To do well as an endurance athlete, season goals need to be set early to provide the motivation needed to train hard. It takes a long time to build endurance and reach peak fitness levels, so the sooner you start with setting goals, the better. Your goals can be loose, precise, large or small, just as long as they create the desire to work hard. Most importantly, season goals should be set around something you love to do.
The first question you need to ask yourself is what would you love to accomplish? This may take some time to figure out and quite possibly a little daydreaming but it is an important question to answer. It is good to be somewhat realistic about your goals, but there are times when it is important to dream a little about what is possible. Dreaming creates a challenge as well as a goal, and realistic challenges make athletes great. Even if you fall short of a challenging goal, you will still have trained harder than if you would have trained for something you already know you can achieve. So dream big, it may just get you to work a little harder.
Once you figure out what you would love to accomplish, set those events as your ‘A’ priority goals for the season. Then, establish a hierarchy of events leading into these ‘A’ priority events. Create a list of potential ‘B’ events to help you prepare for the ‘A’ events. Look at the ‘B’ events as a fun way to train and dial in skills. Keep the intrinsic and extrinsic pressure on these events low. You can still aim to do well at ‘B’ priority races, resting into them, but never weigh too heavy on the result.
Next, figure out your weaknesses and set goals to improve on them. General training will help you improve on all areas of strength and weakness but try to target a few areas that you feel you really lack strength or technique. For example, if you have a hard time holding a plank (upper push up position) for longer than 10-20 seconds, then I guarantee you need to work on core strength. In this case you may want to incorporate more core strength later into your race season compared to someone who has a stronger core. Another simple example is the ability to sprint with the best but struggle to finish longer rides. If your goal is to race long endurance events, then endurance may be your weakness. Incorporating more endurance focused rides into your training will help you gain more balance and lead to greater endurance gains in strength and power.
Consistency is the number one factor for gains in strength and fitness, so establish a goal to be more consistent with training. Of course, you still need to be focused and train smart, but if you’re not consistent, all the focus and smart training will be of much less benefit. Consistency means day after day and week after week of solid training towards a specific sport. This is a hard thing to do for anyone, especially someone with a busy lifestyle. But with proper planning, and a little grit, maintaining a consistent training schedule is very achievable. Set a plan to do it, communicate with your family, schedule it, and make it happen.
It’s fun to have the motivation to train hard. When you work hard towards a goal, every training day turns into a fun personal challenge. Gaining motivation for training takes far more than just having goals, but they are a step in the right direction. Make sure you’re passionate about your goals because if you are, your motivation to work hard towards them will follow.
Mike Schultz, CSCS