If You Aim for Nothing You Will Hit It Every Time

Train towards success: Goal setting strategies for triathletes

Listen to this article

There is no denying the powerful impact of setting goals! You might have heard that athletes who have a high ability set goals demonstrate better performance, optimal cognitive anxiety and higher levels of self-confidence and motivation. But did you know that there are different kinds of goals and that certain types of goals are more useful in improving your performance than others? If you want to take your training and racing to a higher level, keep reading. I’ll explain several goal setting strategies, their place in the design of your training program, and how you can excel toward your best potential this season!

There are a number of sports psychology strategies that assist athletes in achieving personal growth and peak performance. Goal setting is such a technique and if you are an ambitious athlete, I recommend digging deeper into the following strategies:

  • Outcome goals
  • Performance goals
  • Process Goals
  • Focus goals

Types of Goals - and when to use them

Outcome Goals are targets that focus on the end result or outcome of a particular effort, e.g. ‘winning the Turkey Trot Triathlon’. Outcome goals are often used to guide the overall direction and focus, and they may provide you with a sense of purpose and motivation. Our society places tremendous emphasis on the outcome of athletic competition. Because of this, most of us are socialised to set mainly outcome goals, like winning your age group or beating a particular opponent. However, outcome goals have been shown to be less effective than Performance Goals, which focuse on your individual performance markers. For example, you can set a personal best (a performance goal) but fail to achieve the outcome goal of winning because you came in second. Despite your superior effort, you could not control the behaviour of the other competitor. As such, I recommend to use outcome goals as a guide and to concentrate on chasing your performance goals.
Once you have set your performance goals, support them via Process Goals. Process goals focus on the specific actions or steps that you can take to achieve your performance goals.
Taking the example above, your process goals might include things like increasing your weekly training load, improving your swim technique, and optimising running economy. Now, although ‘improving my swim technique’ is a great process goal to have, your brain does not know what that means. It needs specific simple commands on what to do exactly, what to focus on. So let’s provide your brain with Focus Goals that your mind can attend to during training and racing! Focus goals reinforce actions that facilitate good performance by directing your attention to important aspects of the task at hand, mobilise effort and increase persistence. For our swim example such commands could be ‘high elbow catch’, ‘smooth breathing’, ‘narrow kick’, etc..
As you can see, unlike Outcome Goals, Performance-, Process- and Focus Goals are within your control and flexible and assist you in forming realistic expectations. This results in optimal levels of confidence, cognitive anxiety and motivation. Finally, Performance-, Process- and Focus Goals facilitate each other and inevitably carry you towards realising your desired outcome goal!

Ready, Set, Goal

Performance-, Process-, and Focus Goals are the instructions of the road map towards your ultimate goal. They keep you on track. They make you grow as an athlete. They help you reach your destination faster than common goal setting techniques.
Marion Summerer
Performance Coach
You want to set strategic and achievable goals for physical and cognitive performance. But you need motivation! Stay tuned to what’s your WHY: why do you want to improve performance, acquire mental power techniques and optimize nutrition? Let your why be your motivation. Let me share something related to my why: “eating more fibrous food will promote good digestion and absorption, which in turn will promote nutrient absorption, crucial to supply my body with the energy I want for the growth I’m working on”. Give it a try.
Daniela Salvado
Nutrition Coach

Something for you to try...

Think of a performance goal you would like to achieve this upcoming season (e.g. Personal best in Olympic Distance Triathlon). Now think of a stair case. The top stair represents your performance goal and the lowest stair your present state. The remaining steps each represent a Process Goal of increasing difficulty. Under each Process Goal come up with a few Focus Goals to support your Process. Finally, all goals should be stated in a positive way, i.e. “Relax upper body” vs. “Don’t shrug” or “Keep it up” vs. “Don’t slow down”. The idea behind is, “not to think of white mice”!

Want to talk with a coach about how this can apply to you?

Have a question about this article?

Send your question directly to Marion!

    Notify of
    Inline Feedbacks
    View all comments
    Do you have questions or thoughts on this article?x