Written by Jesse. Posted in Coaching Thoughts

“Goals”. What are they? You hear them all the time in training circles and forums throughout the triathlon community. I like to use the following “buckets” to better describe what we are talking about here:

“Goals” – examples under this bucket are: I am going to be tough, I’m not going to give up no matter how hard things get, I’m going to follow my pacing plan, I’m going to follow my fueling plan. These are better described as those items in which you have 100 percent control over.

“Targets” – examples here are: I’m going to average 250 watts, I’m going to run 7:45 pace on the run. These are items you have a bit less control over but are directly related to your training and therefore can be predicted very closely. Running pace and swim pace obviously have the course specifics factored in as well and are therefore a bit less tangible.

“Outcomes” – examples here are: age group or overall placing, race time, kona slot qualification, etc. These items are those items that you have the least control over and are really just an outcome of the previous two buckets.

What you start to see when you look at “goals” like this is that priority should be given at the top and reduce as you work toward the bottom. Another way to look at this thought is in series like this: Goals->Targets->Outcomes. Unfortunately most people tend to think about this topic opposite to that which tends to create improper pacing strategies, missed “goals”, and disappointment. Ultimately, these people have a much tougher time reaching their race objectives and spend half of there season disappointed in themselves because they “didn’t beat Mary Jane on the bike”. This is an unhealthy mental pattern for athletes of all abilities.

Athletes tend to be the most upset about the bottom (outcome) going wrong when they should more displeased when the top goes wrong. When focus is given to the top, what you find is that the outcomes are there as a result. Most athletes need to begin with focus at the top and slowly move toward the bottom as they develop as an athlete and have mastered the top. The top items are those that you have complete control over; if those can’t be mastered, there is really no basis to give the bottom much thought.

Unfortunately, most people start by saying “I want to qualify for Kona this season, what do I have to do” without even knowing if this is a reasonable outcome. That is, do they have the ability to be tough, can they execute their race plan time and time again, and do they have the “targets” required to make that goal outcome (qualify for Kona) a reality.


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