In the northern hemisphere leaves are starting to fall, in some cases even snow, and the training is moving indoors. Some people are in off-season and enjoying some non-swim/bike/run-related activities , while others are slowly getting back into the groove of training and building that strength and stamina to get us through the rest of the year.
If you are at all like me, you've had some time to settle down from the 'high' of the race season and take some realistic glances into the future. How am I going to approach this season? Am I going to focus on a different distance? Only one distance? What am I going to do the same/differently this season? And the BIG question: what are my GOALS?
Whether you race to finish or race to stand on a podium, there are certain methods that will help make your goal setting process run smoothly.
Yes, I said process.
Goal-setting is not a one off event at the beginning of your season, nor is it necessarily fixed when we write it down, but that's a good place to start.
1. Make them really specific. “I want to be first out of the water” doesn't work. First of all, you can't base your progress on other people. Someone else may have a really good day, or all the fast swimmers may be on holiday that day! So make your goal applicable to yourself only. Second, get more specific. For example “I want to swim sub-20min 1500m free in the pool by February.” Notice, I gave myself a time per distance, and I gave myself a deadline. Using a pool decreases the amount of variability in environment that may affect this time. Having this super specific goal helps you with the next step in goal setting.
2. How am I going to get there? Work smart, Work hard. So now you know what you want, but just because you want something doesn't mean it will just appear. No, you have to work for it; and in most cases, you have to work hard and specifically toward it. Some ways of doing this is to evaluate possible changes you need to make to, say, increase your efficiency or strength. “I am going to do 15 minutes of core after every swim session” or “I am going to foam roll after every run”. How are you going to eat well? Sleep well? All these are things that affect whether we are able to move toward our goals and need to be taken into consideration.
3. Track your progress. Whether it be trainingpeaks or a composite notebook make sure you have a way of tracking the work you put in. And not just the numbers. Record how you felt during a certain work out, and how you felt after. Any nagging pains or itches should be noted here as well. Tracking your progress allows you to see black on white what you are achieving. It will help get and keep you motivated, as well as tell you when its time to back off. Having a coach is great for this, but you can do it on your own too. If you have a few sessions back to back where you just don't feel right, give yourself a break. And having your progress in front of you will also indicate whether or not you are on track for your mega goals.
4. Evaluate. What works and what doesn't? If you are already a seasoned triathlete with multiple races under your belt, it may be easier to look back and think “I'm going to do that differently this year” - but if you aren't, it's never to late to learn. Setting goals is as much about the process of achieving them as it is about the recovery and aftermath of not achieving them. What will you do with that knowledge. What stopped you from reaching that goal and what do you need to do to make it happy next time around?
Hope some of this humble wisdom is helpful.
Yume is a T1 Triathlon High Performance Team Member and racer from Peace River, Alberta.