The Importance of setting goals by Stefani Kate Robinson

Posted: Jan 23 2015

Here's some great pole advice from our 2104 Pole Fitness Ambassador Competition winner Stefani Kate Robinson...

When I first started pole I didn’t have any goals or targets I was happy to be led by my instructor and do whatever she told me to! But as I got more advanced I realised if I wanted to push my progression on I could do this by focusing my training on particular elements, building little plans of conditioning to meet my goal move.

Transitioning into an instructor myself meant this was even more important, the reduced training time and battle to keep progressing enough to keep ahead of your students means sometimes its easy to loose your desire to train all together and often there’s no one there to kick your butt. The motivation has to come from me and sometimes that's a challenge in itself so I rely on working towards a target to keep myself going.

So what advise is there to give when setting targets and goals?

Pick more than one goal:
I often try and write a list of a few different moves/combos, which range from flexibility to strength targets. I try to make them a mix so that if I’m sick of working on strength stuff I can focus on flexibility (my worst area) or a combo. Sometimes the goals are silly and seem easy to other people, like a superman on my non-dom side, but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter what your target is! It’s personal to you, and working on your weaknesses no matter how advanced the goal is means you’ll always be improving!

Be realistic – and if you can’t be realistic have checkpoints
Lets face it everyone wants to do moves, which are far away from their current ability! And by no means should you not aim for them, but I think when aiming for those very advanced positions a good way to approach it is by using checkpoints.

For example one of my goals this year is a phoenix spin. For me despite poling for 3 years, this seems like quite a daunting aim, for a long time I’ve wanted to get it but have been concerned about training it too much due to potential damage to shoulders. I have also only recently been properly taught it which is where my prep has started. So because my end goal seems miles away I’ve sectioned it into achieving two goals beforehand. One of which is the baby phoenix (the version with a pop of the foot on the floor- which I achieved last week funnily enough).

My second is a bridge handspring from standing. The positioning of this is quite different to my usual handspring position so training it will help me with the positioning you move through to finish a phoenix spin. Working towards these will break down my big goal into sizeable chunks, which feel less daunting.

Once I’ve hit a goal the aim is always to improve and better, less pop in the phoenix, less kick in the bridge handspring to the point where a phoenix is more achievable.

Have a game plan
Moving on from my last point, having a plan of how your going to achieve your goal is always going to get you to the finish line quicker. Scheduling time to work on your particular goal is important in reaching it. Usually I write a list of things that I am going to train in any practice session, this means I get the most out of my time and I can ensure I’m working on things to help towards my goals. Sometimes this will mean actually doing the move/combo I’m aiming for, but other times I’ll have prep work, which are other moves, and exercises to build my strength and coordination to achieve the target.

I always try to practice these every week but not always every session because there is so much to practice and simply not enough time!

I also have a rule not to over train things. I have now (in my pole wisdom) accepted the process may be a long road and doing one move over and over and over for hours is not only bad for my body and wont get me where I want to be but it will also be very negative on my moral. I now limit myself to a certain amount of 100% effort attempts and when that number is over I accept the progress and move on to something else I’m working on. I’ve had lots of comments from students and pole friends who have said ‘my leg grips are really suffering now I’ve learnt arms only because all I seem to do is practice that’ Yep... bingo! and this was me too!! When I learnt how to handspring I was so worried I’d loose the ability to do it that I would spend all my spare practice time doing them over and over again, and as I got tired I’d get worse and worse and feel very negative at the end of the session, I’d also not practice other moves which meant they also got worse – it's a very easy trap to fall into!

Monitor your progress
Monitoring your progress is so important when it comes to achieving and improving moves/combos/flexibility/strength etc. Because what it feels like and what it looks like are quite often completely different things. I record all of my training because it is so useful to watch back. I use this as an instructor aid but also for personal training. The best example of this I can share is when I was desperate for my aerial shoulder mount. I had been trying for ages, and then decided to start recording myself. Quickly I realised I was actually attempting this with one leg straight and one leg bent. At the time in my head I had no idea, I thought I was tucking in to a tiny ball to get my arse up onto the pole, but the video showed different. All this time and I’d unknowingly been making it much harder for myself. So back to the studio I went and then concentrated on both legs bent, within a week I got my goal! This is especially important if you don’t train with anyone in particular because there isn’t always someone to help correct your position, taking photos and videos will help you update and evaluate your game plan all the way through to achieving the target!

Be taught properly how to achieve your goal
This is pretty obvious I’m sure, but especially if you are an instructor, if your goal is very advanced take the time to seek an experienced instructor who can teach the move properly. They will often have tips, hints and points which you might have missed and this can be the difference between achieving the move or not! Also while training it, make the time to have your technique looked at and corrected, as we’re learning and training moves it’s easy to miss or forget teaching points!

A goal nailed must be a clean move
I don’t mean to be negative and I appreciate the ridiculous amount of happiness that comes with achieving something new or something you’ve worked very hard to get, however in my book you haven’t reached your target unless its neat, held for a suitable amount of time and performed as it should be. Bringing it back to my baby phoenix success last week – it would be naive of me to assume that's ticked off the list, because I’ve done it twice. Literally twice. But it was a milestone that I’m very proud of, so what’s next?

Making sure I can do it every single time!!
Less bounce!
And then???
No bounce at all!!

Your goal is progressive and there will be a stage where you have done the move a few times and during training it sometimes it’ll be worse and sometimes it will be better – but don’t tick it off your list until its nailed well and truly and almost second nature to perform. We have a rule at the studio it doesn't count unless you’ve done it 5 times, got a photo and a video! (And even when you think you’ve got that goal there is ALWAYS room for improvement!!)

Where do you go after you’ve achieved your goal?
What I like about goal setting is that I can always make it harder – progressing on from my last point, there is always improvement you can make with flexibility, or smoothness in and out of moves, or strength moves. My favorite example of this is the shoulder mount deadlift. After what felt like years of training a basic shoulder mount deadlift, I loved all the different options I could work towards, I started trying to deadlift with one leg straight, then both legs straight, then a deadlift from a shoulder mount hang. These are all progressions from the initial goal, I could have been happy with my simple deadlift shoulder mount with tucked legs, and never needed or wanted to progress it, but I’m always trying to improve on what I can do already.

My current shoulder mount goals are a clean pike deadlift every time and a shoulder mount hang to aerial shoulder mount straddle with straight legs. Both of which I achieved before Xmas for the first time... but remember they aren’t ticked off until you can do them every single time!

As we get more advanced, the goals are harder, it takes longer to achieve them and sometimes that's draining. Even more so for instructors who at the same time as keeping motivated for themselves they are finding new and interesting things for students and working hard to keep them motivated. Working on a number of goals allows me to take a break from things that I’m struggling with, and even if it means I don’t achieve all of my goals I feel happy if I achieve some of them, because there will also be a load of things I will have achieved that I won’t have even thought I could!

The most important part of pole is to have fun and enjoy it! So make sure that's always your number 1 goal!





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