Motivation in Sport

Exercising on a regular basis and maintaining training regimes can sometimes be a daunting task. Keeping to tiring or demanding training schedules, illness and sometimes just ‘burn out’ are a few things which can get in the way of you maintaining your fitness routine, but these can be easily and simply managed with a little organisation. Providing yourself structure in your training will break down the work load and make the task seem more manageable, giving you more easily attainable short and long term goals.

Being S.M.A.R.T - Setting Goals

The S.M.A.R.T principle allows you to manage your goals and motivate yourself steadily with more attainable targets. Each letter stands for an element or condition your goal should contain.

  • Specific: Your goal should be a specific one, research shows that a goal is more motivating if it focuses on one specific aspect of your training. For example, you may want to get faster, but this kind of general goal doesn’t allow you to focus and so won’t motivate you well. Instead, say that you want to shorten the amount of time it takes you to run a specific distance by a certain amount of time, such as: reduce 5 mile run time by a minute in 8 months. This will give you a clear a definite goal to aim for.
  • Measurable: You need to be able to measure your progress towards your goal. Documenting your progress so you can see its development will show you how you are improving and will motivate you. Measuring your progress at certain intervals will allow you to chart how you are doing. Using the example before, you could time yourself twice a month to see how you are reducing your run time.
  • Adjustable: Your goals need to be adjustable in case something were to go wrong. Life can throw the unexpected at you at any time, so you need to make sure your plans are flexible enough to accommodate potential problems. Incidents like injury may force you to change you plans, for example if you were planning to run a marathon you may need to consider running only half. Injuries don’t have to mean that you abandon you plans altogether. On the other hand, you might find that the goal you set yourself was too easy and you are progressing quicker than you thought you would, in this case it might be appropriate to raise your goal to accommodate your potential. You should try to make your goals focus on personal action, i.e. not just what you want to achieve but how you plan to achieve it. Organising a fitness training plan will help you visualise how you will attain your goal.
  • Realistic: The goal you set yourself should be realistic. Consider where you are at the moment and use that as a starting point, then increase your goals gradually considering what you believe you can achieve. Using the running example, it is unrealistic to aim to run a marathon if you haven’t yet been able to run 5 miles. It can be a long term goal, but in the short term instead try increasing the distance you run slowly to build up your stamina and endurance. Also try to bear in mind that as you become fitter and closer to your full potential the room for further improvement becomes smaller. Your progress should look like an upwards curve and should level out as you reach your peak fitness. On the other hand, try not to set goals which are too easy for you as you will feel less satisfied when you attain them.
  • Time-Based: You should aim to achieve your goals within a certain time period, like in the first point. Having a time limit will deter you from procrastinating and encourage you to achieve your goal. Time limits will also allow you see your target and know what you can achieve in a certain amount of time. Using a combination of long and short term goals is best as shorter time restraints will keep you on track and stop you from becoming bored or complacent on route to you long term goal.

Re-evaluating your goals every 2-3 months will help keep you interested and motivated as well as on target. Goals are important in outlining what it is you hope to achieve and helping you reach your potential. This kind of structure will allow you to see your progress and attain your targets.