How the S.M.A.R.T Goal-Setting Method Can Help Improve Performance

How the S.M.A.R.T Goal-Setting Method Can Help Improve Performance

Set you or your athlete’s racing season goals using the SMART method, so you can make sure you are specific enough for real performance success.

I have worked in the corporate world for around 20 years (God even typing that makes me feel old) and learnt a lot in this time.

My favorite part of corporate life was the constant slew of new acronyms, that in theory, were meant to speed up communications and decision making (and only occasionally did).

We have all heard them (WIP, FIP, WTF, CBT, SLAM, IFP etc.) and were baffled by them at the start. However before long – you too were using them in everyday conversation and you had been assimilated, for better or worse.

That said there is one acronym that has made the transfer from my corporate to my coaching life—SMART. This is because I have found it useful in two things I am truly passionate about: triathlon and setting goals/targets for the upcoming season for both me and my athletes.

SMART is a model for ensuring that you set good goals for yourself (or your athlete) and stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time bound

So when I sit down with my athletes at the start of the season and I ask them what the goals are—I hold them to this model.

A previous conversation with a client planning for the season went as follows:


Me:我喜欢它。让目标,但是你所需要的to be morespecific:what distance are we aiming for? Sprint, Olympic, IRONMAN 70.3 or IRONMAN?

Athlete:Ah yeah good point. The 70.3 distance, I really like that distance best so I’d like to PB there.

Me:Ok now your 70.3 PB is currently 5:45. How much of an improvement are we looking for here? Would one minute off that work, would 30 minutes be what would make you feel successful? We need to be moremeasurableon this.

Athlete:I am thinking under 5:15 would be awesome. Yeah, sub-5:15!

Me:Hey I love the energy/drive but we have to make thisachievable.You are looking at an approximately 10 percent improvement. This is doable, but we will have to change a few things and see where we can find those 30 minutes.

一部分啊f this conversation also included where we should be focusing on to improve his chances (in this case it was his run) and we jointly agreed his lack of tempo and brick running in last season was a weakness that needed addressing:

Athlete:OK, I need to increase my training by X% to get this goal and focus on tempo and brick runs. I am onboard with this, as I have finished the night course I was taking, the kids are now in school, this is the right time for me to do this, this is therelevanttime for this goal.

Me:Great stuff! So what race we shooting for? I need a date to make thistime bound.

Athlete:OK we are planning a family holiday in September, so it has to happen before that. How about IRONMAN 70.3 Dublin in August?

Me:ok six months out, so yes we can go for it!

Having this conversation we went from:

“I want to have a PB session next year coach.”to“At IRONMAN 70.3 Dublin on August 20, I will finish in under 5:15 hours (10 percent improvement) by shaving five mins off my swim time, 10 minutess off my bike split and 16 minutes off my run split.”

By having a clear set goal, you and/or your athlete will stay focused and motivated. Without one, it is way too easy to give up when things get tough or inconvenient.

Not to mention this approach makes it easier for your coach to build a plan to help you achieve your goals, including what discipline to focus on and recommending specific sessions to your individual needs and requirements.

So to summarize, as a coach I recommend that during this off-season you and/or your coach:

  • Take time to map out next season’s goals.
  • Be structured in how you formulate/decide on this goal, or else you will be setting yourself up for failure. SMART is a decent model to use but not the only one.
  • Make sure you include a plan to monitor/review whether you are on track to achieve the goal.
Ultimate Ironman Training Guide
Training Guide

Ultimate Ironman Training Guide

This guide is designed to be used as you train for an IRONMAN triathlon, with in-depth information on every part of the process. Each chapter is packed with tips, workouts, and insights from triathlon coaches, to give you all the tools you need to succeed.