amazing if I could walk away and say that…”
If the end of that sentence is an outcome goal, then you need to set another goal that tells you what do you need to do during the race in order to accomplish that outcome goal. Setting a more task-related goal helps keep your focus where it needs to be and puts the control into your hands. Instead of feeling pressure to perform and keeping your focus in the future, it keeps you grounded in the moment and focused on what you need to do right now in order to set yourself up for success. Even if your goal for every competition is to win, you still have to have the goal that tells you how you’re going to do it.