Beginner’s Luck: Setting Goals for Your 2018 Season

Meredith Atwood gives her advice for making sure your tri-resolutions are in line with real goals that translate into progress and PRs.

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Meredith Atwood gives her advice for making sure your tri-resolutions are in line with real goals that translate into progress and PRs.

One of the biggest problems with resolutions is that we often are trying to make a whole-life overhaul with setting the list of changes. In other words, we aren’t just tackling one or two things (most likely). We are creating a giant list of everything that is “wrong” with ourselves, our lives, our family, our training, and our racing—and we are vowing to fix them in the new year. I wrote about this big long list on my blog this week and it received a huge response—I think because more and more people are feeling crunched and trapped by this idea of perfection.

We look at social media and we see “perfect” lives and bodies and races—or we see people who aren’t perfect acting like they are. The social media culture is an absolute death-match for positive esteem unless we are able to direct our view elsewhere.

In triathlon, it’s easy to look at our list and set huge swim, bike, and run tri-resolutions for the new season. We look at where we are, and we start making the list: the swim times, the power output, the 5k pace, the new 70.3 PR, and who we are going to beat this season and where. All good things—from the surface level.

Don’t get me wrong—new goals are awesome! But if we aren’t careful, we can cause more trouble for ourselves than we ever dreamed. Effectively, we create a triathlon resolution list, that if we aren’t careful, can go the way of the new year’s resolution list—out the proverbial window, crippling our actual progress and damaging our self-talk.

Here’s two things we can do to make sure our tri-resolutions are feasible, smart, and healthy.

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Set Reasonable and Healthy Goals

There are a million articles out there on goal setting and how to do it. The one thing I will say is to dream big and the sky is the limit—but be reasonable on the effort, method, and time it might take to accomplish it. If you are a 39 minute 5K athlete and you want to do sub-30? That’s awesome, and it can totally be done (I did it right here!). However, it will take some serious work on the tempo side of things, will require pursuing speedwork in your running as a major focus, and it won’t happen overnight. As long as you are willing to work hard and be patient on the time it takes (and not set an arbitrary time goal of when it must be accomplished), then it makes the journey so much easier. Of course, you can set a 10 week goal, go out and crush it and call me a liar, too—that’s fine and it’s done all the time. However, I stand by the fact that setting reasonable goals is better for the beginner athlete by a long shot. Setting smart and timely goals manages expectations, builds confidence and teaches the body to better adapt to the new demands.

Be Smart and Assess the Situation

Many people have coaches and many more do not. Whether we are following a coach or a training plan (or winging it), only we know the best for ourselves. After we consider the fact that we might be slacking or sandbagging, if we are overly tired or think a workout is “too much,” it’s best to err on the side of being smart. In 2016, I was making amazing progress in the pool and on the run. I had taken my 100m pace down from a 1:47 to a 1:33; I had swam my first 100×100 workout; and my 5K time was falling from a just-barely-sub-30 minutes to an almost sub-27 minute time (fast for me, people). I trained like a mad-woman—and I ran myself right into a tibial stress fracture. My body gave me signals for weeks leading up to it: I was tired (extremely), my shin began to throb, and my ankles were swelling. I knew that I needed to slow down, but I didn’t listen to that little voice in my head—because I was pushing pushing pushing with only the tri-resolutions in mind.

Pursuing our goals is amazing and even more so when we see progress—we don’t want to slow down. The fire and the excitement is amazing! But being smart and staying on top of our health and situation is part of the deal that will ensure that our tri-resolutions aren’t just resolutions–but real goals that translate into progress and PRs.

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Meredith Atwood (@SwimBikeMom) is a recovering attorney, motivational speaker and author of Triathlon for the Every Woman. You can download a free copy of the book here. She is the host of the podcast, The Same 24 Hours, a show which interviews interesting people who make the best of the 24 hours in each day. Meredith lives in Atlanta with her husband and two children, and writes about all things at

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