Realistic Goals and the Problem of Groupthink

In past podcast episodes, we talked a little about training partners and whether or not they can actually hurt you. The bottom line in the discussion was if the partner you choose to train with is not on your level, or does not have the same goals as you, then they can hurt your preparation in the end.

We have all been there to some extent. As social creatures most of our instincts are to be with others, not solo, so when we choose to run or bike or swim or hike we naturally want to go with someone, or with a group. It’s human nature. The issue arises when you happen to be in a training plan for, say, a marathon and the person you run with is only out to socialize and take it easy. Nothing inherently wrong with that at all, except when your training for that has a purpose that is now affected because you (1) want to hang with your buddy, and (2) don’t want to hurt their feelings by leaving them behind.

Groups are notorious for this, and I myself have been guilty of giving the wrong impressions at times.

For those new readers out here let’s have a quick recap of the blog and the associated podcasts.

After a year of co-hosting a show called “Ironman: Year One” Andrew Weaver and I decided to rebrand and changed the name to “Back of Pack Endurance”. We kept that name for over a year, and when Andrew decided to move on I once again rebranded the show to match the name of this blog, “Fat Slow Triathlete”. Six months into that I received input that some were “scared off” by the name, thinking it was a triathlon only show, so once again we rebranded to “Endurance for Everyone”, a name that came from an off-the-cuff remark by the co-host at that time, Randy Messman. Four different names but still the same show.

And here’s the thing, the names we chose for each of them had a specific purpose but was never considered to be a “requirement”, although I think some out there see these names as such.

Ironman: Year One was not only for those seeking to accomplish 140.6 miles of pure triathlon joy. Yes, at its core it was a chronicling of Andrew and my journey to that goal, but the show was about the pitfalls we all face, not just in triathlon.

Back of Pack Endurance was not only for people that ran in the back. We had guests on ranging from one end of the spectrum to the other. “Back of the Pack” was not a GOAL, but a MINDSET. But that fell on deaf ears to some.

But nothing compared to the issue I encountered with the name Fat Slow Triathlete.

The term “Fat Slow Triathlete” had little to do with weight, quickness, ability, or even triathlon’s. It was meant to provide an inclusive atmosphere for the adult-onset athlete, where support and acceptance can go a long way in bringing everyone to a healthier lifestyle. It’s a way of thinking that doesn’t allow for obstacles to get in the way of the things you want to achieve. If you’re “fat” … so what? “Slow”? ….so what? It’s a way of saying, yes I am Fat (or obese, or overly tall, or old, or young), and I am slow (or injured, or tired) but I can get off the couch and train, and I can compete in and complete any race I set my mind to complete.

It is not, nor ever was, the GOAL to be Fat or Slow.

Again, it’s a MINDSET

Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints by actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences.

It was shared with me this morning the same issue in another group. In one episode I talked a little about this group and a bad experience I had with some of them back in 2015. While that opinion changed at Runners World, the gist of my issue with the group reared its head today.

The Sub-30 group was founded by Ted Spiker and was named as such because that was HIS goal, a sub 30:00 5K. All well and good. But there are some that take that goal literally and strive for it in a sometimes unrealistic manner. Case in point was a member stating that they “HAD to get under 30:00” because a race was named in their honor. Not in of itself a bad goal except for one thing; their current best was 39:30 and they had 2-months before the race.

Now, if they had 6 months, a year, absolutely realistic. Go for it. But trying to drop 9:30 off your personal best in 60 days is a recipe for injury, and while most of us would never want to dissuade someone from a goal, there has to be a point where people can be honest with unrealistic expectations. Remember that goals have to be SMART; Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. In this case, it IS specific (sub 30:00), it IS measurable, it IS achievable (technically), and it IS timely (2 months).

But it is NOT realistic.

And here’s the other issue these days; telling someone that a goal they have is unrealistic is now met with disdain. When did it become that way? I can understand if you’re being an ass about it, laughing at their ideas, calling them an idiot. But what is wrong with stating to someone that their goal is admirable but probably not realistic and then helping them set another goal that works toward that one? In that string on social media the first responses were the normal “go for it!” types before someone, finally, said the truth, that the goal was probably not a good idea in the amount of time they had.

A voice of reason in the crowd.

So, once again, a SUB 30 is a mindset. YOUR “sub-30” could be breaking 45:00, or doing a run/walk split of 4:1. It is not always specifically a sub 30 minute 5K.

Find YOUR goal instead of letting others define it for you.

Remember, everyone’s visions are their own.

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