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How to Set Goals Like Katie Ledecky

How to Set Goals Like Katie Ledecky

This past summer Katie Ledecky showed the world that she is better at swimming than the rest of us are at pretty much anything.

She thoroughly cleaned up in Rio, winning four gold medals—three of them individual—and a silver. Her 400 and 800m freestyle wins were devastating, with her margin of victory in the latter a staggering 11-plus seconds. She swept the 200-400-800m freestyles, something that hadn’t been done since 1968, displaying a once-in-a-generation range of speed and ability.

She’s now a two time Olympian, kicked an American Ninja Warrior’s butt at a made-up game on Ellen, and tossed a heater when she threw the first pitch at a Washington Nationals game.

And did we also mention that she’s only nineteen years old?

Here are some goal setting tips us mortals can pick up from the greatest active swimmer on the planet:

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Keep them visible.

Thinking and dreaming about our goals is easy. Everyone does that. If you are even mildly serious about crushing your goal, jotting it down and having it in sight is almost mandatory.

After all, something changes when you take literally five seconds to write down your goal. It becomes a little more real.

When Ledecky and her coach Bruce Gemmell sat down after the 2013 FINA World Championships, where she rocked the world records in the 800m and 1500m freestyles, they discussed what was possible over the next three years leading into Rio. They decided on two goal times: 3:56 for the 400m freestyle, and 8:05 for the 800m freestyle.

Even though they kept the goals to themselves as they prepared for the Olympics, the goals she had set were never far—she had written “565” to signify her two goal times on her pull buoy. Every day during her swimming workouts, during the long 8,000-9,000-yard training sessions with a nearly endless number of flip turns, those three little numbers were there waiting for her, motivating her, reminding her of the purpose of all the work.

And how did she do in Rio? She pretty much nailed her goals right over the head, swimming a 3:56.46 in the 400m freestyle, and 8:04.79 in the 800m freestyle.

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Be willing and ready to fail.

The word failure carries with it so much negative baggage that the moment we slip up, fail, or otherwise disappoint ourselves we quit. We tell ourselves, “Ah, we didn’t really want it that bad” and move on to the next thing, never giving our goals a fair and consistent effort.

Which is too bad, because without the ability to brave the initial hurdles and resistance we can never truly improve or advance towards the hard and rewarding things we want from life.

One of Ledecky’s strengths is her willingness to fail in practice, to see past the initial struggle and keep at it. In Angela Duckworth’s book Grit, her coach related just how serious Ledecky was when it came to being willing to fail:

“There are days she fails catastrophically,” he said. “She fails in practice more than anybody in her [training] group, because she’ll start out like, ‘This is the pace I need to swim in the race, so I need to replicate it in practice.’ And she’ll go six repeats like that, and the tank goes empty and she just falls off. But you know what? She’ll come back the next day and try it again. And on the third day, she’ll nail it. And she’s been doing this since the first day I walked on the deck with her.”

Nobody likes failing at something or not being good at something the first time out. Being willing to fail is not about getting comfortable losing or sucking—it’s using the rage and frustration from not nailing it the first time to get the hang of it in future attempts.

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Surround yourself with people who will bring out the best in you.

If you looked at the people you keep in your circle, would you say that they are inspiring bigger and better things out of you, or are they encouraging mediocrity and the status quo?

When you hang out with people who are doing the things you want to do it’s inevitable that their influence will help push and propel you upwards.

Ledecky, having outpaced the female swimmers on her team, trained predominantly with male swimmers in the lead up to Rio. During altitude camps at the United States Olympic Training Center, she would go head to head with male swimmers on the national team and routinely “break” them.

One of the male swimmers that Ledecky “broke” included Conor Dwyer, who is no slouch himself in the middle distance swimming events—he placed 4th in the 400m freestyle in Rio and won a bronze in the 200m freestyle.

By surrounding herself with swimmers who were faster than her she rode their wake towards faster swimming, elevating her to times and records that are so far and above the competition it’s ridiculous.

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Meet and Exceed Your Goals

Whatever your goals are—whether it be learning how to swim faster freestyle, or get that promotion at work, or get in better shape—there are lessons that the top swimmer on the planet can teach you.

Write out your goals and keep them in sight. Be ready to fight back against those first few moments of difficulty. And surround yourself with people who will push you upwards.

Featured photo credit: Flickr via flickr.com

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Published on February 14, 2019

15 Fitness Goals That Will Help You Live a Healthier Life This Year

15 Fitness Goals That Will Help You Live a Healthier Life This Year

Starting such a journey is never easy and you must remember this is not a crash diet, it is a lifestyle. Don’t panic and think you have to do it all at once as this will most likely overwhelm you. You may also find yourself giving up because crash diet are not sustainable.

The best approach is to make simple changes to your daily habits and over time, you will notice all your bad habits have turned into good habits.

Accordingly to a study by Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at University College London, on average, it takes more than 2 months before a new behaviour becomes automatic — 66 days to be exact.[1] And how long it takes a new habit to form can vary widely depending on the behavior, the person, and the circumstances.

Here are 15 fitness goals to help you on your journey:

1. Drink More Water

W.H.Auden said it best when he said ‘Thousands Have Lived Without Love, Not One Without Water’. With any diet, the most important thing to remember is to stay hydrated. Drinking water will support your body with digestion, transporting nutrition to your body and even help improve cognitive function.

Ideally, you want to drink about half your body weight in ounces per day i.e. if you weight 150 pounds, you should drink 75 ounces of water a day.

Hopefully, by following this rule, you will be able to maintain a consistent consumption of water per day.

2. Add Some Lemon & Apple Cider Vinegar to Your Water

It is recommended we sleep for about 8 hours a day, this means we spend about 8 hours per day dehydrated. Therefore, hydrating your body first thing in the morning is absolutely necessary.

The best way to achieve hydration is by starting your day with a glass or even two of water. For that extra boost, add lemon juice and ½ teaspoons of apple cider vinegar. The lemon and apple cider vinegar will help your body with detoxifying, cleansing and digestion

3. Stop Drinking Your Calories

Yes, keeping hydrated is important but try to avoid high calorie drinks such as soft drinks, speciality coffee and juices as they are full of fast acting sugar.

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Really push yourself to stop drinking such drinks and before you know it, you will notice the benefits.

4. Start Stretching More Often

Always remember to stretch! The benefits are vast and the repercussions of failing to stretch can be dramatic.

Do yourself a favour and always stretch before and after a workout. This will promote a healthy cool down, improve flexibility and reduce next day aches. Failure to stretch can lead to injures and muscle damage.

So, the next time you work out, don’t forget you dedicate a few minutes to stretching before and after your workout. You will thank me for it later!

Here’re some simple stretching exercises you can start trying:

15 Static Stretching Exercises to Totally Enhance Your Workout Routine

5. Add in Some High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

You may have heard about HIIT training because it is the big thing right now and believe me when I say ‘It works!’.

The benefits include lower body fat, increased stamina, leaner muscles and fantastic hormonal benefits.

HIIT is where you perform an intense exercise, for a very short time frame (about 30 seconds) followed by a slower exercise for about 90 seconds.

Performing a HIIT routine for 1-3 times a week will lead to great results.

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6. Focus on Your Breathing When You Work Out

For the most part, breathing is second nature to most of us. But when exercising, you may find yourself holding your breath and this is not good.

It is important to consciously take deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth, this will fill your lungs with oxygen.

7. Build More Lean Muscle

We all want to have lean muscles because not only does it look good, it has great health benefits:

  • Improved posture
  • Reduced body fat
  • Improved metabolism
  • Strong bones
  • Protects and improves joint health
  • Improves stamina

Learn more about building muscle in this guide:

How Long Does it Take to Build Muscle and Increase Fat Loss?

8. Decrease Body Fat

This may seem like an obvious one but it is one of the most important steps to a healthier you. Reducing your body fat has a lot of benefits such as:

  • Improved joints and tendons
  • Lowered risk of diabetes
  • Reduced risk of heart disease
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Better performance and endurance
  • Improved appearance and confidence
  • Better hormonal profiles in your body

Remember, it is not a race to see how quickly you can decrease your body fat, a healthy weight loss is around 1-2 pounds a week.[2]

Crash dieting or pushing yourself too much in the gym can lead to you achieving an unrealistic target, and you may find yourself gaining all the weight you have lost.

Think of it as a lifestyle and take it slow and steady.

9. Eat More Greens

What you eat is the most important factor in a healthier living plan. It is important to ensure you are getting as many nutrients and vitamins from the food you are eating as possible.

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Focus on dark, leafy greens as they will provide you with a wide array of vitamins, minerals, nutrients and antioxidants – all of which you body needs!

Don’t forget to avoid processed and manufactured food. They are usually high in fat and have minimal vitamins.

10. Start Eliminating Sugar

Another top goal you can start immediately is reducing the amount of sugar you consume. It also won’t cost you anything, save you money and improve your health in the long run.

There’s no surprise we eat too much sugar and this should be one of your top goals moving forward (eliminating or drastically reducing sugar).

Cutting out liquid calories is a great way to start. If you’re looking for something sweet, turn to fruits or even dark chocolate.

11. Allow Yourself to Rest and Recovery

The workout is where you go to breakdown the muscle tissue and it builds back through proper nutrition, rest and recovery. It might be tempting to go to the gym for two hours every day as hard as you can to achieve your goals but that’s not the most effective approach.

If you don’t allow for proper rest and recovery, it can set you back a few steps. Your body is more prone to injury and even illness as you can weaken your immune system from all the progressive intensity the body is facing.

12. Get More Sleep

When you are deprived of sleep, you make it next to impossible to achieve your health and fitness goals. Lack of sleep can increase stress hormones in your body and over time these can lead to a lot of inflammation and chronic diseases.[3]

Make sleep a priority to let your body heal and rejuvenate. A good approach is 7 to 8 hours. Also, allow yourself some wind-down time and a pre-bed routine to help get more consistent sleep every night.

13. Focus on the Habit and Not the Result

It’s easy to get caught up in trying to achieve a certain look or shed time off of your mile, but the more important focus is on the habit that will bring you those goals.

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Don’t look at the scale, the tape measure, or the body fat percentage. Focus on the habits that will lead to those achievements.

Don’t compare yourself to where others are, you’re right where you need to be.

14. Take Your Fitness Outside

This may be hard depending on the weather you experience, but the more you can be outside exposed to fresh air and sunlight, the better.

Being stuck in the gym doing cardio while staring at a wall won’t do much for your mental stimulation.

Try to challenge your body more by getting outside. Hiking is great and also just running and walking. Give yourself more mental stimulation and a constantly changing environment. It also beats breathing in that recycled gym air.

15. Do at Least One Pull Up

This is a great last goal to focus on because it’s a great test of strength and to see how you are progressing with your fitness.

If you haven’t been able to do one, you know what a challenge it can be. Having the goal of doing at least one pull up will not only show you how far you’ve progressed but is a great way to become dedicated and motivated.

The Bottom Line

It will become more attainable through the year if you’re consistent with your fitness. Set yourself a concrete timeline as when you want to accomplish some or all of these goals. In fact, start making one of these goals happen this month!

This guide on achieving goals will be helpful for you:

How to Set Goals and Achieve Them Successfully

Featured photo credit: ivan Torres via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Phillippa Lally: How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world
[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Losing Weight
[3] Unity Point: The Scary Truth About Sleep Deprivation and Chronic Diseases

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