top of page

Is your triathlon or open water swim event goal becoming an elephant in the room?

Ok so what am I talking about here...? Training goals and setting them and how to achieve them without fixating on the big goal in the distance. We all want to achieve these, however, there are different approaches to doing this. This can apply to any endurance-based event, whether its a 10km run, half marathon, 1500m swim, 5km open water swim, sprint distance triathlon, a marathon, cycling across the Pyrenees, olympic half ironman or ironman distance triathlon etc.

You want to be focused in the present, "this" weeks goals, what am I on track to achieve and improve upon "this" month, instead of forever living your life and your goals in the future and therefore missing out on enjoying the best parts of your training. It's a journey and a learning experience and should be fun, with some joy in your training every day.

There are 2 types of ways of approaching your training goals:

  1. Being process orientated

  2. Being goal orientated

A goal should be a bit big and scary to challenge you, help you to set new limits, or achieve something you might no otherwise has thought possible

A line in the sand that's too far away to touch, but you can see it!

Now, if you purely focus on the end goal your event, whether that's a 70.3 Ironman triathlon, a full Ironman triathlon, a 5km swim, sprint or Olympic distance triathlon a Solent open water swim or a channel relay and just think about that, you will most likely suffer from a lack of motivation at times, leave the training to another day, or week or month, only to panic in the final few weeks leading up to it, and over do the training trying to make up for lost time!

This is called being "Goal Orientated" in your approach to your training and racing goals. It's the elephant in the room, it becomes too big, especially if it's 6 months or more down the line. I used to train this way for years, until I learned of a much better and more motivating and structured approach

A large part of this new approach actually came from my first triathlon club, East Grinstead, whereby we ran a Club winter grand prix series for members, which was a handicap based system on ability level for calculating time and levelling the playing field a bit per see.

As I explain this you'll start to understand this different approach to setting goals and your training, being a "Process Orientated goal setting system"

The club ran and still does this format every winter

  1. December - 1500m swim

  2. January - Run 5km / bike 20km / run 5km

  3. February - Swim 400m / run 6km

  4. March - Club time trial cycling 17 miles

  5. April - 5km park run

  6. May - Club triathlon sprint distance

So you can see this gives them something to focus on each month and look forward to whilst building their fitness. This also helps massively with motivation. By focusing on the goals month to month and week to week, and the process of the goals you're aiming to achieve in the build up to your big event, you will be able to stay much more motivated and also therefore training will be more consistent

Process goals could be, for example:

  • Improve my entry for the front crawl

  • Learn to sight for open water swimming with my head lower, without my legs dropping

  • Improve my running economy and technique

  • Improve my hill climbing ability for cycling

  • Focus on developing my swim pacing from 500m to 1000m so I have consistent time splits

  • Work on my catch phase and early vertical forearm technique for the front crawl

  • Reduce my ground contact time and vertical oscillation for running form

The list could go on and the options are almost endless. However, it must be relevant and specific to you.

Set yourself some Smart goals:

S = Specific

M = Measurable

A = Achievable

R = Relevant

T = time bound

We've all heard of the SMART method of setting goals before, but how many of us actually use it and apply it?

By focusing on your goals as process orientated goals, and keeping them shorter term in the mix, and this way we can actually achieve more in a shorter space of time. Work backwards from your main or A race / event this year, break the months down into weeks, add specific process goals you can and would like to achieve or work on each week. You can also pick some B and C training events in the build up to your A race event. B events are practice events to check fitness, or to check your swim pace, bike power, and find out if there is anything else you need to work on before the big day. C events are labelled as more "fun" even if this is type 2 fun and can also be single discipline events over the winter months, or events you do with friends, like a cycle sportive, or parkrun.

What is Type 2 fun I hear you ask!? see below for an explanation

For example this could be if you're training for a 70.3 Half Ironman Triathlon (1900m swim / 90km Bike. 21km run) and you are currently in your longest sessions able to do the following:

  • 1200m swim

  • 50km bike

  • 10km run

Pick some events that will help you reach the goal along the way, and practice transitions and the switch from one discipline to another e.g.swim to bike, or bike to run. You could do a duathlon, or an open water swim / run (great for transition training T1 and taking your wetsuit off efficiently and at speed); a series of cycle sportives increasing in distance or your own increasing by 10km a month ( 60km month 1, 70km month 2, 80km month 3 and so on); or building your running from 10km to 12km, to 16km to 18km with or without events.

Adding events in does help with a bit of positive pressure on your part, as its a deadline as such, and you enter and pay for an event, so its in the diary and has be done (barring any injury of course). It ticks the box and helps you along the way.

By training to a process orientated approach, you'll be happier, have less mental training stress, more consistency, and structured in your approach to go from point A (where you are now) to point B (where you want to be.

If you are interested in finding out more to this approach to training, we have a couple of personal online coaching spaces available at the moment, and can help you to set these events as part of your Annual Training plan, and categorise them as A, B and C based events.

Whether its for a half marathon, sprint triathlon, open water swim challenge, cycle sportive, triathlons from sprint to olympic distance we can help you train and approach your sessions in the best possible way. Results come from setting realistic SMART goals!

What are your triathlon and / or open water swimming plans for 2023?

We're here to help you achieve and exceed your goals!

We are currently accepting registrations for online coaching via Training Peaks

• Train correctly in the right training zone

• Receive weekly or monthly training plan updates and scheduling

• Analysis and monitoring of your training sessions

• Bespoke structured daily training sessions, using the Training Peaks online coaching platform

• Periodisation of your weeks training through different phases

• Small manageable goals set along the way

• Training Peaks to track and monitor your sessions and performance

We'll work out where you are right now, help you to become more efficient and on track, give you weekly and monthly targets, keep you focused, improve your technique, learn about sports nutrition, open water swim skills and drills, transitions, and training and racing tactics to perform at your best, and what you must improve upon to reach your target.

Nick is a level 3 British Triathlon Coach, STA level 2 Swim Teacher, Nowca Open Water Swim coach, Level 2 Accredited Training Peaks coach, and Training Bible coaching Master endurance coach with 25 years’ experience in triathlon, founder and Head Coach for Speedy Swimming.

Your best performance is subject to planning and structuring your training sessions properly with measurable process-orientated goals along the way.

View our coaching plan packages here:

What Is Type 2 Fun?

Type 2 fun occurs when a task is difficult at the time, but feels rewarding afterward, often because it challenges the practitioner to test their limits and grow. Examples of Type 2 fun include survival camping, backpacking, rock climbing, backcountry skiing, and mountain biking. Type 2 fun doesn’t need to take place in the wilderness, though. Climbing several flights of stairs to catch a view or running an ultramarathon also qualify as Type 2 fun.



Featured Posts
Recent Posts
bottom of page