As an athlete, you are probably familiar with goal setting. It is one of the appeals of sport. Goals are born of ideas. You create a vision, consult with advisors and coaches, develop a strategy, execute said strategy, evaluate the outcome, and repeat with fervor. But goals require measurable objectives to mark success along the way—a kind of road map on your journey, a light unto your path, peanut butter to your jelly, so to speak.
By first defining personal success, you allow for the creation of an action plan toward a greater vision, a greater you. Success looks different for every person, and, as my good friend Kim once told me, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” We have unique gifts and interests, so don’t peak into your neighbors’ lanes to see what they are doing. Just be the best version of you.
Be an idealist when setting your goals; be an optimist on the road to pursuing them; and be a realist when assessing the honest endeavor.
My first goal-setting experience was with my mom in 1996. We lived in the Atlanta area, and our family finally made it to the Olympic swimming venue. I can’t tell you what event we saw; I can’t even tell you who stood on the podium wearing USA gear, hand over heart, singing the national anthem, but I knew. I looked my mom square in the face, and I told her I was going to be an Olympic swimmer. The sides of her lips curled up as she let out a chuckle while she watched me, a messy-haired 6-year-old, stomp my foot and watch the fireworks that celebrated the gold-medal win for the USA. Little did we know the commitment our family signed up for or how long the road to Beijing would be. It is not skill that makes an Olympian: For me, it was the affirmative language, the unquestioning desire, the rock of my family and my faith in Christ, and the unconditional love and support that made my Olympic dream a reality. If we consistently move toward and become the pictures we paint in our minds, then let us guard our hearts and filter what we let ourselves “ingest” in our daily routines. To quote from 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
You have probably heard one or a few of the following: Life’s about the journey, not the destination; be present; believe in belief; live in the moment, and so on. Learning is part of growth, a part of change. Giving yourself time to absorb what you learn is a necessary ingredient. Give yourself time to rest.
As athletes, rest is easier said than done, but rest allows us to slow down—to visualize, to reevaluate and reenergize. All action can be purposeful, but all action does not have to be physically active. Accept your circumstance with gratitude and always move forward.
I distinctly remember the first time I met Brendan Hansen, the U.S. swim team captain at the 2012 London Olympics. It was 2006, and I was a young 16-year-old on my first national team. When Brendan sat next to me, I scrambled to find things to talk about so he would think I was one of the cool kids. I asked him—the day after he broke his umpteenth world record for the meet—“Do you still get nervous before races?” He looked me straight in the face and began to laugh out loud, saying, “Of course! You think the nerves go away? No way… if anything they get worse because of other people’s expectations! You have to learn to stay in your own lane, control what you can control, and let everything else go. You have to be confident in your preparation.”
Life’s biggest lessons come from the moments we allow to happen. When we allow tunnel vision to expand into the whole life experience, we create possibility, and we generate the enthusiasm and excitement necessary for our motivation, which is necessary for our action.
Your Goal-Setting Game Plan
400–600 free; swim every fourth 25 backstroke (this opens up the shoulders)
300–400 kick; every fourth 25 all-out kick (this warms up the legs)
200 IM: 25 fly, 25 free, 3 breaths/ 25 back, 25 free, 2 breaths / 25 breast, 25 free, 1 breath / 25 free, 25 no breaths (holistic warm up and spiked heart rate without taxing the muscles)
200 pull breathing 2–3 times per lap, or pull back or pull breast (10–20 seconds rest)
2 x 125 IM (Round 1: 50 fly, 25 back, 25 breast, 25 free/ Round 2: 25 fly, 50 back, 25 breast, 25 free/ Round 3: 25 fly, 25 back, 50 breast, 25 free/ Round 4: 25 fly, 25 back, 25 breast, 50 free) (20–30 seconds rest)
4 x 50 One swim, one kick on the same interval; the kick should be touch and go, and the swim should be fairly fast as well (if you need to modify, add time to the kick, but make it short rest)
200: 50 kick, 100 swim with double arm backstroke, 50 swim
Total distance: 3,700–4,000 yards/meters
This workout will challenge your speed and endurance. Try training faster and just watch yourself race faster next season!