Setting Personal Swimming Goals -by Michael Collins

Michael Collins is the head coach of Davis Aquatic Masters and was selected Coach of theYear by USMS in 1988

Although most of you donít consider yourself to be "competitive" swimmers, this is not an excuse for not setting goals in your swimming. Doing anything without some sort of purpose will become dull, boring, and repetitive before too long. Goals are necessary to keep one motivated to continue - especially on very cold days, early morning workouts, etc.

Iím sure youíve been told many times, maybe from parents, teachers, bosses, or even a swim coach, to set goals. Whatís so important about setting goals? "It seems so silly to spend the time to sit down and write the things you already know you want to do. "I just want to swim" you may say. "I set goals for my career, but I donít need to set goals for my recreation." This sounds reasonable, but is not true if you take a closer look.

Deep inside, we all need justification for everything we do. Itís human nature to feel the need for accomplishment. The reward of completing a task worked hard at, is something we all strive for, whether itís in the working world or in our personal life. What are you trying to accomplish by swimming?

Make some short and long terms goals for this year. Try to set many goals. If you only set one or two simple or wishy-washy goals it probably wonít help to motivate you. The more goals you set, the more chance for success you have. Remember, you havenít lost anything if you donít reach a particular goal, but you have accomplished something when you do achieve one. Be specific whenever possible, including number (distances, times, places, dates, etc.) Many of you donít realize how much progress you have made. If you record your times or milage you may be surprise by how much progress youíve reall made.

Overcome the Fear of Failure: I have noticed that many swimmerís donít set goals to improve swimming skills, or enter events to check their progress due to a "fear of failure." When asked to do a timed swim in workout, or to enter some other event (such as the One Hour Postal swim), do you say "Oh no, Iím not in shape! "Iím too slow." Or "I donít think I can do as well as last year." These are fear of failure answers. So what if you donít go as far. So what if youíre not the fastest. Itís the process of trying to improve thatís important. A great quote I like to refer to goes like this: "Failure is not the worst thing in the world. The very worst is not to try." However, chances are youíll be quite please with the results, and occasionally reach your goals.

Editorís note: In this newsletter is an event calender and an entry form for the February Fitness Challenge Postal event. Commit now to participating in at least two of these upcoming events in the next six months and tell someone, preferably your coach, which you have selected. Studies on goal setting show that people who made specific goals and told someone else about those goals achieved a higher percentage of their goals than people who didnít set any goals or perple who set gaols but never told anyone. For fitness or lap swimmers who feel you "are not ready" to swim in a meet, you are. But if you convince yourself that you are not, try the February Fitness Challenge which can be done in the privacy of your own local pool or during a organized Master workout or meet. Youíll be surprised how a simple committment to add up your yardage during the month of February by entering the event, will motivate you to attend more workouts (and perhaps sit on the wall less) and leave you heading into spring with a higher energy level. Perhaps by summer, youíll be willing to try your first ocean event. Anythingís possible with the right attitude!

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