Before setting your goals, let’s start with some background on different types of goals. You will then use these ideas to formulate your own goals in the practical applications in this section of the course.
When talking about goals, it’s useful to distinguish between outcome goals, performance goals (or standards), and process goals.
Outcome Goals (race times/places)
Outcome goals are what we typically think of as “goals.” These are big future goals that typically involve a particular race or event, such as targeting a time or place.
We have the least control over outcome goals, but they allow us to target a tangible result we want to achieve.
Examples of outcome goals:
- Run a sub-3-hour marathon
- Place in the top-10 at the Local 10K
- Qualify for the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc
- Finish the Leadville Trail 100 under 30 hours
Performance Standards (how you “show up”)
Performance goals are the principles that guide how you show up as an athlete during training and racing regardless of the obstacles you may encounter. Think of these as standards that you’ve set for yourself in terms of attitude, effort, preparation, and mindset.
We have control over these if we train to implement them, but implementing them is not automatic without practice. So develop your performance standards and practice them every day during training. You want your performance standards to become your default settings for how you execute as an athlete, whether in training or racing.
As with all goals, your performance standards are specific to you. They should reflect who you are and what you want to achieve. In an upcoming practical application, you will have the opportunity to set your performance standards.
To illustrate what these can look like, below are the performance standards I developed for myself. I strive to implement these in my daily training and racing. I’ve labeled each performance standard with a short title that makes it easy to remember, allowing me to quickly run through each one in my mind to facilitate implementation.
Examples of my performance standards:
- Mindfulness. Pay attention in each present moment with purpose and without judgment.
- Gratitude. Be grateful for the opportunities and challenges that arise while engaged in endurance activities.
- Growth mindset. Use setbacks and obstacles as opportunities for learning and growth.
- Best effort. Do what you can do in each moment with what you’ve got on that day.
- Fueling/hydration. Consistently monitor and maintain consistent blood sugar and hydration levels to keep a clear mind and support performance.
Process Goals (smaller executable steps)
Process goals are the smaller executable steps you need to take along the path to reach your outcome goal — daily, weekly, monthly goals that are connected to the larger outcome. If outcome goals represent your destination, then process goals represent the intermediary steps you need to take to reach your destination.
A popular way companies track their outcome and process goals is through the goal-setting framework known as OKRs, which stands for objectives and key results. In the OKR framework, outcome goals are called objectives and process goals are called key results. There are typically 3-5 key results associated with each objective, providing the measurable success criteria used to track movement toward each objective. If you use OKRs at work, you may find it preferable to think in terms of OKRs when setting your athletic goals; but keep in mind this is just another way of talking about outcome and process goals.
Process goals feed into your outcome goals, so they need to be developed by working backwards from those outcome goals. An upcoming practical application walks you through this backwards design process to set your outcome and process goals.
We have the most control over process goals since these represent process-oriented steps we can take to keep us moving toward our final destination. The destination may be set, but the route we take to get there is more within our control as we make adjustments along the way to ensure we stay on a path that will take us where we want to go.
Examples of process goals:
- Eat a good meal the night before my long runs
- Hydrate with a sports drink every 20-30 minutes during my long runs
- Do 15 minutes/day of mobility work at least 5 days/week
- Consistently follow my training plan
- Sleep at least 8 hours each night