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Why goal setting is hard if you've been training for a while

Nicole Cowell goals


If you are like me and have been training for a while (for me it's around 5 years) you may find that goal setting is hard. I am huge believer in setting goals (for fitness, work, your personal life) and I do not normally struggle with setting goals or achieving them but lately setting fitness goals has been a challenge.


How do I define success at this thing? This sport is constantly evolving and getting more competitive. We all know the sport is measurable so it should be easy to track improvement, but after a while PRs are few and far between and that isn't enough to define improvement.


What about the Open you say? It is the ultimate gauge of how you are going compared to others. Yes this is true to a point but I would argue everyone is getting better and getting better fast. You may have improved A LOT and not see an improvement on the Open leader-board.


If I look at my case, I am 40 so now compete in the 40-44 Masters Category for the Open/Qualifiers/Games. I consider myself good but not great at this sport. I am good enough to come Top 200 in the world in the Open and participate in the masters qualifiers where I came 120th in 2016 (well outside the Top 20 who make the Games). I have set an arbitrary target of getting Top 100 in 2017 but I have no idea if that is achievable. It is very hard to climb the leader-board when you are at the pointy end. Everyone around you is good. Everyone around you is getting better. The question is are you getting better faster than everyone else? And unfortunately that question is hard to answer.


So then we look outside the Open to set goals. What about lifting goals? Gymnastics? What about benchmark workout goals? Sure I have set those. I have had the same snatch goal for 2 years now - I am getting closer to it but I am still not quite there. Has my lifting got better? Yes for sure but I have technically not achieved my goal. PRs are very hard to come by if you've been doing it for a while!


So what are my Goals? I just want to be better at EVERYTHING (not too much to ask is it?). Yes I know this is not a SMART goal and goes against every experts advice when it comes to goal setting. But it's the best I can come up with. I will continue to set specific goals that I hope to achieve (155# snatch, 200# C&J, linking muscle-ups again with no shoulder pain) and these goals will be there to keep me motivated, keep me focused and driven. But if I fail to achieve them I know I have not failed.


I want to look back on each year and ask myself have I enjoyed what I have done? Have I worked hard? Have I improved myself? If the answer is yes then mission accomplished...I have got better.


So what is my point with this blog? The point is this: set some goals that you think are realistic for you, but in the end you need to flexible in judging how successful you were in achieving them. You may have improved out of sight and still miss some goals and that is ok! Push yourself to be better and be happy with that.

 And if you are doing the Open - Good Luck!



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  • Nicole on

    Thanks Chris, you are correct and yes funnily enough I did PR today! Looking forward to the Open now. : )

  • Chris on

    Great post! If you ask me within the few years I have known you have improved dramatically! You are putting the work in and getting better and better every day. I believe you PR’d today. I agree everyone gets better, faster and young ones are coming up every year. At the end of the day you know if you have improved and that really is the only thing you can control. If you have enjoyed the process and gained strength and confidence then the rest is icing!

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