A new year or a new season often prompts athletes to think about new goals or things they want to achieve…whether that’s in sport, life or health. But, to be successful, it’s not just about thinking big or setting something that scares you...
Sure, this can work for some people, but we need to think about how you will achieve that: the process, what you can control, barriers, troubleshooting strategies, and accountability.
Here’s my 5-step guide to setting successful goals
Once you have thought about what you want to achieve (it can be big or small), work through the following to flesh it out more:
1. Do you have control over it?
Many people set goals on things that they actually don’t have control over. Like winning a race, getting to a certain weight on the scales or hitting a certain time in a race. Whilst it can feel like we're in control of these things, we actually aren’t, because there are lots of factors we don’t have control over that influence the outcome. Such as: the weather, our competitors, our hormones and many biological processes that affect weight, the course and correct distances or conditions, and much more.
2. What is the process to get there - what can you control?
Building upon the above, think about what you actually have control over?
Perhaps, instead of focusing on a race placing or weight on the scales, you set a goal around training habits, sleep routine, training nutrition, building strength. Like anything, small steps add up. And this is where consistency comes in. It really is key. Aiming to give your best at something each week or each day, will add up over time, rather than taking an all or nothing approach. This is where rest days and rest weeks can be really useful; and where eating simple and not making it complicated or restrictive is also beneficial. If consistency isn’t your thing, and you rather think about the bandwagon and being on or off it, imagine it in tune with you. When you fall off, it doesn’t keep going… it waits for you. So, if you fall off, know that it’s waiting for you when you’re ready to get back on!
3. What might get in the way?
Planning ahead and having troubleshooting strategies can be helpful on your journey towards your goals. It’s like when we plan for a race or event. Things don’t always go to plan, but when you have troubleshooting strategies up your sleeve, you’re more likely to achieve what you set out to do. Think about:
Your work schedule: do you have some big deadlines coming up? Do you need to have back up meals ready or to not over-committed to training that it leaves you feeling disappointed when you can’t get sessions done or TrainingPeaks is red…
Your life pillars: what is important to you? Family time, time with your partner, socializing, you-time? Make sure you prioritise these or schedule them into your calendar so you can be your personal best in life, sport and your health.
Time availability: Sick kids, pets, traffic, work emergencies; things come up. That’s life. So when time becomes short, how will this affect your goals and journey? Do you need to chat with your coach about training loads, do you need to make a list of back up ready made meals or meals good for you to buy out or make in 10 minutes? List these out and alternatives that will work for you.
4. How will you stay consistent and track your progress? What, who and how?
Everyone works differently. And different things may work for you at different times of the year. Think about what has worked for you in the past (or what hasn’t). Do you work well with accountability buddies? Do you respond well to data and visuals and like to track measurables?
While tracking numbers on the scale, body composition scans, Strava stats, power and nutrition data, can be helpful for some; I like athletes to tune into themselves and become more mindful too. Tracking measures such as mood, fatigue, tiredness, recovery, energy levels, response and adaptation to training and hunger/fullness, can tell us so much more than device data! And in my opinion, this is more important in achieving your goals and being your personal best in life.
5. Celebrate the little wins!
In order to enjoy the journey and stay consistent, celebrating the little wins along the way is key! I get my athletes to celebrate their wins each week. Then once you reach a milestone, you may celebrate by buying a new piece of training equipment or an outfit, or something you’ve wanted for a while. Writing these out and ticking off, or journaling each day or week is a great way to do this too.
Here’s an example:
Goal: Podium at Mooloolaba Triathlon in 2023.
This is not controllable, so instead…
I have control over:
Racing strong - for me that means a controlled and consistent bike (improve my average to 36kph by doing hills each week and track sessions) and feel strong on the run (good form, focus on breathing, stay connected and focused)
Training schedule - commit to 8 sessions per week minimum. 3 bike, 3 run, 1 swim, 1 gym and yoga. This fits into my time availability
When time is limited: don’t play catch up with sessions. Focus on a new day and quality sessions. Open regular communication with my coach.
If I get sick - focus on mental strategies and yoga
Injuries (niggles and ITB): make stretching 3 times a week a non-negotiable. When watching TV = stretch
Consistency and measures:
Track fatigue and energy levels in response to training. Modify if needed. Listen to my body
Don’t overcommit to time available for training
Journal every 2-3 days
Over the next 10 weeks, I will aim to train 8 times per week, enjoying the process, so I can race strong at Mooloolaba Triathlon. I will achieve this by planning ahead, completing 3 bike sessions per week, 3 runs, 1 swim and 1 S&C - focusing on strength and technique. I will journal regularly and track my energy and fatigue to guide training. I will celebrate small improvements in training sessions over this period and getting to the start line healthy.
Another goal example could be turning I want to lose 5kg into I want to build more lean muscle and increase energy levels. By achieving these things, it can lead to the original goal.
Happy goal setting. All the best for a healthy and happy 2023.