SMART goals have been established as the gold standard for setting goals, but they can sometimes be problematic when setting flexible goals. The most important aspect of SMART goals is how they inform your programming, evaluation and review.
You need to consider if your goal is active, passive, isometric, dynamic, inverted, assisted etc. This will need to direct your training. There's limited carry over in flexibility training. Foam rolling won't get you a split; passive splits won't get you a suspended split, and suspended splits won't get you an inverted split. In the same way, training splits won't get you a backbend.
It's not enough to be specific about what you want to achieve, you must know what success looks like. So often, moments after acheiving an 'I'll be happy when... goal', it's no longer enough. For example, you achieve a passive flat split for the first time, and within minutes, you want an oversplit, want it to be more square, want it cold etc. Establishing a definitive measurement of success will allow you to celebrate every achievement and enjoy the culmination of all your hard work before moving on towards your next goal. Most flexibility goals are months and years in the making. It's essential to recognise progress (or otherwise) to evaluate the effectiveness of your plan and make changes if needed. I recommend photos and videos. Remember to be consistent with how you film (e.g. side/ angles) to get the best information. Note that improvements in a posture are often the last thing you will notice after things like comfort in a position, strength and control etc. (but that is a whole new topic).
As a baby physio, my first job was in stroke rehabilitation. Part of my role was to consider a client's potential in the first few days after having a stroke. Would a person ever walk again? Would they be able to return home independently? Etc. These decisions would ultimately influence the rehabilitation provided. I aimed to set achievable goals so that efforts and resources would attain the best outcome for the person in the short time they were in hospital. The most challenging part was that by predicting a person would never walk again, I was effectively ensuring it would never happen because time and other resources would be not dedicated to walking, but towards other goals.
Why is this relevant?
Setting achievable goals helps to focus your resources, but you won't achieve a goal you don't set and work for. Due to the nature of flexibility training, it's hard to predict if a goal isn't achievable. However, if you are working towards a goal consistently and continue to progress, you will likely achieve this goal in time.
I think flexibility goals should be aspirational. They should excite you. They should be challenging. To ensure that you effectively use your resources, break flexibility goals down; for example, if you want a needle scale, set goals around splits and backbends to ensure your training is efficient.
This is about the resources that you have available to you and any barriers to achieving your goals. As part of the goal-setting process, identify anything that may help you achieve a goal, such as coaches, training spaces, classes, programs, peers, knowledge, equipment etc. Also consider anything that may impact you working towards your goal, including work, family, hobbies, other commitments, other goals, knowledge, accountability etc. Finally, you need to establish a plan/program that considers and addresses these barriers; otherwise it is unlikely that you will effectively work towards your goals.
Often people have too many goals and not enough resources (mainly time) to make them realistic. It would be challenging to work towards more than one (maybe two) flexibility goals at a time. Be sure to prioritise goals and ensure your resources are going towards what is most important to you.
A timeframe for achieving a flexibility goal is not always helpful. Flexibility goals generally take months to years to achieve, and unless you are very close to achieving a goal and progressing in a fairly linear way, a timeframe is difficult to predict in a meaningful way.
What can be helpful is an evaluation and review timeline. Plan to review your progress against your baseline between 1-3 monthly. Progress or regress in less than that time may be due to natural fluctuations in flexibility.
If you want help establishing flexibility goals: Book an Intro Session with a Flexibility Coach
Feel stuck in your flexibility journey: Book a Flexibility Assessment with a Physio
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