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New Year, New Habits: Optimizing Performance, One Habit at a Time



As the New Year approaches and you’re contemplating your New Year’s Resolutions, perhaps there’s some performance goals or habits you’re looking to build to support your athletic endeavors. It’s pivotal to lay the groundwork in order to successfully cultivate these new habits. Shaping effective habits isn’t simply setting the intention for change, but also requires constructing a solid foundation for those habits to stick. 


Let’s explore the blueprint for bringing those new habits to fruition and elevate your athletic performance. 


Setting S.M.A.R.T Goals


Goal setting is not just about envisioning a desired end result, but rather is a strategic process that builds towards that goal; a roadmap to the destination. Understanding the nuances and intricacies of effective goal setting can be the difference between average and exceptional when it comes to achieving performance goals. 


Setting S.M.A.R.T. goals is a method that involves crafting your objectives to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Using S.M.A.R.T. goals, you can transform vague, generic aspirations into well thought out plans. Let’s look at how we can rephrase some typical goals to make them S.M.A.R.T. goals.


Specific:

  • Generic goal: "Improve my running."

  • Specific goal: "Increase my running endurance by completing a 5k without stopping within the next three months."


Measurable:

  • Non-measurable goal: "Enhance my basketball skills."

  • Measurable goal: "Achieve an 80% success rate in free throw shots by practicing 30 minutes daily for six weeks."


Achievable:

  • Unrealistic goal: "Win a marathon next month with no prior long-distance running experience."

  • Achievable goal: "Complete a half-marathon in eight months by following a structured training plan and gradually increasing mileage."


Relevant:

  • Irrelevant goal: "Learn to juggle three balls proficiently for track and field."

  • Relevant goal: "Enhance agility and coordination by incorporating 15 minutes of ladder drills into weekly speed training sessions."


Time-bound:

  • Open-ended goal: "Improve my swimming technique."

  • Time-bound goal: "Reduce my 100m freestyle time by 5 seconds within the next two months through daily stroke refinement practice."


As you may notice with these examples, goals don’t always have to be outcome-based, but can be performance-oriented instead. Approaching goals this way allows athletes to focus on what is within their control - technique refinement, consistency in training, mental fortitude, etc. - fostering growth and development rather than an expectation of immediate results. 


Athletes understand mindset and the mental component is just as big of a piece as the physical component when it comes to success in sport; clear, well-defined goals instill a sense of purpose and build confidence as they are achieved. They create a roadmap, fostering commitment and discipline, and cultivating mental resilience, which is crucial when it comes to navigating challenges and setbacks in sports. 


Assessing Current Habits and Performance


Now that we’ve considered how to apply the S.M.A.R.T. goal format to our New Year’s Resolutions and new habits, it’s important to assess current habits and performance. To embark on this journey effectively and reach the destination, you need a clear understanding of where you currently stand.


Start by delving into a comprehensive self-assessment. This involves introspection and evaluation of existing routines, habits, and performance metrics. It's about pinpointing what works, what needs improvement, and what might be holding back optimal performance. Track training sessions, competition results, recovery periods, nutrition, sleep patterns, and even mental preparedness. This holistic approach paints a vivid picture of an athlete's present state.


For example

Training Sessions:

  • Example: Log details of workouts, including exercises, duration, intensity, and perceived exertion.

  • Assessment: Analyze whether the current training regimen aligns with performance goals. Assess if specific exercises or training styles yield better results.

Competition Results:

  • Example: Keep a record of competition outcomes, including strengths and weaknesses observed during each event.

  • Assessment: Identify patterns in performance under pressure. Highlight areas where consistency or specific skills may need improvement for better competitive results.

Recovery Periods:

  • Example: Monitor post-training or post-competition recovery strategies, such as rest days, stretching routines, or recovery aids used.

  • Assessment: Evaluate whether recovery periods adequately restore energy levels and reduce fatigue. Assess if adjustments are needed for better recovery.

Nutrition:

  • Example: Maintain a food diary noting daily intake, meal timing, hydration, and supplements.

  • Assessment: Analyze if nutritional choices align with energy needs and support training demands. Identify areas for improvement in nutrient intake or meal timing.

Sleep Patterns:

  • Example: Keep a sleep log recording bedtime, wake time, sleep quality, and any disruptions.

  • Assessment: Assess if sleep patterns contribute to feeling rested and rejuvenated. Evaluate whether adjustments to sleep habits could optimize recovery and performance.

Mental Preparedness:

  • Example: Track mental training activities like visualization, meditation, or sports psychology sessions.

  • Assessment: Reflect on how mental preparedness affects performance. Identify methods that enhance focus, confidence, and resilience during training and competitions.


By meticulously evaluating your current performance, habits, and attitudes, you can gain insight into what will contribute to success of your goals, areas that require refinement, and any potential obstacles that are hindering optimal performance. This introspective process paves the way for targeted improvements and strategic adjustments. Additionally, seek feedback from coaches, trainers, or peers. Their observations often provide an external perspective, uncovering potential blind spots. 


Furthermore, embracing a growth mindset during this evaluation is pivotal. Acknowledging areas for improvement isn't a sign of weakness but rather a stepping stone toward progress. Celebrate strengths while wholeheartedly embracing opportunities for growth.


The assessment phase isn't solely about identifying flaws; it's about recognizing patterns and trends. Do certain habits consistently lead to improved performance? Are there correlations between fueling strategies and enhanced energy and endurance? Identifying these cause-and-effect relationships empowers athletes to make informed decisions in their pursuit of optimization. 


In essence, assessing current habits and performance lays the groundwork for targeted improvement. It's the moment where athletes step back, take stock, and chart the course forward. 


Developing Habits and Routines for Success


Building consistent habits and routines set athletes up for success, building toward their goals. However, adopting a new habit or routine takes intentionality, planning, and effort. 

One effective strategy in habit formation is "habit-stacking." This technique involves anchoring a new habit to an existing routine, leveraging the consistency of the latter to establish the former. 


For instance, an athlete aiming to increase endurance might want to incorporate a supplement into their routine that stimulates vasodilation and blood flow to working muscles, in turn enhancing endurance, like 2before blackcurrant pre-workout


As this pre-workout is best taken 30-45 minutes before working out, begin by identifying an existing pre-exercise habit that could serve as an anchor. For example, if you typically consume a carb-rich snack 30-60 minutes before exercise (which I highly recommend!), plan to prep and consume both during that same time period. By linking supplement intake to an existing habit, athletes can establish a consistent regimen, enhancing the effectiveness of the supplement and simplifying adherence.


Consistency is pivotal in habit development. Start small and focus on incremental changes. Whether it's incorporating a five-minute mindfulness practice before bed or adding an extra serving of vegetables to meals, gradual adjustments are more sustainable.


Setting reminders or cues can also reinforce habit adherence. Use alarms, sticky notes, or phone reminders to prompt the execution of new habits until they become second nature.

Additionally, visualize success. Envision the positive impact of these habits on athletic performance. By mentally reinforcing the benefits, athletes are more inclined to stay committed to their routines.


In essence, developing habits and routines for success involves intentional, incremental changes anchored in existing behaviors. Habit-stacking and the strategic integration of new elements into established routines lay the groundwork for consistent habits that pave the way to athletic excellence.


Implementing Strategies for Goal Achievement


Implementing strategies for goal achievement is the pivotal bridge between aspirations and accomplishments in an athlete's journey. To navigate this path effectively, a multifaceted approach is essential.


Begin by crafting a detailed action plan. Break down overarching goals into smaller, manageable steps. Define specific actions, timelines, and benchmarks. This clarity not only provides direction but also instills a sense of progress with each milestone achieved.

Regularly track progress and make necessary adjustments. Assess whether strategies are yielding desired results. Adapt plans if needed, leveraging insights gained through continuous evaluation.


Accountability plays a crucial role. Share goals with a coach, mentor, or training partner. This creates a support system that not only holds athletes accountable but also provides encouragement and guidance along the way.


Visualization and positive affirmation are powerful tools. Envision success vividly and consistently. Use affirmations to reinforce belief in the attainability of set goals. This mental conditioning bolsters determination and resilience.


Moreover, cultivate a growth mindset. Embrace challenges as opportunities for learning and development. Approach setbacks with resilience, viewing them as temporary detours rather than insurmountable barriers.


As the New Year approaches, embrace S.M.A.R.T. goals and introspection to ignite change. Assess current habits, apply habit-stacking, and smoothly integrate new elements like supplements into routines. Embrace consistency, visualize success, and implement strategies with accountability, resilience, and a growth mindset. These steps pave a resilient path for athletes, fostering growth, and sustainable success in the pursuit of their athletic ambitions. Cheers to a transformative year of building habits that elevate performance and pave the way for enduring athletic excellence!


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