For Inside Triathlon
Achieving Your Goal:
It’s more than a New Year’s Resolution!

To many people, goal setting is second nature but it is oftentimes is confused with the kind of thing that isn’t much more than a New Year’s Resolution. When it comes to training and racing, many athletes believe that goal setting is about selecting a target race and either hiring a coach or establishing a training plan to get there.

Goal setting for those who really want to accomplish their mission should be an entire structure onto which a training plan is overlaid. Most multisports athletes have lives outside of their training and racing involving careers, families, hobbies, mortgage payments and so forth. These other spheres of influence are the primary reason why accomplishing your goal requires more than a target race and a training plan. The structure, or plan, you set up is about how to maintain the balance in your life.

The Basics
The goal itself is important, but what is more important is what your goal will get you. Look deeper to see why it is that the goal is important to you, and write what you discover. Is it a new level of fitness and health? Or something greater? Perhaps the journey to achieving your goal will make you an inspirational role model for the kids or others! You may find that the deeper purpose provides inspiration to you when you are having a bad training day, or a tough time balancing.

Sure, everyone has goals, but how committed are they to achieving them? Some say that if your hand isn’t shaking when you reach for your goals, you’re not reaching high enough. But on the flip side, each time you set a goal, you should be asking yourself what it is that you’d be willing to do to achieve that goal. Is your commitment strong enough to forego a few personal conveniences or comforts (for example, training rather than sleeping in)? Any time you’re tempted to sleep in or go off of your game plan, you should ask yourself, “What is it that I’m committed to accomplishing in my racing this season?” If the answer doesn’t motivate and excite you, you’re not committed. Go back to the drawing board and reach higher!

Your goal and the structure for achieving it is a written plan. That’s what sets this plan apart from the New Year’s Resolution. What is it you want to achieve? A new distance? A personal best at a particular race? There’s an expression, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road you take will get you there.” Write your goal and how you’ll know if you achieved it. You might refer to this as the “Conditions of Satisfaction.” If your goal is to race the fastest Olympic-distance race of your life, the Conditions of Satisfaction would include the race in which you intend to achieve your goal and the goal time for finishing. Write out the splits and make copies to keep in places that will motivate you when you see them.

Susan Williams is well known as a world champion triathlete who won the Bronze Medal at the Olympic games in Athens. Susan is also a wife, to husband Tim, Mother to Sidney, aerospace engineer and coach. To keep everything in balance Susan finds her written structure, in the form of a planner, critical. “If I don’t constantly check my planner, something might get dropped.”

Another part of your structure is a list of milestones that you need to achieve to hit your target such as a 5km or 10km race time a few months before. There should also be critical actions that you’ll have to take. These should be listed as well. Examples would be getting your bike fit checked, getting a commitment from family members to watch the kids or finding a baby sitter and having a written training plan (or a coach who prepares one for you). Each critical action is, well, critical to the goal, and carries a specific date by which it will be done.

And as important as any other element is your “team”–those you will rely on to help you get there. Some of your teammates might include a babysitter who will watch the kids while you’re getting in that critical long ride, your boss who will be providing some flexibility in your work schedule, or maybe your spouse who will arrange meals so you can get your training in. Susan Williams finds her team to be a critical part of her overall plan and that team starts off with her husband, Tim. When things get compressed, “Tim always asks me, ‘What can I do’, Says Williams”. Other members of her team include her Mom and her coach. List all the members of your team as part of your structure.

Consistency in training is one of the primary requirements for success. How closely you follow your training plan to some extent depends on your level of commitment and how realistic your structure is. Like most athletes you may be progressing toward your milestones and one day you wake up and flash!—Life Happens! What do you do when, say, the baby sitter is sick or a special project at work needs extra time that had been dedicated to your key workouts for the week? It happens to everyone sooner or later. Maintaining consistency in the face of such interruption is a key element to achieving your goal. Be willing to switch your schedule around, find another “team member” to watch the kids, or get up an hour earlier to wedge in the critical swim workout (be sure to go to bed earlier the night before). Stick to your plan wherever possible, and when things start to get you down, pull out your written goal and ask yourself, “Am I committed to accomplishing this?”

Consistency does not mean rigidity! Sticking with the plan “no matter what” can often times do more harm than good. Just as you would change a flat during a race and continue to move on, you need to make adjustments to your training schedule when those temporary interruptions occur. Take a look at your structure and your training program. What changes need to be made to keep you on track, but allow for you to break a routine to handle the interruption? Are the changes a one-shot or short-term tweak, or do you have to roll the adjustment forward to keep your structure realistic? Susan Williams’ tip for success in this area is to spread your obligations out over time and if things get compressed, allow it to happen and respond by making the necessary adjustments. When it comes to the training side, she suggests not trying to make up a missed workout. If you miss a key workout, do it in place of a recovery or less important workout on your schedule. If it’s not a key workout that you’ve missed, forget it.

It is no mistake that every successful business has a written business plan. It is also no mistake that the most effective people know exactly what it is they want to accomplish, and have a written plan to get them there. And so it is for athletes. It’s not just about goal setting, but also about developing the map!

My Sample Game Plan for 2006
Time Frame: March 1 to September 16, 2006
Goal: To race the fastest Olympic distance triathlon of my life.
What’s Possible: My kids will have an inspirational role model that will motivate them to live a healthy, fit and active lifestyle!
Conditions of Satisfaction: To finish the East Burlap Olympic-Distance Triathlon, on September 16, in 2 hours, 15 minutes.



Reach by:
Swim 1000 yards at a pace per hundred of 1:35
June 1
Run Anyville Annual 10km in 41 minutes
July 16
Finish Club Wednesday Night 40km time trial in 1 hour flat.
August 2
Race West Burlap Sprint Tri in 1:25:00
September 2
Critical Action:
Do by:
Go over calendar of family events/holidays with spouse
March 1
Get commitment for after school child care
March 1
Take bike in for service and fit check
March 15
Submit entry form when registration opens
May 1
Make travel plans to East Burlap
May 15



People on the Team:
The Kids
My bike Mechanic
My coach
The Boss


My Goal: What do I need to do to do to get there?

The East Burlap Triathlon
Swim- 22:00
T1- 1:30
Bike- 1:05:00
T2- 1:30
Run- 45:00
TOTAL- 2:15:00!

Joe Friel is the author of The Triathlete’s Training Bible and other books. Chuck Graziano is a Training Bible Elite Level Coach, a USA Triathlon Level II Certified Coach and owner of Inspired Performance Multisports. For more information on training or coaching, e-mail