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Kathleen Oswalt | January 6, 2020

goals  plural noun

Definition of goals :the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result:

Triathletes, how many of you like to set goals, how many of you set goals and never look at them again, how many of you set goals and don’t meet them?  How many of you are setting S.M.A.R.T goals for your triathlon success? Learn to set goals and use them to improve your athletic performance and become a more balanced athlete?

First, let’s make sure you understand that a goal is an outcome or end result. Keeping this in mind, it’s very important to remember that you most definitely need to come up with action steps to help you meet the outcome or end result you desire.

When setting goals for your next Ironman race, one of the most important things you can do is think about what inspires you, what drives you, focus on what you enjoy, what sparks action and change, what you want to do more of, and then do just that.  Do more of THAT. 

Setting lots of goals for things you dread is a sure fire way to find yourself lacking motivation, feeling burned out and not accomplishing much of anything.

And that brings me to another thought, don’t go overboard with setting ten, twenty, thirty goals. Setting too many goals pulls you in too many directions and intention and focus take a back seat. Look to set 1-3 goals, max!

Secrets to SMART Goal setting

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Get S.M.A.R.T About Your Goals


I think most people have heard this term before however let’s just do a quick review:

S: Specific

M: Measurable

A: Achievable

R: Relevant

T: Time Sensitive

Setting goals that follow these guidelines will help you get intentional and focused so you can crush any goal you set for yourself.


Think of this area as the BIG picture. What do you want to accomplish and be SPECIFIC!  The more specific you are about a goal the more likely you are going to achieve it. This is the who, what, when, where, why and so on. As a result, answering these questions helps you get specific.

If you’re working with a triathlete coach this person can help guide you in setting SMART goals.

For example: I want to be a better swimmer. This goal is very vague, yes you want to be a better swimmer but how will you do that? A better way to think about it is, I want to be a better swimmer so my goal will be decreasing my swim time by 10 seconds/100 meters.


This step in goal setting is super important, don’t skip it. You absolutely want to be able to track, chart and analyze your progress. This step is where you can see your progress, it provides motivation and holds you accountable.  

For example: Using sports tools like Strava, Training Peaks, Garmin etc can help you track, chart and analyze your progress. Keeping you on track to meeting the goals you’ve set for yourself.


You’ll want to make sure you put in some quality time when thinking about the goals you’ll be setting. Goals are meant to challenge you, push you out of your comfort zone, stretch you as a person and even make you feel a little uncomfortable. Here you’re going to set goals that are within reach but you know you’ll have to work hard for it, sweat for it and maybe even shed a tear or two for it. 

Keep one thing in mind while you’re setting your “stretch” goal, it has to be achievable. You don’t want to be in the business of setting goals that make you fail. You want to be in the business of setting goals that you can crush with hard work. 

In this stage of goal setting it’s smart (no pun intended) to set small achievable goals or action steps. Think of this as breaking your big goal down into bite-sized chunks. Setting smaller action steps will ensure that you’ll accomplish what you set out to do.

So now, go ahead and dream because with a plan you can make your dreams come true.

For example: You want to be a better swimmer and you’ll do this by decreasing your swim time by 10 seconds/100 meters. First, determine whether this is an achievable goal. Does it push you out of your comfort zone? With hard work you’re confident you can accomplish it?

The action steps to accomplishing this goal could be:

  1. Hire a coach to help you map out this process
  2. Join a Master’s Swim Club
  3. Use a training plan or purchase a book on better swimming techniques


Make sure you’re setting goals that are moving you forward in sport and in life.  Duh…right? Sometimes it can be fairly easy to get distracted in the goal setting process. Maybe you’re getting confused, distracted or overwhelmed and you veer off course. You want to make sure your goals make sense. 

You want to focus your time and energy on things that provide a positive benefit to your life and you want to make sure what you’re focusing on aligns with other goals you’ve set for yourself.

Ask yourself: why do I want to accomplish this goal? What is the objective behind it?

For example: So, why do you want to be a better swimmer?

  1. I want to feel more confident in the water
  2. I want to decrease my overall race time 

Time Sensitive:

What’s a goal without a deadline? It’s just a wish or a hope. EVERY goal deserves to have a time limit. Goals should have urgency. Take time to really understand the goal you’re setting and how much time you’ll need to accomplish it. You don’t want to assign to little time because the end result will most likely end in failure and you don’t want to assign too much time because the end result will most likely be low motivation in accomplishing the goal. 

For example: I want to become a better swimmer and decrease my swim time by 10 seconds/100 meters. In reviewing my action plan it will take approximately 30 days to reach my goal.


Top 5 Mistakes Triathletes Make When Setting Goals


  1. Not writing it down! You can’t hit a target you can’t see. Write your goals down on paper with timelines. Make sure your goals are in a place where you can see them everyday, maybe even multiple times each day. Visualize yourself already having accomplished your goals. How does it make you feel?
  2. Having an all or nothing mentality. Goals are not written in stone but sand. Be flexible with your goals and with yourself. If you need to adjust a timeline on a goal do so, if you need to throw one of your goals in the garbage do it, if you need to adjust a goal go for it. Set yourself up to win!
  3. Keeping your goals to yourself. This doesn’t mean you need to tell the whole world what your goals are but sharing your goals and dreams with those you feel “safe” with can be a support system to you. These people can be your cheerleader, your accountability, your voice of reason, your coach and so on.
  4. Not taking into consideration the season of life you’re in. When setting goals it’s really important to take into consideration what’s going on in your life and in your family’s life. Be able to look ahead and plan. Are you going back to school, are you moving, are you adding a baby to the family, is a family member sick and your helping care for this person, are you taking on more responsibility at work or starting a new job, do you have a lot of travel planned for the year? Take these things into consideration when setting achievable goals.
  5. Setting goals that only focus on winning.The truth is not even the strongest, fastest or smartest athlete can guarantee a win. There are so many variables on race-day that are just plain out of your control. So focus more of your attention on more meaningful or personal goals, maybe even some goals outside of the sport like relationship goals.


Setting Your Triathlon Goals


Create a triathlete action plan

Don’t forget that every goal needs an action plan to go with it. How will you accomplish your goal? Answering some questions upfront will help you develop a path to follow and make accomplishing your goal that much easier.

We’ve put together a free resource for you to help you set intentions with your goals.  This simple handout helps you answer a few questions to help you get just a little more clear about the goal you’re setting. Then you can come up with your action plan.

SMART Goal Setting Action Plan

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Use a planner to track your progress

Once you have your action plan in place add it to your planner. Most of us still use a planner, I think. If you don’t buy one and write your BIG goal down and then record your action plan. Look at the dates you’ve set for yourself, record these.

Record the actions you will take between the date you start and the date you will have your goal accomplished by. Highlight where you might have roadblocks. Write down what’s going help you stay on track, stay organized, stay the path.

Journal your progress to stay focused and motivated

Journaling can be powerful. It works for many but not for all. If journaling is something you enjoy certainly use this tool to help you stay focused, motivated and help you accomplish your goal.

Use the time right before bed to journal about your progress, how you’re feeling physically and mentally, reassess your goals and decide if they’re still achievable or do they need tweaking, are you still on the right path to hit your timelines, maybe somewhere in there thank your body for all it has done for you or give gratitude to the body you have, remind yourself why you wanted to accomplish the goal you came up with.

Finally, use your journaling time to just write whatever comes to mind, whatever you feel like focusing on that evening before bed.

Here’s a great Running Journal from TriMarni that we highly recommend.

365 Running Journal


Celebrating Your Accomplishments

One last thing…above all, don’t forget to celebrate all you accomplish. In this busy world we are go, go, go all the time especially endurance athletes who more likely than not have every minute in the day accounted for. We don’t take the time to really acknowledge what we’ve accomplished, what we’ve worked hard for and achieved. Part of goal setting is also writing down how you will celebrate once you’ve accomplished your goal. 

So the next time you set some goals and accomplish them remember to also celebrate them and YOU.

Do you set goals and if so, how do goals move you forward? Comment below, we’d love to hear from you. 🙂


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Dietitian Kathleen and Kona-Qualifier Don Oswalt

Welcome to Eat Love Triathlon! We’re Don and Kathleen your go-to dietitian and triathlete. Together, we’re here to share our latest and greatest tips, with you, on how to be a well-balanced triathlete with nutrition, triathlon and keeping harmony in your relationships. We’re excited you’ve stopped by, happy reading and don’t be shy about reaching out. We’d love to hear from you!