For Inside Triathlon
© 2006 by Joe Friel and Chuck Graziano
Many people believe goal setting is second nature and 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, some 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, however, is much more and can be an entire structure onto which a training plan is overlaid. Most Multisports athletes have lives outside of their training and racing, and there are a whole assortment of factors that should be considered when setting up your goals, and the structure that goes with them, outside of your training.

Sure, everyone has goals, but are they really committed 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 have that goal.

Once you are sure you’re committed, a structure needs to be created. This is the element that sets your goal apart from the New Year’s Resolution. A structure is a written game plan that outlines at a minimum, the steps (or milestones) you’ll need to achieve to reach your goal, the resources that will be necessary to get to each milestone, a time line for the accomplishment of each milestone, and the “team” you’ll be relying on to help you get there. This is not simply your training plan. Some of your teammates might include a babysitter who will watch the kids while you’re getting in that critical long ride, or your boss who will be providing some flexibility in your work schedule. Your team would include your spouse and family who will need to be supportive, and would include your coach who will hold you to account with respect to the training plan.

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 was. So you’re progressing along making some good progress 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.
Flexibility: Consistency does not mean rigid! Sticking with the plan “no matter what” can oftentimes 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 that temporary interruption occurs. Take a look at your structure and your training program. What adjustments need to be made to keep you on track, but allow for you to break a routine to handle the interruption?

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