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Train better - Part II (Purpose)
Train better - Part II (Purpose)

What is the purpose of your training?

Jami Tikkanen avatar
Written by Jami Tikkanen
Updated over a week ago

What comes to mind when you think about “training better”?

As a coach, I’m interested in knowing what you are training for (your purpose), how you think about training (your training philosophy) and how you actually train (your process). Understanding these three (3) allows me to see where you are coming from, where you are headed and which course corrections would be of most value to you.

Since this turned out to be a rather long article, we’ve broken it down into three parts. On Wednesday, we talked about your training philosophy. Today’s article is an invitation to reflect on the purpose of your training. On Sunday we’ll continue with a focus on the process (how you train).

Why do you train? 

Have you thought about this? You are putting in a lot of time and effort into your training every day. What is it all for?


“Dream no small dreams, for they have no power to move the hearts of men.”
-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

We all have dreams. Dreams are wishes about how we would like our future lives to be. Many goals start as dreams. You might see an athlete who inspires you with an idea that maybe one day, you could be as good as (or better than) they are today. That you could accomplish what they have accomplished. Sometimes your dreams remain merely as dreams and other times they turn into something else. When you begin to see your dream as a possibility, it becomes something you can strive for. Perhaps it even turns into your goal. 


“Success is an inner ideal followed persistently with courage. And an external manifestation of that ideal.”
-William James

It can sometimes be difficult to make a distinction between a dream and a goal. While dreams are mere wishes, goals require commitment and action. Goals contain within them a promise for a better tomorrow to those who are willing to do the work today. 

Outcome goals

When athletes think about goals, they are often focused on outcomes such as qualifying for an event, placing high or finishing on a podium in a competition, and maybe even earning a sponsorship deal. While these goals can be motivating, their achievement is only partially within your control as they also depend on the judgement and performance of others. 

Outcome goals act as invitations to do the work required for success. Their accomplishment, however, should not be confused with the real purpose of your training.

“…we have right only to our labor, but not to the fruits of our labor. All the warrior can give is his life; all the athlete can do is leave everything on the field.”
-Steven Pressfield

Performance goals

Getting “stronger” or becoming “better at gymnastics” are useful things to aim for but it will be impossible to know when you’ve accomplished them. Performance goals are benchmarks that serve as tangible checkpoints on your journey. They might be training goals such as hitting a 100kg snatch or being able to string 5 muscle ups together. They might also be goals in a specific event or training session such as keeping all your chest-to-bar pull-up sets unbroken or maintaining a specific pace. 

The most useful performance goals are realistic, challenging and achievable in a reasonable time frame. Most importantly they’re measurable and within your control. 

Process goals

Process goals are the small daily steps that connect your dreams into reality. They’re the actions you can (and must) take to accomplish what you’ve set out to do. Your ability to operate at this level is directly proportionate to the amount of success you will have as an athlete. In other words, this is where the magic happens.

Training to be a better me

Whatever your goal might be, it contains within it an implicit assumption that by achieving the goal, you will, in some way, become a better version of yourself. This betterment however, does not take place in the moment that your goal is complete. Instead it’s found in each step of the journey to get there. Then, when you arrive, you might get to learn to know how it feels (to reach your goal).

“The whole pursuit of this dream has allowed me to live my best life, that makes me hopefully the best version of me. Just because I’ve achieved a dream doesn’t mean that I just give up on the best version of me. I want to be the guy that trains and stays fit and motivated. Just because you finish a big route doesn’t mean that you just quit.”

-Alex Honnold (experiencing “the white moment” in an interview right after his historic free solo of the El Capitan’s Freerider)

Your turn

Training is done with an explicit purpose of turning goals into reality. In pursuing your goals, you will encounter challenges. At the sight of these challenges, some people will give up while others will persevere. The latter is called commitment and it’s expressed in actions (not in words).

1) What goals are you committed to pursuing?

2) Why are these goals important to you?


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