Setting goals can be difficult. Setting parkour specific goals can even harder. Where do you begin? What should you measure? What are good goals? Does it even matter? We hope to help you answer those questions with this article.

Does goal-setting matter?

Goals are very important. You’ve probably heard this your whole life. That’s because it’s true. Having goals and writing them down has been shown to increase the likelihood of success and make people happier and in general people with goals achieve more than people without them.

Goals can help direct your energy and help you lead a more fulfilled life. When you achieve a goal, your body releases dopamine which makes you feel better. Do you *need* to have yearly goals? Not necessarily. But should you have goals you work towards in life? Absolutely!

Where should you begin?

Always start with you! Parkour isn’t about comparing yourself to others and neither is life or fitness in general. Goals should be things you want. Ask yourself questions like these:

  • What do you need to work on?
  • How do you feel about your body composition? Want to lose weight? Gain muscle mass?
  • How do you feel about your movement? Do you want to do a front-flip, or some other acrobatic trick? Do you want more flow? Do you want more power?
  • How do you feel about your overall health? Are you eating good food? Do you drink enough water? Do you get enough sleep?

Aiming for good goals

There are a lot of systems out there to help you set goals. A system that has worked well for me is the SMART goals system. The SMART system revolves around making goals Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. If you’re new to setting goals, this system is a good starting point.

Let’s go through the process together, using the idea of “I want better kong vaults.”

[S]pecific. Right now our goal isn’t specific at all. Right now we would just have to practice the kong vault and pick some aspect of it that’s we’ve improved and be done. A better goal would be “I want to improve my kong vault distance by 5 feet” or “I want quieter landings on my kong vaults.”

[M]easurable. Both of the statements above are more specific than our original goal. They still aren’t perfect. When you are setting goals you have to know when you achieve them or else there is no point. This means you have to have a way to measure and track them. Out of the two goals above you can only easily track one. Unless you have a decibel meter it’s hard to decide if you’re landing quieter. This means our goals should be to improve the distance. Note: This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t strive for quiet landing just that it’s not easily measured. Landings should be constantly worked on and not chosen for a specific goal. There are many systems you could use if you want to set this goal but they are beyond the scope of this article Now the goal is “I want to improve my kong vault distance by 5 feet.” What are we measuring?  We are measuring the improvement in our exit distance in feet.

  • Measure consistently. If you measure vault distance as the distance traveled from the take off point one day don’t measure it from the obstacle the next. This will mess up your numbers.
  • Be as precise as possible. Record yourself with your phone, have a friend help, use an actual tape measure. Don’t just guess use science!
  • Test consistently. Not only should you measure consistently you should test the same way each time. If you are vaulting a box on a flat surface when you measure always vault on a flat surface to measure for your goal.

[A]ttainable. Attainable means it can be done. If our goal was to kong vault to the moon that wouldn’t be doable. Only you can be the judge of if your goal is attainable for you. Some people can increase their vault distance 5 feet. Others that have been practicing for a while might be at their limits and might be able to get a foot. Right now I feel I can get 3 feet in a year.

[R]elevant. Does this goal make sense to you? Are you already awesome at kong vaults? Is there another basic skill that would be better for you to work on like your landings or rolls? We’ll pretend the answer is that we really need to work on our kong vaults.

[T]ime bound. In order to be a good goal it needs to have a time limit. That time limit needs to be Attainable but still make it a little hard to reach. If you can only work on this goal twice a week wanting to improve Kong vault exit distance three feet is going to be tough to do in two weeks depending on how much you do already.

Keeping all these things in mind our final goal is “Increase our kong vault distance by 3 feet in 6 months.”

Good Practices

Write down your goals. Studies show that if you write down goals you’re more likely to achieve them. That means that if you write down goals you’re more likely to get that rush of dopamine which will cause you to want to reach another goal. If you want even more help write them down publicly. Friends, family, and peers are all great at reminding you about goals. Check out the APK forms to start a training journal and ask people to keep you honest.

  • Create Subgoals: If you make one really large goal it’s going to be hard to stay motivated. Break your large goals into smaller more manageable chunks and it will be easier to stay motivated enough to reach a long term goal.
  • List the benefits: Why are you trying to improve X. When you have meaningful goals remembering why you are reaching for them is great motivation. Remember those benefits when you are having trouble staying on target.
  • Create Systems: Even SMART goals that are written down are almost useless if you don’t have a way to reach them. Make systems that will help you reach your goal. If you want to improve your kong vault your system might be to practice Kongs twice a week, do weighted squats twice a week, and stretch everyday.

Remember, goals are a good thing. Parkour has the power to change your life if you let it. If you don’t do parkour why not start? Check out our getting started guide here, or think about exercising a bit more with our 14-day step-by-step plan on the Lift app here. Already training, but want more variety in your workouts? Check out our daily workouts here.

Do you have goals you want to share with us? Message us on facebook or share them on the APK forum, or send us a tweet @americanparkour.

Sample Goals from the Community

Patrick Witbrod: “In 6 months be able to do 5 consecutive muscle ups on a bar, stick a seven foot precision on precision trainers, continue doctor mandated stretch program 5 days a week every week for 6 months.”

Mark Toorock: “365 days of Mobility, Buy no disposable water bottles, Eat No sugar 5 days/week, Be on Time, Back Tuck on flat ground by 9/9/2014”

Paul Mederos: “365 days of meditation to focus the mind (5 minute minimum a day.) Get to 100 push-ups in one sitting, by May 1st, by doing +1 each day from now until then. Stick to paleo diet for the next 30 days.”