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Goal Setting and Base Training

By Shaun Wadham, Level One Triathlon Coach

Many people view the change of season from autumn to winter as the occurrence of a disaster of monumental proportions.  The arrival of this dreaded season causes normally rational, sane people to flee training sessions in their droves, too scared to leave their homes and offices in case the cool wind and rain causes them unspeakable harm. Winter though is not really the destroyer of all that is good in the world. It is actually a great time to set yourself some fitness goals for the later part of the year and work on developing your fitness base in time for the running, triathlon and swimming season.  Below are some ideas on how to best go about setting your goals and what sort of training you should be doing to ensure you obtain peak fitness at the right time.


From what I have seen, the people who are most successful at sticking with a fitness program long term are the people who set themselves goals.  Without them it is too easy to stay in front of the TV or turn the alarm off and go back to bed.  Also the sense of achievement that comes with achieving a goal you have set yourself is an amazing feeling and keeps you coming back for more.  You just need to watch someone cross the finish line at the Australian Ironman Triathlon to know this.  This feeling and memory will stay with them forever.

Long Term Goals

In a sporting or fitness sense a long-term goal should reflect what you would ultimately like to achieve in your chosen sport.  For example it may be to finish a half marathon or marathon or an Olympic distance triathlon.  The long-term goal should be realistic and represent what you think your absolute best could be.

Medium Term Goals

Medium term goals may reflect a performance that you hope to achieve in say six months from now like finishing your first Olympic distance triathlon. The medium-term goal is usually a fixed date you are working towards.

Short Term Goals

The goals you set in the short-term help break up regular training and keep motivation and enthusiasm high whilst working towards a long-term aim.  If you have a medium term goal of completing an Olympic distance triathlon in 6 months, you should schedule 2 or 3 shorter races into your program to give you something to focus on.  Alternatively, time trials are brilliant short term goals.  STG, for example do cycle time trials every 4 weeks and they are used very effectively by a lot of our members to stay focused on their training.  If you don’t have short-term goals it can be difficult to maintain immediate focus in training and other commitments start to become more important.  In the off season you might do some running events like the City to Surf and 10km Bridge run, a short distance triathlon or do a swimming/riding/running time trial every 6 weeks to gauge your improvement.

Winter Training

The Big C

For those of you who have decided to tackle events in the next six months like the Noosa Triathlon or the City to Surf or the 10km Bridge Run the best piece of advice I can give you to is simply be consistent with your training!  If you do this you are three quarters of the way to achieving your goals.  This means getting to a training session even when it is a bit cold outside and not making excuses.  The indoor pools are still the same temperature in winter (if not warmer) and you will warm up in one lap as you do in summer.  Once you start running you warm up very quickly and the crispness of the winter air is brilliant.

Set yourself daily and weekly goals, for example to do 5 sessions per week, to go with your longer-term goals. After a month or so you will start to feel fit and your bigger goals won’t seem so daunting.  It is a good idea to keep a training diary, which should contain your intended and actual training for the up coming weeks and months. It is easier to reach weekly training goals if you keep a diary because it keeps you honest.  No one likes to see too many unplanned zeros in black and white.

Build a Big Base

Draw two straight horizontal lines on a page, the second twice as long as the first and then construct a pyramid from each base line.  You will notice that a much bigger pyramid can be constructed if it has a bigger base. This same law applies to fitness.  You need to build a large fitness base in the months leading up to an event you plan to do if you want to reach your full potential.  Trying to get fitness 3 weeks before the race is too late if you want to perform your best and feel good doing it.

Base fitness work isn’t fast lung busting training.  It is longer and slower in nature (aerobic) and slightly uncomfortable but you should be able to converse with your training partner.  It equates to approximately 7075% of your maximum heart rate, which is aerobic.  You should aim to increase training volume by about 10% per week (no more than this) until time restraints prevent you from increasing training distances any further. Include a small amount of strength work (hills when running or riding and pull buoys and hand paddles when swimming or weights in the gym) and a small amount of speed work.  80-90% of your training though should be completed at 70-75% of MHR and the rest should be strength and speed work.

So I will leave you with a quote by one of the worlds greatest motivators, Zig Ziglar (what were his parents thinking).  “Do you know that more houses are destroyed by termites each year than hurricanes and floods combined?”

Meaning: If you want to achieve a goal, don’t race like a hurricane, nibble away at it like a termite.  Set tiny achievable goals and you should make it harder to fail than succeed.

And don’t forget to enjoy yourself along the way!