Triathlon tips for beginners: setting triathlon goals

Sundowner Sprint Triathlon

If a target-based approach to work and fitness is what motivates you, why not apply it to triathlon competition too? As we all know, the most effective targets are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound – meeting the SMART criteria. SMART goals can work for triathletes too, but there are a number of things to consider before putting your goals on paper and competing at your next event!

Why am I racing?

What was it that initially drove you to try out the triathlon? For many of us, it was simply a desire to improve our fitness by taking on not one, not two, but three disciplines. A triathlon will test your body in a way that few other workouts are able to compete with. Other triathletes may have started competing in order to meet new people, while some may want to raise money for charity and others may want to move up the ranks and compete professionally. Before you set yourself targets for the next triathlon season, you need to know your reasons for racing – and set your goals with your underlying motivation in mind.

Race-based targets

Common triathlon targets related to specific races include ‘finish in top 30’ or ‘finish in top 10 in my age group.’ However, these targets are often unhelpful, as the skill of your fellow competitors can vary greatly. On one race day you may face a handful of pros or iron man veterans, while on others you may only encounter eager amateurs and fellow newcomers. The expertise of the field is out of your control, so your placement may tell you little about your actual performance.

Time-based targets

Time-based targets are a little more useful. These don’t just need to be restricted to race-day, either. You can use them in your day-to-day training and set goals based on single disciplines alone, or all three together – for example, complete a 1km swim in the pool in 20 minutes, or knock five minutes off your best 40km cycling time. Be cautious when applying these targets to race-day, as there are still many variables that are outside your control. The course may be hillier than you anticipated, or the weather not to your liking.

Alternative targets

Instead of focusing on outcomes, choose targets that will change your behaviour and training. Aim to train five days a week rather than four. Get up 30 minutes earlier on several work days a week. Switch your focus to your least-favoured discipline. Vow to cut out chocolate or make other improvements to your diet. Perhaps the best race-day target is purely to feel that you’ve run a good, balanced race at the end of it and had fun while doing so. While that may not be measurable in the traditional sense, you’ll surely know whether you’re satisfied with your run once you’ve crossed the finish line!

Want to compete at some triathlons before the end of the 2017 season? We have some great events lined up so come and join us!

Listen to the winners of this year’s Driffield Triathlon on Radio Yorkshire