USA Triathlon recently conducted #DreamingSeason, a new campaign that encourages both expert and first-time triathletes to set their goals for triathlon season. Speaking about the campaign, Chuck Menke, Chief Marketing Officer at USA Triathlon said, “We encourage athletes to talk about, and openly share, their goals – however big or small.” A campaign like this underscores the importance of goal setting for any triathlete.
Goals give you direction and help you achieve heights you never thought you could. However, before you plan, you need to know how to set effective goals. Here are six essentials for triathlete goal setting for this season.
- Review Past Performance
Before embarking on any goals, it’s necessary to assess where you stand currently. Pull out last season’s performance records – swim times, the 5k pace, position on the race and so on. Think about what you’ve done well at last season and identify areas you’d like to see improvement in. Then, write it out. That’s your base; where you need to begin with setting goals.
- Set Smaller Goals
Now that you’ve got your goals, break them down. Say your larger goal is to run a full Ironman this year. (If you’re a beginner and this is your goal, you would need to be a bit more realistic.) Break this down into smaller bite-size pieces. Ask yourself, “What practical steps do I need to take to get there this year?”
Since you’ve already assessed your past performance, you know where you stand and how much you need to put in. Factor in your age group too before setting any goals. It would be a good idea to look at the times of triathletes in your age group. For example, a smaller goal would be to achieve a swim time of 2:10 min/100 m if you are in the men’s age group of 30-34.
- Be Reasonable
You might love dreaming big – we love it too. Do not doubt for one second that the sky is the limit. Everyone has the potential to achieve their dreams, but the key to achieving those dreams is to be reasonable.
For example, if you’re a 39 minute 5k athlete and you want a sub-30 time, that’s great. But remember that it can’t be achieved in an instant. It will take lots of hard work, the correct method and time to get there. Don’t cease to dream big, but be realistic about how you’re going to get there.
- Be Specific
Everyone knows the first word in S.M.A.R.T. is specific. Generic goals like ‘I want to run a 10k this year’ or ‘I want to finish the Ironman 70.3’ aren’t going to give you much direction in terms of what you want to achieve. When you’re trying to narrow down your goal and make it as specific as possible, consider factors like timing, age group and amount of time you’d need to achieve it. Avoid broad statements.
- Be Accountable
The logic here is quite simple: when you share your goal with a friend, fellow triathlete or even a family member, you are more likely to follow it because you feel accountable to them. It’s also a good idea to write it down. You could even post your goal on a social media group, so you’re accountable to a larger triathlete community.
- Define Your Motivation
Just setting specific goals that can be achieved in a reasonable period of time isn’t enough. Your motivation is the driving force behind everything you do. Spend some quality time with yourself and ask these basic yet vital questions:
- Why is this goal important to me?
- How does it connect to my personal value system and the person I want to be in the future?
Identifying the source of your motivation will help you stay focused on your goal even when the going gets tough or when you simply don’t feel like it.
- Celebrate Achievements
Finally, learn to recognize and celebrate when you do reach your goals. It helps you stay motivated to achieve the next in your triathlon journey.
Remember that with every training session you’re going to get better. Sometimes you’ll be charged up and you’ll be able to achieve your smaller goals, but at the other times, you may feel like you’re not getting anywhere. No matter how you feel, the important thing is to keep going.
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