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How to set Pandemic-Proof Goals for 2021

It’s no secret, endurance athletes thrive on goal setting and targeting big performances at big races to fuel their motivation. For this reason, 2020 was a year where everyone’s patience was put to the test! The challenge with focussing on races and outcome goals is that one can become obsessed with the results and these results are often-times outside of your control. In the post-pandemic world that we are currently living in, where uncertainty reigns over the date of the next finish line, setting process goals is a way for athletes to rediscover and redefine their why without the need for races or competitions. Read-on below to discover the different methods of goal-setting you can use in 2021 to make your goals pandemic-proof.


{Process Goals}: Milestones and outcomes that you can totally control.


When your focus is on outcome goals like races and results, it can be easy to lose sight of the day-to-day elements that make training and racing enjoyable. For 2021, write out some process goals that you can focus on that are independent of racing. This can be anything along the lines of improving consistency, avoiding injury, staying healthy or implementing something new into your training regimen. By introducing goals that have day-to-day meaning and require on-going accountability it will make it easier to keep motivation levels high and build consistency in your training. All of this will help you progress as an athlete without having to think about training specifically for one race.


Examples:

- Never skip a morning training session.

- Clock 25 days in a row with at least 15 minutes of stretching.

- Improve your cycling FTP by 5%.


{Personal Bests}: Prove to yourself you’re progressing as an athlete.


Just because there isn’t a race doesn’t mean you can’t set a personal best. Whether we’re talking about running milestones or power records on the bike, you can structure your training to target a new personal best. By choosing a date on which you wish to set your personal best you can create a race-like deadline for your training plan. This will allow you to structure your build up to target a personal best effort on that day. Your PB attempt will then demonstrate whether you have progressed as an athlete and/or if your training plan elicited the desired outcomes. With races usually acting as the barometer of progress, your PB attempt will illustrate whether or not you need to keep working in the same direction or if you need to reassess and restructure your training to get back on the right track to progress as an athlete.


Examples:

- 5KM or 10KM Run Time Trial.

- 20 minute power record on the bike.

- 400m or 1500m PB in the pool (if pools are open).


{Re-Define Success}: Set new parameters for success in your athletic endeavours.


Success as an endurance athlete is habitually measured in terms of race results, best times, and performances against other athletes. In a year where this might not be possible for everyone, take the opportunity to temporarily re-define what success means to you. This will help you to avoid chasing that non-existent start line for gratification. In the same vein as the process goals mentioned above, your success as an endurance athlete can be measured through a variety of different lenses. Success can be measured in elements such as consistency in your training, improving your overall health, avoiding injuries, working on a weakness, or training specifically for a PB. Whilst not always comparable to a result in race, these different barometers of progress and success will help you stay on the right track as an athlete, ready to hit the ground running when regular racing becomes the norm again.


Examples

- Move away from a race-oriented mindset.

- Turn a weakness into a strength.

- Appreciate the true value of consistent & uninterrupted training.


{Go Head-to-Head}: Race a friend or a rival.


Whilst you might not be able to Toe The Line in an official race, nothing is stopping you from creating an unofficial race with a friend or a rival. Everyone is an agreement that nothing compares to the thrill of racing, and no training session can ever replicate it. Well, doing a race against a friend, rival or club-mate might be the closest you can get to that feeling. You can either approach this as an in-person race where you line up together for a race, you can turn it into a Strava battle over a specific local segment or even race someone on the other side of the globe by doing it on Zwift. Whatever you choose, you can use the race as an opportunity to rehearse your race specific habits such as meals, preparations and warm up. All of this will help you progress as an athlete and make you stronger for your next real race.


Examples

- Race a friend over 5km on the track.

- Sign up for a Zwfit Race Series.

- Set a Club Challenge over a local segment.


{SMART}: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound


The SMART Goals framework is a well-known framework in both the business and sports world, and this is for a good reason. It creates deadlines, accountability, and a straightforward way of measuring progress. Think about these elements when you set your pandemic-proof goals in 2021:


Specific – Set a Goal that is specific and write it down to keep yourself accountable.

Measurable – Ensure your Goal(s) can be measured in a tangible manner.

Achievable – Your Goal needs to be realistic and achievable, there’s no value in being over-ambitious.

Relevant – Make your goals relevant to you and your sport. Pick Goals that provide proof of progress.

Time-Bound - Set a time frame and keep yourself accountable to it.

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