Gear

Ask A Gear Guru: What Are The Best Goal-Setting Apps And Services?

Motivation starting to take a hit? Get back on track—any track—with one of these creative (and fun!) goal-setting apps.

It’s starting to settle in, isn’t it? Quarantine fatigue. See, I couldn’t even come up with a clever way to blend “quarantine” and “fatigue”: “Quarantiredness?” “Quarantover-it?” Meh. Whatever. If you’re starting to hit the meh, whatever stage of this whole situation, have no fear—there’s an app for that. Experts everywhere are saying now is not only a good time to learn a new skill or drop a bad habit, but they’re actually advising that it’s essential to keeping yourself healthy and psychologically “fit.”So what’s the best goal-setting app and service? Well, fortunately there are some crazy creative options out there right now that’ll spark your inspiration, even if it takes a blowtorch of motivation to re-ignite that fading fire. But before we get to the cure for your quarantinennui (!), let’s take a quick peek at why you need to set some goals (and why you might need some help doing it).

Goals Are For Soccer, Not Triathlon!

Nope, wrong—by virtue of the very fact that you’re a triathlete (or at least tri-curious) it means that you’re likely a goal-oriented person. You probably started triathlon in the first place because you were looking for a challenge. Maybe you nailed that first sprint tri with your coworkers, but wanted more. Maybe more looked like long-course racing. Maybe more looked like going faster at any given distance. Maybe you started triathlon to get in shape or to lose weight or to meet people—guess what? All of those are goals too. You don’t see many triathletes just aimlessly swimming, biking, and running all over the place—even adventurous triathletes like, say, Eric Lagerstrom who likes to do his own created “overland tris” still have goals. That goal could just be to have fun. But either way, goals are like shaved legs and aerobars—not every triathlete has them, but most do.

My Goal Was A Race, Now It’s Canceled/Creatively “Postponed” Until 2021!!!! #@*($(@#$^@#$^(!!

I’m sorry to hear that, so now’s the time to shift goal types from “outcome” to “process driven.” The big difference between the two types of goals is that the former often has factors that are out of your control, while the latter is more on you. It goes without saying that one of the scariest parts (aside from getting sick, of course) about this situation is the lack of control in a world that has become decidedly more and more controlled up until lately. As triathletes, our ability to plan, train, and execute usually means we like to enjoy a higher level of control (just to get all of those darn workouts in!) than your everyday person. This means that being a control-loving triathlete in a decidedly uncontrollable situation can be the perfect storm of horror leading people to do silly things like bleach their food. (Pro tip: Don’t bleach your food, you will get sick.) So to restore some semblance of that thing that many of us love, it’s time to start “pivoting” from outcome driven to process driven and regain some sense of your control equilibrium.

I Don’t Need Some Cheesy App Or Service, I’m A Self-Possessed Triathlete, Dangit.

Well, normally, I’d be right there with you—I didn’t need a special motivational app back when I was racing pro (though the motivation of not having money to pay rent is pretty effective), why do I need one now? Re-read the beginning of that last sentence: There is nothing “normal” about the situation we’re in right now. In fact many experts are saying “normal” is going to look very different for a long time, so it’s time to bring out the big guns—and that could mean a really fun goal-setting app that lets you fight monsters with power-up points you get for drinking enough water during the day. Seriously.

With that little teaser in mind, let’s take a look at six very different goal-setting apps to help find the best goal-setting app for you:

The Best Goal-Setting App For Absolute Customization And Organization

Strides

Free for basic (max of seven habit trackers, no iCloud syncing, or tags/filters), $30/year for Strides Plus; Stridesapp.com

Best Goal-Setting Apps
If you’re the type of triathlete who likes to log everything about your workout and is super detailed in your training plans, this is the app for you. Though it’s only available in iOS (sorry Android users), this is probably one of the most “powerful” goal-setting apps in terms of depth and scope. For literally dozens of both positive (drink water, meditate, say “thank you,” etc.) and negative (play video games, limit caffeine, no soda, etc.) habits and goals, there are unlimited options on how often, how much, setting streaks, and creating organizational tags/filters. The free version is quite good, but if you want to do more than seven tracked habits (and organize them with tags), you’ll need to upgrade. This is the one for keeping control, but not necessarily for quick use and a simple interface.

The Best Goal-Setting App For Those Who Like Simplicity

Tally

Free for basic (max of three trackers, no multiple reminder for each habit), $7 for premium; Treebetty.com

Best Goal-Setting Apps
While Strides is the do-everything-always goal-tracking app, Tally takes a much simpler approach. It does still track, provide analytics, and journal for effectively an unlimited amount of available habits—good and bad—but the interface and setup is very user-friendly. You can’t set as many different rules like you can in Strides, but you also just tap a very satisfying little colored box to signify you did (or didn’t do) that thing. You can still filter and see graphs for your trackers (max of three trackers for the free version), but fewer options means less fuss. If you’re on iOS, and you’re looking to simplify the process rather than organize/analyze everything, this is for you.

The Best Goal-Setting App For Those Who Strive Socially

Coach.me

Free for the tracker app, $25/wk and up for personal coaching; Coach.me

Best Goal-Setting Apps
Though Coach.me’s main goal is to get their users hooked up with a personal coach—who will help you with everything from productivity to finances to beating addiction—the tracker app (iOS, Android, or web) is decent and has a very cool set of community features that make you feel not-so-alone in this otherwise-isolated time. Once you select a habit to track, you instantly join a community of other users looking to either create or beat that same habit. You can ask the habit group questions, help others with answers, check out a leaderboard, and of course see coaches to hire who specialize in that field. While most of the other apps in this category are totally self-contained, this is the one for people who miss their tri club/group ride and flock to every Zoom happy hour they can find. Consider this one of the best options for beating back some of the very unique challenges we’re facing right now. Also, to be clear, this isn’t the place to find a tri-specific coach—there are much better places for that.

The Best Goal-Setting App For…Nerds?

Habitica

Free for basic features, $5/mo. for fun little in-game perks; Habitica.com


Describing everything that happens in this goal-setting RPG is more than we can detail here, but if you like video games—gaining experience points, gaining (and losing) health points, customizing characters, collecting mythical digital objects, and (way) more—then this is the most fun and effective way for you to set your goals. Using a little 8-bit-looking character via an iOS/Android app or web, Habitica lets you set your tasks and habits and rewards (or punishes) you for completing them or not. There’s a serious community factor at play in this world, as you can team up with other users to fight “battles,” join “guilds,” and create “parties”—all the while encouraging each other with your own real-world goals or pre-created challenges. The only downside to this very fun (and complex) platform is that it may consume more of your time than you might like.

The Best Goal-Setting App For Consistency Above All

Streaks

$5; Streaksapp.com


While setting a streak is usually the kind of goal that’s served up best on January 1, there’s something to be said for our current situation feeling like a “new year.” What better way to remotivate yourself in the absence of upcoming tri-specific goals than to get a streak going? This super well-designed app for iOS or Mac lets you track up to 12 tasks/day with the hopes of not breaking your streak. The streaks can be preset or user-created events that are single (walk the dog, drink a smoothie, etc.), health tasks (swim/bike/run, sleep, etc.—it connects automatically to the Apple Health App), and timed tasks (read, practice an instrument, meditate, etc.). Streaks also don’t have to happen every day—you can set them to be active for certain days of the week, a few times per month, and way more. Reminders and stats help keep things flowing, and the user experience is probably the best of the list.

The Best Goal-Setting App For Tri/Swim/Bike/Run

Pkrs.ai

$90/mo. after free 30-day trial; Pkrs.ai


Ok, so this one is a little different than the other more “general” goal-setting apps and platforms in this list, but it bears mention because it’s one of the most complete and unique online soup-to-nuts training platforms out there. Using a combination of super sharp programming via their iOS and Android app, real human coaches and experts (even world champions Jan Frodeno and Leanda Cave are involved), and some almost-unsettling AI, Peakers effectively saturates you with tri-, run-, or bike-specific knowledge based on your specific goals. You put in your goal event—tri, bike, or run—you go through an intake process, and a plan emerges with concierge-level service from coaches, nutritionists, strength-training experts, and more. The app is easy to use, and the interaction between the living coaches, you, and the AI system is eerily seamless. Of course it ain’t cheap, but if you need an army of tech and experts to help get you through to the other side, this is the most all-hands-on-deck option.