Psyched Up or Psyched Out?


Me, my trophy and my friend Rochelle (who took 3rd place OVERALL in the Olympic division. I should train with her a little more often). Credit: Jared Seymour

I really like concrete goals. I like having something to aim for, and I like concrete measures of success. I even like knowing what kind of work I need to do to achieve those goals.

(I also enjoy lists and spreadsheets. Now who’s ready to party?)

I should mention that, as much as I like setting goals, I tend to set them pretty high. You know, shoot for the moon and all that. Needless to say, I don’t always meet my goals, but I’m okay with having something to continue working toward; room for improvement isn’t a bad thing.

But, this weekend, I lowered my expectations. I had a sprint triathlon, and honestly, I knew I wasn’t prepared. Between insane travel for work and other obligations, I haven’t done the kind of training one should do to aim for a PR in a race. I mean, I like to set (and meet) goals, but I also know my limitations, and I knew that this weekend wasn’t the weekend to aim for a speedy bike ride or a sub 30-minute 5K run.

So, I modified. The swim was really short—just 1/4 mile, which is about 400 yards. I knew I could kill it, and I knew that, unless there happened to be some really serious swimmers in my division, I could really compete. So I decided that I would put everything I had into the swim, and then coast along for the bike and the run. The only goal I had was to be the first woman in my division out of the water. After that, I was just going to have a good time, enjoy the atmosphere, get a good workout and then claim my free beer at the end.

I ended up meeting that goal, having a really, really excellent race, and taking 2nd place in my division.

Umm, say what?

I have absolutely no idea how that happened. I  really hadn’t trained, and it wasn’t a matter of being up against a slow group; I would’ve been thrilled with my performance whether I’d placed or not. The only factor I can think of is my change in attitude. I’ve always assumed that setting a challenging goal for myself was a way to get psyched up, but is it possible that I’m psyching myself out? Is there a chance that, as soon as that goal seems out of reach, some part of me…gives up?

I truly don’t know. What I do know is that this was one of the most enjoyable and successful races I’ve done, and I definitely want to recreate that experience. I’ve got a 5K on Saturday, so I think I’m going to try that nonchalant attitude once again and see what happens.

But I’m curious. Have you ever changed up your goal-setting strategy and seen a big difference? Tell me all about it. Please! —Kristen

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  1. Congrats on the race!! And I too find that sometimes when I take the pressure off myself I find the most positive results.

  2. Lee Morgan says:

    Hi Kristen,

    Congrats on taking second place! That, plus the fact that you got your butt into the competition is a great achievement. I’m always telling myself how much I want to compete in a race, but somehow I never get around to it.

    In terms of goal-setting, you might be onto something here. While it’s always a good idea to have long-term goals and to ensure that we’re challenged, sometimes we can lose sight of just how high we’ve set our expectations. I struggle with that from week to week. I strive to work out hard and plenty on top of being social, taking care of my apartment, having time to myself, and so forth. Tough business it is!

    I think there’s something to be said for “lowering your expectations.” It probably goes hand in hand with understanding how much our body really is capable of achieving, and how fast we want to see the results. Maybe your nonchalance lets you keep things in perspective and pace yourself adequately. Perhaps we can all take a cue from this. It may be hard clean up our diet by going cold turkey, or even more difficult to get to the point where we’re training intensely 6 days a week. We have to pace ourselves and remember to keep the journey in perspective.

    As I’m writing this and thinking about your example, I’m thinking about my own weekly goal of working, oh, 5-6 days this week. For me right now, 5 seems more probable. I can always aim for 6, but with nonchalance; if I make it, bonus, if not, I was anticipating 5 workouts anyway. I think the thing with goals is that they always need to be re-evaluated and tweaked appropriately, since, as we know, so many things in our lives change.

    Congrats again on your race. Good luck this Sat! I shall try to make it to 5 workouts this week 😉



  3. Naomi Ganzu says:

    Congrats on the race! I am trying to be fit myself 🙂
    http://www.naomiganzu.com Can we follow each other? I am on GFC G+ and Bloglovin! Do add me and I will add you right back ^_^