Goal Setting: a Duathlete's Tale

Goal setting. It's a topic top of mind for endurance athletes, as we set out on our journey of self-improvement Recently, Deborah, a good friend and coworker, invited me to speak to her Oakville Running Room clinic about the topic of goal setting. I was humbled and honoured to do so.

The idea was for me to share some tips for reaching one's goals, sprinkled with anecdotes from my training. I started out with an admission of sorts: I wasn't always an athlete. Growing up, I was a skinny kid from Stirling, Ontario. I took part in house league softball and soccer as a child. But gradually, as I grew older, my interests drifted elsewhere. I wasn't athletic, I was academic. And asthmatic! So endurance sports are a new discovery for me.

With that off my chest, I gave this advice about goal setting.

1) Just do it. Go ahead and choose your goals. 

My goals for the season are:

1) Stay injury-free
2) Age group podium place in a Multi-Sport Canada duathlon
3) Qualify for the 2015 Age Group Duathlon Worlds

Set intermediate goals that build toward a long-term goal. That's one of the things I love about running and multi-sport: you can set targets and through the power of technology like of GPS and SportStats, you can easily quantify results and measure your improvement.

I first learned this lesson through the Friends for Life Bike Rally, that Toronto to Montreal charity cycling ride. They put their cyclists through a methodical program of maintenance & nutrition clinics and training rides, which slowly grow in distance. A few months later, you're ready to ride to Montreal.

2) Set yourself up for success. The first two things to do is to write down your goals and tell people about them.

Create structures to help you succeed. When is the last time you reached your goals? Was it at work or in school? Does it help to have others around you? A coach/mentor? Or do you fly solo? Consider how you can replicate that situation for your athletic goals.

Decide where this goal fits with your other priorities and block your time accordingly. I now train six days each week, which wasn't initially easy for me to fit into my schedule. (It still poses problems occasionally, but I try to allow room for flexibility and spontaneity.)

3) Getting through the tough spots.

Remind yourself often why you're working on your goal. Tell people that you’re working on it! Heck, even ask them to encourage you / gently pressure you.

When you're out training and the going gets tough, set mini goals and rewards. According to this Success Magazine article, the brain has trouble differentiating between mini achievements and major ones. So, get to the stop sign and walk for a minute or spin super hard for 15 seconds then spin easy. Cheer yourself at each mini goal.

Visualization and affirmation. Imagine the race course, competitors, the finish line. This helps me prepare for the duathlon transition and also helps me stay focused during sessions on my indoor bike trainer. Tell yourself you can do it. "I've got this." "Unbreakable." "I love hills!" "This is what I trained for."

4) Have fun and just go for it.

I fell into cycling when a friend registered me for the Bike Rally as a birthday present. A chance encounter with a Running Room coach led me to enrol in my first clinic. Seize the opportunity.

And have fun. Life will inevitably throw you curve balls that aren't in the plan, like a sudden downpour on hill training day or a drained watch battery. Or making wrong turns on a training ride. Recognize them for what they are: an opportunity to have fun in a different way. You'll be better for it.

"Darren, I think you missed the turn... again."

How am I doing reaching my goals? So far, so good. As of today, I've accomplished numbers two and three, and I'm still on track for number one.

Crossing the finish line at the 2014 Canadian National Duathlon Championships.
9th place overall, 2nd in my age group, happy to be done.

Best of luck in reaching your goals!