What (in the hell) Are You Cross Training For Anyway?

Yes, that question was abrasive — and a little bit click-baity — but it’s an important question to ask. If you’re going to spend some of your precious, limited time each week doing off-skates training: What are you trying to accomplish?

You HAVE to know the answer to that question before you start to plan your training intelligently. Why? The training that you choose to do will vary dramatically depending on:

  • Whether you’re a blocker or a jammer
  • Whether you want to train for increased endurance or increased strength
  • Whether your goal is derby-related or not
  • Literally hundreds of other variables that make you a special snowflake

Goal setting isn’t sexy or fun or something that you can show to your team or your friends that proves you’re getting better/faster/stronger.

But setting goals does something more important than provide potential bragging rights: it gives you a target to aim for. I mean, if William Tell was just told to shoot an arrow at some random point directly above his son’s head, what would have happened? I’m willing to bet that he would be much less likely to have an overture named after him.

If you want to reach your target and hit your goal it has to actually exist.

So the VERY first step of #intelligentcrosstraining and finding the road you want to travel as you train is to determine the address of your destination. You do that by sitting down to the non-sexy task of goal setting.

1) Give it a name.

If you could do anything you wanted with your training, what would it be? Right now, I don’t really care if you think it’s impossible or stupid. What is it?

In these first stages of establishing goals, it’s pretty common to name what we “think” we should do. When you play roller derby it probably feels like your goal should be related to how fast you skate or how hard you hit. But maybe, deep down inside, you want to lose weight.

Don’t assign value to your goal. Just name it.

And make sure that it’s something you really want. You’re much more likely to remain engaged and motivated with your training if it’s taking you somewhere you actually want to go rather than just somewhere you think you should go.

You can hone your goal later, so don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. Just write it down.

Let’s say that my current goal is to increase the number of laps I can skate in 5 minutes.

2) Take it CAMPing.

Almost everyone has heard of SMART goals, but I don’t really care whether my goal is smart — I want to be able to live with. I want to make sure I can take it CAMPing and bring it back alive. (What can I say? I’m a sucker for acronyms.)

C = Challenging

Your goal should be challenging. There exists a middle ground between comfort and panic where learning takes place. This is your growth zone and you can’t really be in your growth zone — where you learn and assimilate new skills successfully — unless you’re stepping out of your comfort zone by challenging yourself.


I want to improve the number of laps that I can get in 5 minutes. Right now, I sit comfortably at 30.5 laps. It would be counterproductive to make a goal of LESS than that (although people sometimes do this). But it’s also counterproductive to make a goal that is only SLIGHTLY more than that. Is a goal of 31 laps in 5 minutes really that challenging given my current level? I’m going to create a goal that is challenging and decide whether it’s a little TOO challenging in a minute: 35 laps in 5 minutes.

A = Achievable

This goes hand-in-hand with challenging. You don’t want your goal to be SO challenging that you can’t achieve it. Ultimately, it will be fine if you DON’T actually achieve your goal. Sometimes that happens. But you want to make sure that it is within the realm of possibility. This is often where you have to do a little negotiation to create something both challenging and achievable.

With my goal, attempting to get 35 laps in 5 minutes is probably not achievable for me. There’s nothing in my history of skating laps that indicates I could increase my lap number by 4 — that’s nearly an additional lap a minute — especially since I’m already relatively skilled at skating laps. But I could probably manage to add a half lap or so during each minute of skating. My goal now (both challenging and achievable) is to get 33 laps in 5 minutes.

M = Measurable

Yes. You have to be able to measure it. Just like creating a goal brings your target into existence, measurability keeps your target stationary. (It’s pretty hard to hit a moving target, amirite?)

The goal of skating ‘x’ number of laps in 5 minutes is highly measurable. There’s a time component to it and chances are good that I’ll be executing the skill in the same place each time.

Some goals aren’t as clearly measurable, so this is when you ask yourself 2 things: How will I know that I’ve met my goal? How will I prove that I’ve met my goal? Keep that measurement in mind (or re-measure periodically) to help keep that target in the same place.

P = Present

Keeping your goal anchored in the present means that you don’t just forget about it. We’ve talked about creating your target and making your target hold still. Being present with your goal keeps your target visible. You can’t hit, what you can’t see. Unless you’re Daredevil.

To remind myself of my goal, I’m going to wrap a piece of duct tape around my wrist guard that says “33 in 5”. This will keep the goal in my mind and help me focus on it at appropriate times during practice.

Mindfulness is an incredibly important part of reaching your goal.

The next step to goal setting is breaking down your goal into pieces that allow you to be present with your goal more often.

3) Process the Outcome.

Chances are good, if you’re like most goal-setters, you created a performance goal. But there are 3 types of goals and it’s important to know about each one because they act as stepping stones to get to the top.

Outcome goals are more often than not related to winning, losing, or the specific results of a competition. Most of our goals are related to some outcome, even if that wasn’t what we explicitly stated in the first step. I want to increase my laps because I think it will help me become a better player which will help my team win more games (the ultimate outcome). This is the top of the staircase. You know, where Rocky raises his arms above his head and hops around. Of course, I guess the actual outcome is him screaming “Adrian!! Adrian!!” while his eye swells shut.

There’s nothing wrong with outcome goals. But if outcome goals are all you have, it can be hard to stay on target. Outcome goals are often long term, which means that specific target is sometimes too far away to keep a close eye on. (Are you tired of this target analogy yet? I’m kind of getting there…)

Performance goals are related to some statistic — typically one that impacts your play, but not always — that you want to improve upon. Improving on the specific statistic will improve your game overall. My example goal above (33 in 5) is a performance goal.

If you want to decrease your stopping distance, increase your reaction time, or hit harder, you have a performance goal.

Often, performance goals lead to outcome goals. If your entire team can reach their individual and team performance goals, you’ll be much more likely to reach your outcome goal.

Process goals are where it’s at, though. These are the smallest steps that you take towards your performance goals. Your process goal is the target that you keep visibly in front of you that will get you working towards your performance and outcome goals.

The importance of a process goal is that YOU are in ultimate control of whether or not you accomplish it. You can’t control whether your team win or loses games. And there may even be extenuating circumstances that keep me from getting my 33 in 5. But a process goal is something that can be controlled, monitored, and adjusted by only you.

Let’s break down an example:

You’ve decided that this is the year that you are going to make your league’s travel team. By the end of the season, you will be on the charter. (OUTCOME GOAL)

You know the tryout process for the travel team like the back of your hand. It’s all pretty hard, but the part that scares you the most is “the Gauntlet” — a 2 minute jam where you are blocked by the best blockers on the team. You don’t have to get through (although that would be great!), you just have to keep pushing. You want to be able to push against that wall for the entire 2 minutes during tryouts. (PERFORMANCE GOAL)

Based on your current level, you know that in order to be able to do this, you’re going to have to do a few things (PROCESS GOALS):

  1. Complete strength training 2x a week.
  2. Stay after practice with a friend 1x a week and work on pushing against her plows.
  3. Participate in high intensity interval training 1x a week.
  4. Start practicing visualization — 3x a week for 5 minutes each.

This goals are targeted specifically to your current level and the things you know you are specifically weak in. If muscle fatigue was your biggest struggle, you might focus your process goals more towards combating that. If cardio endurance was your weakness, you’d want to pay the most attention to that.

Creating your goals isn’t a time to tear yourself down and/or allow yourself to magnify your weaknesses. The things you excel at or struggle with are just things; neither good nor bad. Identify the things you can get better at and work towards those.

4) Get a Baseline.

Now that you’ve figured out where you want to go, you need to make note of where you are. Collect current data that is specifically related to your process or performance goals.

For the example above, you could videotape yourself going through “the Gauntlet” now (or collect data on how tired you are or how long you could go without stopping) and use that as your baseline. You’d also want to make note of how often you currently strength train, do high intensity interval training, and practice visualization.

Why do baselines matter?

Collecting baseline data (or any data at all — but we’ll get to that) might seem like a waste of time. You might think to yourself, “If I’m getting better, I’ll know it.

Will you? Really?

I was looking through pictures randomly the other day and came across one of #autotot when he was about a month old. Do you have any idea how small he was? SOOOOOOO small. I don’t even remember him being that small. It seems like he’s always been the gigantic annoyance that he is now.

The point is you miss the growth that happens right in front of you. Without baseline data, it’s much, much too easy to convince yourself that nothing has changed, nothing is ever going to change, and you might as well quit.

rage quit 2

You might have started to realize that creating goals takes some time. You might wonder if it’s even worth it. You already have limited time to train, make it to practice, be on that committee, go to work, spend time with your family…

But effective goal setting actually helps you with all of those things. It allows you to really spend your training time focusing on EXACTLY what you need to do instead of fiddling around with kettlebells here, barre there, TRX here, everywhere a plank (plank).

And setting goals gets easier — and quicker! — as time goes on. I challenge you to spend some time ACTUALLY doing it. If the way you’re training now isn’t working, what do you have to lose?

Want more?

If you’re interested in more exclusive content, access to my FREE resource library, and the slightly weird workings of my inner mind, you can sign up for the Iron Octopus Fitness email list HERE. Wherein I harass you weekly with all things intelligent cross training, mindset, and…other.



About IronOctopusFitness

Online athletic training and nutrition coach, full-time mom, okay skater, and connoisseur of all things tea, chocolate, and roller derby. I'll help you unleash your inner athlete by building a strong, capable body that can withstand whatever life throws at you.


  • Suzi Stormcloud says:

    I love these posts! I’m currently studying exercise and performance as an undergrad. This article made the goal chapter of my sports psych book make sense.

    • IronOctopusFitness IronOctopusFitness says:

      Yay! Sports psych is interesting, but has a lot of nuances, right? 🙂 Thanks for the love, I’m glad you’re finding all of the stuff useful!

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