Dreaming: A Reality Check on what you're Setting Up for Next Season

Coach Mike Ricci and his clipboard
January 20, 2017

D3 Staff



I love this 'scheming' time of the year; a chance to look at the coming season (or seasons) and revel in the amount of possibility there is. Even if you've had a less than great year (injury, illness, personal issues), looking back with a degree of reserve and getting to play that wonderful game of "What if?" is just plain good fun. But after you finish the dreaming part, the work of planning needs to be pushed into high gear, and bringing a high midseason focus into the offseason for just a short while will be necessary.

To start:

**Goals 101: The utter basics**
Goals need to be measurable and concrete, not necessarily in time or miles, but in a definitive "yes/no" quality. Goals need to be within your control, although this does not include the weather. You never can predict when former champions or rising professionals are going to show up, so making a goal of "win X race" is not within your control. Goals need to be something you get excited about, even if you really don't want to express it. Without that little itch in the back of your mind, you won't get out of bed early enough for yoga, do that extra hill repeat, or keep your swim analysis appointment. Get it? Got it? Good!

**Goals 201: Checkmarks, dreamers, and just do-ers**
Most athletes fall into three categories: the Dreamers, the Checkmarks, and the Do-ers.

**Dreamers** are fun (being one, I have to lobby for them); they want to get to the top of the mountain, then jump off. They go big, but often are overzealous in what is really achievable in a single season. They are the "qualify for Kona" having never done an IM or "run my half marathon in less than 1:30 at Silverman 70.3" without breaking 2:00 first. While these goals are not necessarily unachievable, as a coach, I need to get these athletes to see that there are few more goals that need to be reached first, or that their particular goal needs to be pushed (gently) to two or three seasons down the line.

**Checkmarks** are the opposite; they pick out goals that have already been attained, or are below previous marks. For someone who's qualified every year for the Age Group Nationals race, "Qualify for AG Nats" is a checkmark — something easily attainable. For the guy that finishes just over 5hrs for his HIM, "Run all of the 13.1 miles at Boulder 70.3" is a checkmark. These athletes often need to be prodded into picking goals that they have not already attained in previous seasons.

There is another particular brand of athlete that is very similar to the check mark group is the no goals guy — Just Do-ers. These athletes simply enjoy triathlon and hope to gain some fitness. While I definitely applaud those looking to simply enjoy this sport, there's no real direction to take it. Even goals that start off as "be a better swimmer" or "not die on long climbs" can be moved into goals and measurable achievements.

When setting your goals, think about where do you lie. Do you stand out as an obvious type? Are you not sure? Once you've figured out what you're excited about, engage your coach on the complexity and reality of your goal (Dreamers), the steps required for your goals (Checkmarks), and how you will measure your goal (Do-ers). One of the great things about good coaches is their ability to push the Checkmarks to make goals that require some level of overreaching and dialing back the Dreamer to something both measurable and attainable, while getting the Do-er to define his/her goal.

Goals don't necessarily need to be about times or distance, or going longer every season. Unhappy with your HIM results? Going for shorter races could allow you to gain speed that with the right steps, may very well translate into longer distances at better speeds. Spending a season working on the mechanics of form and speed also allows for more recovery (shorter sessions means more rest) and a better season after the next with fewer niggles and more energy. A shift to shorter races could also mean a happier S.O. (significant other), which is something one could possibly cash in on to do several high-end or long-distance races in seasons beyond.

**Goals 202: The nuts and bullet points**
When defining goals, start with your crown jewel, your A+ objective and work down from there — building in the supportive goals. The weekly training goals and benchmarks will come from your conversations with your coach, their knowledge base, and their knowledge of your strengths and weaknesses. For instance, a strong runner with tentative abilities in open water looking to improve their Olympic race time will spend more time in the pool and in open water sessions versus extra time on the track (but will still have running speed sessions to keep at minimum their current fitness and speed).

Goals and steps should be phrased in the positive. Someone looking to make more early morning masters swim sessions could avoid using the phrase "Don't sleep in" to "Pack bag and set timer on coffee pot the night before". Too often the brain ignores the negative words, making "Don't sleep in" to "Sleep in".

Whatever your goals are for 2015; digging in for a repetition of a demanding race or a first-time plunge into something that may not even be swim-bike-run, hopefully, you'll be able to see where you need to tap on the gas pedal or hit the brakes, redefine, or even just reword your goals for more success this season.

Enjoy the offseason and get busy with your own scheming!

Coach Leigh Dodd understands that passion and drive will take you a long way in triathlon! Put those qualities to work within the context of a structured plan and you're off to a great start. Add in relaxation on a regular basis and there'll be no stopping you! It may seem counterintuitive at first, but planning time for both quality training and quality downtime is the key to great results!

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