As discussed in How a Good Off-season Makes for a Great Race Season, after you have reflected on your previous the next step is to establish what your goals are for the following triathlon or endurance season.
Goals are one of the most important and overlooked aspects of endurance sports. Many people simply want to get “faster” or constantly improve. While these may be goals, simply stating that you want to get faster is too broad to achieve. When an athlete tells me this is their goal, I dig deeper by asking, “what do you really want?” “Be faster at what, specifically?” While this athlete may not realize it I’m actually shaping their goal around a very common goal setting system known as SMART goal setting.
Of the many ways to establish your goals, I have found SMART goal setting to be the simplest and most effective approach. Even if you goal is to have fun and performance is secondary, make that SMART goal.
So what is a SMART goal?
Specific: The first and most important step in goal setting is to narrow the lenses on exactly what you want to accomplish.
Sample specific goals can include:
– Run a 10k in 40 minutes
– Win my age group in a half-ironman triathlon
– Finish a bicycle century (100 miles)
Measurable: With modern training devices, training software, and timed events measuring, your goal is easier to achieve than ever. Say your goal is to run a 10k in 40 minutes. Look at your training leading up to a 10k race to see you can maintain a 6:26 min/mile.
Attainable: Establishing performance goals that are too unrealistic is one of the most common mistakes triathletes, including myself, make. It’s important to realize how much you can really improve. For example, aiming to decrease your 10k time of 45 minutes to 40 minutes in only 2 months, while not impossible, is very unlikely to happen.
Relevant: Looking at triathlon, for example, many athletes set a huge focus on the swim portion of triathlon. While being a good swimmer is very important, the swim accounts for less than 25% of the total time of the triathlon. Therefore, how relevant is swim training if it takes away from the bike that accounts for over 50% of the race? The point is, don’t set goals that only focus on small improvements. Instead make goals that are relevant for the overall picture.
Time-Bound: Setting a timeline for your goal is one of the best ways to keep you on track. For example, you want to finish a century bike ride. Do you have time to build the endurance before the event? How much time do you need to build up your body to be able to bike 100 miles? These are all questions you should be asking yourself to ensure you meet your goal in time.
I believe training and/or racing without goals is literally swimming, biking, or running laps and going nowhere. I encourage everyone to use the SMART system of goal setting to establish just 2-3 goals for their endurance sport season.