Jordan Metzl, MD, recently wrote in Triathlete magazine about a benefit of goal-setting: ‘What I tell my patients is to set a goal and work toward it. I generally find that it doesn’t matter what the sport or level of athlete is; from triathlon to ballroom dancing, everyone needs a goal. Athletes who exercise just to exercise, without a specific goal in mind, are much less productive than those who set goals.’
If you want to know what the real reason for something is, or a real root cause for a failure, take the time to ask why five times, at the very least. For example:
Runner: I want to train for a marathon, but I want to do 20-milers as part of the training plan.
Coach: Why do you want to do 20-milers as part of marathon training, when most of the good programs I've studied & coaches I've consulted consider 16-mile long runs long enough?
Runner: I don't think the 16-milers I did training for my last marathon were sufficient.
Coach: Why do you say the performance in your second marathon ever was insufficient?
Runner: I didn't run the marathon as well as I wanted to. (Never mind the warm/humid weather conditions on race day & other factors out of his control.)
Coach: Why do you want to improve your marathon performance?
Runner: I want to finish in a time which will qualify me to run the Boston Marathon.
Coach: Why do you want to run Boston?
Runner: I don't want to run Boston. I just want to run a time that will qualify me for Boston.
When you look at the underlying reason the runner wants to train in a particular manner, is the goal relevant? Did the runner set the bar too high?
When the coach asks the fifth why, about the goal event, then walks backward 20-to-24 weeks, he finds the athlete has three one-week holiday trips during which the coach knows no trainng whatsoever will occur. And that's just a best-case scenario. At that point, the athlete either needs to think about another goal event, adjusting his training cycle further out to make up for the lost training opportunity, or lowering his expectations.