By Aaron Moss
Part 3 of 3: Goal Setting
The previous two parts of the series discussed data collection and analysis of the data to get you ready for setting your goals and plan for the offseason. Using this retrospective analysis and a list of those specific areas you feel offer the biggest potential for improvement, we are now going to work on setting goals. Its time to recall and write down your final, specific list of 1-3 things you want to address during this offseason.
Remember, this is not a list of things you are “bad” at. This is a list of those areas to which specific dedication in the non-racing season offers you the most potential to achieve race-season goals in the coming year.
Even during their very best seasons, in the midst of winning championships, great athletes see in themselves the potential for improvement. The ability to honestly assess your own performance without being negative can be difficult, but remember that we all have areas in which we can improve and enjoy doing it. Setting goals is a critical step in the process, and is a skill that requires practice and experience in its own right. There is a good correlation between the quality of the goals one sets and the improvement one sees from working towards them.
Ask yourself a few questions to begin setting goals:
What is success? Taking the number one item you identified as having the largest potential for improvement, as well as being most important to you, define your image of success. In other words, if you meet your upcoming offseason training goals, what would that look like in terms of racing next year? If you identified completing the 1500 meter swim leg of an Olympic distance triathlon in 25 minutes, you have an easy way to measure success. If you decided that you want to have a top-5 ranked swim leg in your age group, this will require further refinement to set your goal. For example, to set a goal for offseason training geared towards this, you will need to know what time a top-5 swim finish requires. If you have been specific in deciding upon areas for improvement, setting goals is much more meaningful because you create a concrete mental image of success.
What is your honest ability to commit? When you set goals, are you being realistic in terms of what you are truly going to be willing to sacrifice and put up with to reach them? Are you setting goals that will require hiring a coach, but you are not ready to spend the money? Are you setting goals that require you to spend 5 days a week training but you travel 3 days a week? Don’t forget about family and your commitment to them!! This does not imply you should change your goal—instead, consider what you really are going to be able to achieve based on your ability to commit a certain amount of time, energy or money. If your goals are too general, you may not be able to define what your level of commitment will need to be, and as a result you will not be able to formulate a serious plan for offseason training to which you can adhere.
Are you being realistic? This question is important because setting appropriate goals will lead to success but setting unachievable goals can be harmful physically and spiritually. It is natural for most triathletes to set lofty, ambitious goals for improvement, but how ambitious is too ambitious? Physically and psychologically a person has the ability to adapt to certain amounts of training. This varies between people, and even within a person when you consider all three disciplines of triathlon. On the converse, remember that the idea of using the offseason for improving specific aspects of racing means challenging yourself to do something you were not able to do before. Avoid setting goals that do not challenge you enough out of fear of not being able to attain them.
Do I know how to achieve this goal? It seems obvious, but do you know what you will have to do to achieve your goals? Hopefully you are an “expert” in this discipline, now, after reading part 2 of this series. With this knowledge, are you able to extrapolate what you have done into a plan for the future? If not, what resources do you have available to set goals for the offseason based on the previous year? This is ultimately going to become your training plan, and will form the scaffold of how you are going to attack the problem. If you don’t know what to do, setting a goal will be difficult. Find a local group—almost every community has a group of age group triathletes—and get involved. Make the personal commitment to train with others and get real coaching. The internet is a wealth of good and bad information, so be careful what you believe. Figure out what works for you. I recommend TriSwimCoach.com and a few other sites for real, solid training advice.
Read through all three parts and follow these steps presented to begin a successful offseason training program. Remember to take detailed notes of every training session. Be open to new ideas. Be honest, thorough, and prepared to challenge yourself. Hopefully these simple ideas we discussed will help you form goals that will translate into improved results next year. Every time you go through this process, you learn a lot.
Happy training. See you out there!
About the Author
Aaron Moss lives in Seattle, Washington and has been competing in triathlons for 12 years. He is the founder of the Bellingham Triathlon Club in Bellingham, Washington and has been coaching beginning triathletes for 5 years. He is currently an Aquaphor sponsored triathlete.