Low Level Structure
A goal will, at least, have a specific skill definition to it.
Example: One day I am going to swim 3km, from this point on the beach to that point on the beach way down there. This is simply a distance achievement objective – no racing. You can keep it like that, with no deadline and no speed requirement. Set the skill goal with no deadline to allow you to go at the most life-flexible pace. You will know that you simply have to develop a certain set of skills in a certain order, no matter how long it takes.
Setting a simple skill goal allows your training to stay within the lowest level of productive structure. That is quite ok – simple, peaceful, open-ended. You may add a deadline: I am going to do this by the end of September. Set a deadline to help you determine the pace you must go for developing those skills. You may need advanced skills to reach that goal but you won’t be able to work on advanced skills until you’ve spent the time up front mastering the fundamental skills.
Because of the deadline you’ve got only so much time to imprint the full set, so this will give you motivation to stay productive early on in your training season. Your deadline will hold you even more accountable to justify how you spend your limited time each week.
High Level Goal
And you may add a speed goal: I am going to swim it in less than 80 minutes or less.
Set a speed goal to help you identify exactly what those stroke skills have to be capable of producing in terms of Stroke Length x Tempo. This now adds an element of quantitative accountability.This is a high level goal.
The stroke cannot simply be smooth and easy and adequate, it must be strong and productive also. Each subsequent detail in the goal adds more parameters that you have to design your training path by.
’Skill Goal + Speed Goal + Deadline’ puts your training into the highest level of productive structure. But the choice of what level of structure to use is totally up to you and your desired athletic lifestyle.