Endurance training and racing – finding your goal

Goals are fundamental to success in everything – but are especially important to difficult things such as endurance training. They inspire us to be better and the thrill of achieving them will help you during the inevitable moments when you want to give up. We like to think of endurance training and racing as a journey, and a journey without a goal is unstructured and chaotic – possibly the worst way to approach endurance sports.

This is the third in our series of articles on our training philosophy, check out the others here –

  1. Our philosophy
  2. How to start endurance training – define your baseline
  3. Endurance training and racing – finding your goal
  4. Training volume in endurance sports
  5. Endurance training zones – intensity in endurance racing
  6. Endurance training plan – how to periodize training

Most endurance athletes like to structure their season around a specific end of season race, and then use the rest of the season to prepare for that main race. You don’t necessarily need to want to win that race or aim for a specific time, and for many, the fact that they are competing at a particular level is enough of a goal in itself. Success is relative – changing from season to season and athlete to athlete, just the same as you need an individualized training program to achieve your goals, you also need an individualized aim that is specific to you as an athlete.

Define your main race

In our previous article, we examined how to get to know yourself better as an athlete. Now, we’re going to look at how you set realistic goals for your endurance training and racing. The goal will be your main race, often called your A-race. So, let’s start by defining that. If you don’t know which competition you will have as your main race, then use the information in this article to find a competition that motivates you.

Just be patient. Let the game come to you. Don’t rush. Be quick, but don’t hurry.

Earl Monroe

How to work out how much you need to train for a race

If you want to be an endurance athlete, then you must be willing to commit a certain amount of time to training each week. Figure out how much time you can spend training each week and use that to inform the goal that you choose. 

We think that the following values function as a benchmark for your commitment to endurance training each week:

  • 6-10 Supersprint/sprint
  • 8-12 Sprint/Olympic/Middle distance
  • 10-12 Middle and long distance
  • 10-14 Long distance

Use these numbers as a rough guide – some people may need to train more, others less. It also depends on what you want to achieve in your particular race and how much endurance training you have done before.

Make your goal tangible

Then, you need to make your racing goal specific and quantifiable – honestly consider whether you simply want to participate in the race (try it out and finish the course), perform (perform a personal best), or compete (win your age group). 

For example –

  • Participate – To complete an Ironman distance triathlon race.
  • Perform – Complete an Olympic distance triathlon in 2 hours, 40 minutes.
  • Compete – Win the 45-49 age group in a Sprint distance triathlon.

How to develop specific training goals

The next stage of the process is to develop specific training goals, which will allow you to achieve your main race goal. 

So, for example, if you want to complete an Olympic distance triathlon in 2 hours, 40 minutes, you might develop the following training goals –

  • Milestone I want to be able to swim 1 kilometer in under 20:00 two months before the race, and for that, I need to improve my swimming skills.

Secondary race goals

In addition to the season’s regular testing, it can be a good idea to sign up for some preparatory competitions (B-races and C-races). The main purpose of these is to test your sub-goals, but they also allow you to practice putting all of the disciplines together. Competing in a race normally does wonders for performance and will allow you to really understand where you are on your endurance racing journey. 

The three levels of going into a competition, as written above, participating, performing and competing, can also function as a build-up to your main goal. We often find that it’s useful to plan over several years. Your long-term (3 year) goal might be to participate and perform in an Ironman 70.3 (half Ironman distance). While your mid-term goal (2 years) might be to finish the same distance (A-race) and run several sprints (B-races) to fine tune. While your short-term (season/1 year) goal might be to begin a structured training program and to complete an Olympic distance race.

You can’t put a limit on anything. The more you dream, the further you get.

Michael Phelps

Get started!

However, our understanding is that everyone can train for and compete in a triathlon. It’s more about creating the right conditions and getting into the sport in a good way. And, to dare to start…

So, how do you start triathlon training as a beginner?

A great way to start your journey is to download (register below) our beginners guide to triathlon.

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