Goal Setting for Cyclists, Runners, Triathletes and other Athletes

It is that time of the year when we have to assess the results that we were able to achieve during this season and think about the goals that we want to achieve during the next one. Under the right conditions, an athlete and a coach can utilize goal setting as a powerful weapon to increase motivation and to produce quality results. This is due mainly to the fact that it helps to keep the athlete with a purpose, and it guides him into a path that will produce positive results.

A goal is defined as “the end toward which effort is directed” by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary

In order to create an effective plan that will bring results, every athlete including cyclists, runners, and triathletes has to have a set of target goals. It might not be very specific goals, but it is important to know in which direction he or she wants to go.

I took a moment to grasp this when I was younger, during quite some time I did not understand the importance that goals have in being able to achieve the full extent of what I am capable of. That resulted in many lost hours just following the motions without really knowing where I was going. If one does not have a path to follow, then it will only be wandering around and going nowhere. With years and with the experience I started to grasp this, and it is what build some of my habits of today. Habits include constantly writing down my goals, reviewing them, and following the path that I set for my success.

According to Edwin Locke and Gary Latham (1990), there is a pathway that is followed normally when using goals to track performance success (or failure). It breaks down in what I believe is a very complete way the stops that the cyclist or athlete, in general, has to go through in order to set up and try to achieve any particular goal.

  1. Values
    1. Evaluate the athlete’s personal values. In this step, the athlete and
      the coach look at the broader view of the athlete. It considers not only
      the sport but for life in general. Some important areas to consider
      might include:
      1. What are the athlete’s beliefs about the sport?
      2. What is most important to the athlete?
      3. Is the athlete trying to achieve any major life goal?
  2. Emotions and Desires
    1. In this step, the athlete and the coach will look at the athlete’s
      current emotions and desires towards the sport. How does he feel about
      the sport at this time and most importantly what is he trying to achieve
      or obtain from it? This will probably be one of the most important steps
      to evaluate as it will directly tell you what the immediate intentions
      of the athlete are.
    2. Some important things to consider include:
      1. What is the athlete thinking and feeling?
      2. What is the athlete’s current motivational condition?
      3. Is there a specific goal that wants to achieve or maybe a target
        event?
  3. Intentions (Goals)
    1. Set up the athlete’s goals based on his values, emotions, and desires.
  4. Directed Attention Mobilized Effort Persistence Strategies
    1. Build a plan and a strategy around goals to carve the best pathway to
      success
  5. Behavior or Performance
    1. Track behavioral and performance metrics to make sure that the athlete
      is on track
  6. Outcome
    1. Try to achieve the goal and analyze the final results after it is
      completed.
      1. Goal Accomplished
        1. Results in further motivation and satisfaction
      2. Goal Not Accomplished
        1. Results in lower motivation and frustration

“Set your goals high and don’t stop until you get there”
– Bo Jackson

There are a couple of things that I believe are important to consider when setting up an athlete’s goals. Take into consideration that they are only some of the items that I believe are important, but it is possible that your list may be a bit different from mine. Take it as guidelines to start to help you navigate the goal-setting process but modified them to your person according to the steps and directions mentioned before.

  • Goals should target a hard but not impossible result
    • This is a rule that people normally have known but do not implement properly. Setting a target goal that is too hard can be as detrimental or even worst than not having set any. It could lead to maybe trying to reach a too low weight and start an eating disorder or cause you to train harder than your body can handle and lead you to overtrain.
    • A bad example:
      • Winning the first place on the national series racing at an elite level category (while that will be his first year of racing)
    • A good example:
      • Improving my finish time on my target event or race by 10% from last year finish time
  • Goals should have a way to be tracked over time
    • The best way to track your progress and see that you are heading in the right direction is to have goals that can be tracked. This can be metrics like watts, watts per kilo, pounds, speed, calories, or any other one that is important for you.
    • A bad example:
      • Beating all of the cyclists in my state
    • A good example:
      • Be able to sustain 350 watts for 60-minutes by November 15
  • Goals need to be specific
    • In order for a goal to be effective, it must be specific to what you are trying to achieve. The broader it is, the less effective it will be as it will not take you in a specific direction. You need to know exactly what you are going for, that could be anything from weight to speed, to power and really anything that is important for you. Just be specific about it!
    • A bad example:
      • Being faster on the bike
    • A good example:
      • Be able to sustain 25 mph on a flat grade for 30-minutes by the end of the season
  • Goals should have a deadline to improve its effectiveness
    • One of the most important factors to an effective goal is having a deadline in which it should have been achieved. This could be a target event or a date in your training plan. If a deadline is not set, then motivation will not be as high on the athlete. They will procrastinate more as it is easier to postpone with no repercussion.
    • A bad example:
      • Become the faster athlete in my state
    • A good example:
      • Improve my FTP by 10% by my target event that is 180 days from today
  • Goals should be something under the control of the athlete
    • Many times, athletes target goals that are not controlled by them. They try to beat a racer that may or may not be fit next year, instead of focusing on themselves and how to constantly keep improving.
    • A bad example:
      • Beat “John Smith” the Cat 1 series champion for that year
    • A good example
      • Improve my max sprinting power by 10% before the start of the season

By having proper goals set in place, the possibilities of success increase drastically in all athletes. It Is important to take some time and really think about what the athlete wants to achieve, as it will act as a guide to your entire training plan. Maybe your target is to do your best at the 24 hours race this year, that will mean you have to train more hours instead of intensity. On the other hand, you want to win the local criterium series this year, then high-intensity training and a medium-volume training plan might be best your you. From your annual training plan to your weekly volume, to your daily workouts; all of this will be derived from what you are trying to achieve, therefore from what your goals are.

I hope that this assists you in creating a more proficient and effective training plan and to assist you to achieve the best you that there is. Make sure that you have your goals set in place before continuing with building your annual training plan. If you need assistance please do not hesitate to reach out, with over 10 years of experience I have the knowledge necessary to help you succeed.

Written by:

Gilberto Cortez - USA Cycling, TrainingPeaks & NICA Certified Coach

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