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Beginner’s Luck: On the Art Of Setting Goals and Creating Habits

You've registered for your big "A" race! Now it's time to settle in and appreciate the process it will take to get there.

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In triathlon, we hear it all the time from our fellow athletes (and ourselves): my “A” race, my main goal, the “big” race of the season, etc.

Goals are incredible. Big, scary goals are one of the sweetest and simultaneously most terrifying things in the world. I like to call those the butt-pucker goals—pardon my reference. But you know what I mean—when you pick something so big, it makes your booty do a little dance.

In his recent book, Atomic Habits, James Clear points out how it’s the small things, the day-to-day habits that we have, utilize, and implement that pay the big dividends over the long run. A small 1% increase in effort or strategy pays massive gains over a period of time; however, the same 1% decrease in effort or negative habits, can be catastrophic to our health, goals, and finances.

I know when I signed up for my first Ironman, I really struggled because I could only see the huge picture—the many, many miles and the long day, and “allllll that weight” I needed to lose.  Live and learn, for sure.

Knowing what I know now, the first big race (and subsequent races, for that matter) was never about the weight I needed to lose or the many miles I needed to train.

That race was about me proving to myself that I could keep the promise I had made to myself—that I would become an Ironman. That I would show up each day and work for me—towards that big goal and that massive promise I made.

What triathlon has taught me over the last eight years is that the day-to-day work is the gold. Also known as “consistency,” training each day to the best of our ability is the only secret to achieving that big, long goal. It’s easy to click “register,” and then get overwhelmed. It’s also easy to click register, and then do nothing—and attempt to cram for the race or the goal. It’s also the recipe for a rough day or potential injury.

Instead, when we pick those “A” races or big goals, the only thing after clicking register should be this question: What can I do today that will make a difference later?

The long-game is even longer than a goal race, though. After all, we do this amazing sport for one reason, right? Sometimes we forget, but the goal is to live a better life. Whether that’s through health, competition, time with friends, focus, or more—triathlon is here to make us better people. That betterment starts with small habits, small steps every day. Even when that small step is: “Today I will not eat a half gallon of ice cream.” And sometimes, that is simply enough.

Meredith Atwood (@SwimBikeMom) is a recovering attorney, motivational speaker and author of Triathlon for the Every Woman: You Can Be a Triathlete. Yes. You. She is the host of the podcast, The Same 24 Hours. Meredith lives in Atlanta with her husband and two children and writes about all things at In addition to Triathlon, she has a second book due out Fall 2019.