The triathlon season is over for another year, so it's the time to focus your energies elsewhere. Autumn is an excellent time to think about your performances in the past year and to set goals for next season.
Setting goals can be broken down into three time phases - daily goals, midway goals and target goals.
Daily goals provide a focus for your daily training sessions and will, like the other goals, depend on your level of fitness and what your plans are for the coming season. Midway goals are staging-post targets along the way to your overall target goal. Your target goal is just that: your target. You may think you are asking a lot of yourself, but great results demand great effort.
A novice's daily goal could be a 750m swim on Monday, a 5K run on Tuesday and a 20K cycle on Wednesday. For an intermediate-level triathlete, it might break down to a Monday pyramid (increasing the distance in each set) swim session of 2.8K in 50 minutes; on Tuesday, a one-hour bike loop with threshold work, based on a 40K time-trial speed; and on Wednesday, incorporating bike-run workouts into your training for one hour. For an experienced triathlete, Monday's session could be a pyramid swim of 3.8K focusing on technique and different muscle groups; Tuesday's session could be a one-hour bike loop with V02-max work at three-minute intervals; and Wednesday's, running workouts on varying inclines over 20K.
Focus on December and March. For a novice, the first midway goal can be a comfortable continuous swim of 750m and the second, a 20K bike followed by a 5K run. For an intermediate, a December target could be a 1500m swim in 32 minutes, a 40K bike in 1:15 and a 10K run in 50 minutes. A good March target would be combining any two disciplines and maintaining your December target times for both. For the experienced, aim to take 45 seconds off your Ironman-distance PB by December and 90 seconds by March.
This is the big one. For novices, it might mean being fit enough to complete your first sprint-distance triathlon in the 2010 season. An intermediate might aim to complete a sub 2:45 Olympic-distance triathlon, and if you're an experienced triathlete you might be aiming to take two minutes off your Ironman PB swim time and, maybe, achieve a podium place at the World Triathlon Masters in a couple of years. Aim high. Each group of short-term goals should be working toward midway goals and your target goal. Remember that all goals should be flexible, so if you are struggling or finding them too easy, then you should adjust accordingly.
Don't worry if your target goal seems almost impossible. The whole idea of introducing daily and midway goals is to break down the big goal into manageable chunks. And you will find that when achieving your daily and intermediate goals, you will also experience positive reinforcement.
You need to think "SMART" when compiling daily, midway and target goals.
The goals need to be clear and precise. Getting fit is not a specific goal. Doing an Olympic-distance triathlon in less than two hours is.
You need to be able to measure your progress, such as swimming 1500m in 25 minutes. Try to avoid setting goals that are based on your race position, as this depends on the performance of other people, which you cannot control.
The goals must be realistic and achievable but also challenging. If you have more than one target goal, you must prioritise.
Write down your target and midway goals and feel free to have them on display, as a reminder. Why not tell a training colleague or family member? This will help increase your determination to achieve them.
Time limits must be set.