Plenty of definitions for stretch goals exist. They can easily cross over between the corporate world and endurance sports.
Heck, the idea for discussing stretch goals came from my mother-in-law’s alpaca farm this past weekend. I was finishing up a run and stopped in front of the alpaca pens. There was one alpaca with head and neck extended through the bottom portion of the fence between the pen it lives in and a field full of grass. I could tell that the alpaca either did this regularly or had been at this exercise for a while because there was a perfect half-moon of missing grass. This animal was determined to get into that field of sweet grass. It was pushing forward with its back legs to get to even more grass. The fence was really starting to bow out. If that alpaca persisted, could it bust through the fence to reach the field? My bet was yes! What more could the alpaca want? I digress. Back to stretch goals and what the grass eating alpaca has to do with them.
Stretch goals involve expectations that go beyond current capabilities. In simpler terms for my endurance-focused brain: a stretch goal is better defined as a goal that combines performance with high quality training and a really great day. Some people set stretch goals based on the people around them. For example, I have plenty of friends who say, “I want to break four hours at my marathon” or “I want to go under 5:30 hour for my half-iron race” or “I want to win my age group at a sprint triathlon”. Following these examples, what would make these statements a stretch goal for you? Have you raced a marathon or half-iron race before or are these new endeavors for you? Do your times in the sprint race targeted have you on or close to the podium in a previous attempt? Hmmm….
What if you had to set stretch goals based on YOUR past performances – on what YOU’VE accomplished? Here’s one way I set stretch goals with the athletes I work for. For a triathlete:
Based on your training so far, what do we agree you could reasonably do at a given race?
What would your race performance be if you completed all training exactly as it was planned?
What if you completed all your training as planned, had remarkable race day conditions (water like glass, tailwind on the bike and a cool run) AND had a really great performance day?
The answer to that last question is THE STRETCH GOAL.
Now, let's look at how to get closer to reaching those stretch goals once you’ve set them!
This boils down to a few things:
Are you doing what you need to do to get yourself in best position to achieve the stretch goal? In terms of our definition, are you becoming more CAPABLE of reaching your stretch goal?
What else can we set in place to give you the best chance of success?
What are you willing to sacrifice to get there? Meaning, what else can you do to put your money where your mouth is?
Is reaching that stretch goal becoming more about your PERFORMANCE and less about race day conditions and a really great day?
These questions require you, the athlete, to take a hard, serious and truthful look at how you’re currently training and performing. Talk to your Coach about metrics and how they’re measuring your training success to reach that stretch goal.
Go for that stretch goal...just like the alpaca!