Why Setting Goals This Season is Important—and How to Do It

We all need goals to help us stay on track, but what's the secret to effective goal setting? Two top coaches share their secrets.

triathlete checking his watch
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Whether you’re a serious racer or training for enjoyment, setting effective season goals is one of the most important aspects of improving performance. Not only does it help keep you on course, but it can also really help you to stay consistent with your training. But how many of you quickly scribble something down without giving it much thought? 

In this week’s show, top coaches Joe Friel and Neal Henderson lift the lid on how they help athletes set worthwhile goals (and for more on this, check out Friel’s article on Criteria for Setting SMART Goals in our latest Craft of Coaching module, Coaching Endurance Athletes).

We chat about all aspects of goal setting, from assessing your previous season to determining your limiters—and using this information to create both outcome and process goals. Goals can and will help with motivation too (and you can learn more on this topic from last week’s podcast, Finding True Motivation—with Sonya Looney). 

RELATED: Defining the Athlete’s Goals, Some Hits and Misses

In addition to Friel and Henderson, we also talk with Adam St Pierre, head coach of the Montana State nordic ski team, coach and author Hunter Allen, professional triathlete Rach McBride, and Jon Tarkington, the head of coach education for USA Cycling.  

So, take this time to figure out what you want to accomplish this year—and let’s make you fast! 

Episode Transcript

Rob Pickels  00:04

Hello, and welcome to Fast Talk, your source for the science of endurance performance. I’m your host Rob Pickels here with Trevor Connor. Whether you’re a racer or training for enjoyment, setting effective and well thought out season goals is one of the most important aspects to improving performance, because it aligns your efforts and keeps you on course.

Rob Pickels  00:24

Yet, how many of you quickly scribble something down without much thought? Today, top coaches Joe Friel and Neal Henderson are here to share an effective process for developing worthwhile goals. We’ll talk about assessing your past season, determining your limiters, and creating both performance and process goals.

Rob Pickels  00:42

Joining them we’ll talk with Coach Adam St. Pierre, who is the head coach of Montana State’s Nordic Ski Team. We’ll also talk with coach and author Hunter Allen, professional triathlete Rach McBride, and Jon Tarkington, the head of coach education for USA Cycling. So, take this time to figure out what you want to accomplish this year, and let’s make you fast.

Julie Young  01:09

Hey, it’s Julie Young. Dede and I have had a blast recording a new podcast series that’s all about the female endurance athlete called Fast Talk Femme. We’ve had an amazing experience sharing knowledge and gathering with experts like Dr. Dana Lis, Jen Sygo, Dr. Emily Kraus, and Catherine Cram to talk about the female physiology. We’re looking forward to empowering female athletes and their coaches with the best evidence based information available to enhance and improve their performance. We begin releasing episodes this January. So be sure to come back for this pioneer launch.

Trevor Connor  01:49

Well, welcome really excited to have two very big names here to talk with us about goal setting. So Joe, great to have you in town. I could Trevor and Neil really appreciate your finding the time to come and join us.

Neal Henderson  02:02

Absolutely glad to be here.

Rob Pickels  02:03

I do have to say I never work after four o’clock in the afternoon. And the fact that that’s what it took to get both you guys here. That should show you the importance, the monumentuos occasion that we have in front of us with both Joe and Neil in the same room.

Trevor Connor  02:17

As the CEO of the company. I’m not past the I never worked past four o’clock in the afternoon.

Rob Pickels  02:23

I’m always, always the first person here. So you know…

Neal Henderson  02:27

Yeah. Flexible timing. When you work with people in different locations and places. Even if we can get together sometimes it still takes a little shoehorning in.

Rob Pickels  02:36

So what are we talking about today?

Trevor Connor  02:37

Forever, we’re talking about goals. And I’m going to do a quick, we did an episode an internal episode on this. This was episode 140, where I talked a little bit about my goal setting process, which I’ll tell you quite honestly, I probably stole from the two of you. So you’re gonna hear something similar. Ryan was part of that episode as well. But just want everybody know, we did do a brief episode on this. But now we’re going to talk with two people have been doing this for a long time, how you set goals for your athletes. And I really just want to start with why our goals important, why not just come into the season saying and to train really hard, go to whatever races and just see what happens.

Joe Friel  03:17

I used to do that. When I first started. That was kind of the way I did it. And I discovered up I can’t remember exactly when but wasn’t too far into my coaching career that I thought I knew what the athletes goal was. And we came to the end of the season. And he had achieved what I thought the goal was only for me to discover that he was unhappy with the season. Because it really wasn’t what he wanted. And I was like, shocked. You know, he wanted up on the podium at Nationals. And I thought this is like, exactly we’re aiming for the for him. That was not the big deal. There’s one guy he wanted to be and that guy beat him. That was his goal for the entire season was to beat this one other competitor in his age group. So I learned very early in my career, you have to ask people what their goals are, you can’t assume you know what their goals are. And you have to ask. And once you get the information, then you can start asking more questions which I’m sure we’ll come back to later on how you go about vetting the process of, of an athlete having a goal.

Neal Henderson  04:15

I would say one thing that I’ve made as like kind of a clear thing pretty early on in coaching is that I never set goals for athletes period, I will work with them and help them refine them but it is never ever my goal or something I want them to achieve it is always something What do you want to do what you know, what are you looking to achieve? What do you want to change? What are your What are your things out there and sometimes that does take a bit of work to pull out to really refine and truly define them. But that process in talking with an athlete and going through that it’s not always just a you know, whatever, a one hour meeting that you can get through it all. Sometimes it’s going to take several weeks of going through a little bit, and then kind of highlighting like, okay, what are these major themes? What are these major goals? And making sure you get clear definition of them, I think is an important, important thing.

Rob Pickels  05:11

Yeah, I think that we’ve all come across athletes that pose the question to us, well, what do you think I should do? And it’s a very difficult situation to be in sometimes, because you then have to move almost into like a motivational interviewing and turn it back around and help them find the answer. Because as a coach, I mean, more as a consultant. I don’t know that I should be answering that question for someone, I should be helping them discover what it is for them.

Trevor Connor  05:38

And Joe, I’m sure you’ve had this experience. But even when you have the athlete come up with their own goals. Sometimes they just come up with well, it’s quick and easy. And they get to the end of the season go, oh, I picked the wrong goals, it can be very hard.

Joe Friel  05:51

Yeah, I think that’s part of the coach’s responsibility is to make sure we’ve got things nailed down the right way. I think lots of people, I had one athlete one time, it was a good example of this. He believed that if you aim for the stars, you at least make it to the moon. And that was the way he saw the world. That’s the way he did everything. He was businessman, very, very successful businessman. And that’s the way he ran his business. He started out that way. He wants to be the biggest producer of his product in the country in the US. And he figured it wouldn’t happen right away. But in the process of having this gigantic goal, they would become one of the top 10. And then they could still aim for this gigantic goal, and eventually wind up as the biggest producer in the US and he worked. It isn’t quite that simple. Maybe I’ve obviously that’s probably not a good way to put that. That’s, that’s really not simple in the in the business world to do it that way. He was he did a great job. But he had a lot of things going for him too, that had to do with hiring the right people, bringing in consultants who could help them work their way through all the details. And when he came to me, I asked him, you know, unless I’m brand new coaching the guy, I know nothing about him. And so I asked him over on the telephone, we were talking on the telephone, because he lived in different part of the country. Ask him what what are you aiming at? What are you what’s really your goal here? This is before I knew all the details about how his business came around? And he said, Well, I’d like to win the national championship. I thought that’s that’s quite a goal. But let’s let’s talk about that. How many national championships Have you have you done? And have you finished? He says, I’ve never done one. I said, Well, you know, that’s okay. So how long have you been in the sport, I’ve never been in the sport, never done a race. So I know right away, you know, this is I began to figure out who this guy is he’s aiming for the stars. And at least you’ll make it to the moon, you know, he may be and I don’t know what the moon represents. I know what the stars are now, but know what the moon represents. But I all I can see here’s a lot of disappointment and a lot of head scratching on my part in his part. And then a lot of apologizing at the end of the season for not achieving the goal. And so I had to have a very long conversation with him about how we’re going to do this, try and make the point that Willie was not a realistic goal. This is not something when you’re brand new, the sport that you really started out aiming and for the first year, maybe down the road a little ways we can aim at that. But let’s let’s let’s kind of tone down our goal a little bit. And so I would ask him questions, and we even talked about, you know, what races would you like to do? You’ve never done the race before. If you can in races like that in your where you live? Can we do some local races and find out how good you are and what we need to work on those? Sure. So we began to work our way through it. And we soon discovered that he, at least I discovered, I’m not sure he did at the time, that he was really not cut out to make it to the national championship, that just wasn’t going to be his thing. Now, people will say, you know, well, you really can’t take that away from him. It’s nice to have high goals. But that’s extremely long term in his in his case, to be able to even come close to make it to Nationals, let alone being on the podium and nationals. So we had to give a lot of thought a lot of discussions. I wouldn’t call arguments. But we were we got fairly serious a couple of times in the discussion, which went on for a couple of weeks. This wasn’t just like one discussion. I kept coming back to this thing with him and trying to figure out exactly what it is we’re aimed at here. And so finally we I convinced him we need to we need to aim for something a little bit lower. And that started on the process that of training for where we wanted to go. It gave me something to aim at. It gave him something to aim at which is realistic. And we began to see things objectives. I call these things objectives, things that have happened along the way on the route to the goal, we began to achieve objectives which were positive and so we were moving in the right direction. But had I just taken at face value and he said I wanted to cheat on him been the national podium, you know, bit win the national championship, that really wasn’t going to work that wasn’t going to fly that was it would have been a lot of disappointment least for me. And I would assume for him also. But you know, who knows he his business became one of the became the best in the country. Maybe he could do it also with his racing. So,

Rob Pickels  09:56

Joe, it’s interesting that you bring up this example of this in dividual, who was a business person and then became an athlete. And the reason that’s interesting to me is within the business world, there’s a book called built to last, which is very popular. And inside of built to last, there’s the concept of the B hag the big, hairy, audacious goal, which is exactly this, this giant pie in the sky. If I remember, right, the definition is almost it should be scary. When you read this, when people in your company see the B hag, it makes them say, oh, oh, boy, I wonder is there when we’re working with athletes, obviously, is not the same. Creating a business? Creating physiology, creating a human being is two very different things. How much can we when we’re setting goals exceed expectations? National Championship for never, ever? Maybe too big to somebody who was top 30. at Nationals? Can they expect a national champ? At what point? Are we asking too much? What is acceptable?

Joe Friel  10:57

Yeah, that’s a good question. I think it comes down to time, essentially, you know, and what the person has been doing up until that point, as you’ve made a suggestion, the person was The athlete may have been top 30. at Nationals, for example. Could we then take that to assume that we can move up to a higher level perhaps even to a national champion from this person who was in 30th place? And I would say yes, possible, just kind of depends on what’s been going on up to that point? No, have they been training randomly, they just been or had been missing lots of training is a consistency, not something that’s, they’re well known for. Because that’s really the key to all these sorts of things, is not only doing lots of things that are the right things, but also being very consistent about those things. I’ve often told athletes that I would rather have them do the wrong things consistently than the right things inconsistently. because consistency is the real key to success. In sport, it’s really not all these little things you do is to how consistently you do these things. That’s what the key is all about. So I would say if the person is has been like, 30, if they’ve been in the national championship, they finish. That’s great. What brought him to that point in time? How did they get there, that’s what I want to know. So that’s where the, as a coach, I will start digging into, let’s find out more about your background. So I’m gonna go back and look through their their training, if they’ve been on training peaks, so they’ve got records of their training, I like to go through all that and get an idea of what how they got to that point, then I can draw conclusion about what is realistic for this athlete, it’s still a bit of a guessing game, obviously, this is this is by no means a sure thing. But knowing more about how the athlete got to 30th place, gives me some indication of what they have to do to move up from that point going forward. So it’s a very interesting dilemma to be in it, I’d rather have that dilemma where the athlete was 30 of them and had very poor training, inconsistent training up until that point, and then say, yeah, we can achieve an awful lot here. Because I can look at the athletes. So yeah, given what you’ve been doing, and you got to top 30 And you just made it to Nationals. That’s a that’s a great thing. But even just getting there super, given how you train. I may not say it that way to the athlete, but that’s what I’m thinking. So once I know this, then I can make decisions about what do I think we can achieve? And I can start asking the right questions about how we can get to that point.

Trevor Connor  13:19

Rob mentioned big hairy goals. Well, let’s hear from another top coach Hunter Allen talking about how he uses Big Hairy goals with his athletes.

Hunter Allen  13:27

Goals are super important with all athletes. And anytime you want to do something, you have to have goals. And the first thing is we have to set something that’s that’s really definable that we can measure. Right? So I mean, the SMART goals are classic, right? Want to do those things. I think that’s that’s key. But this, the thing that I find do I do more than that necessarily, is I call them my big hairy goals. And it’s kind of like the big hairy monster lived under your bed when you’re a little kid. Those I like to have every quarter, if possible for all my athletes. And those are things that have to have. Number one, it has to involve money. All right, so you’re gonna spend money, I’m gonna go spend money to go do this event. And, you know, California or Colorado or wherever, you’re gonna fly there. So I go spend money to, it’s going to take time, right? So it’s going to be hard enough that it’s like, wow, I have to invest a bunch of time in this so that I need to train for it. So I’m gonna have to take some of my time away from other things. Three, it has to be something I want to do. Right? Oh, cool. I’ve never been to this part of the country before I want to go here and do this event. And then the last thing is, it’s got to be hard enough that if you don’t train for it, it’s gonna suck. That’s the big hairy goal. You got to have those I think every quarter and those keep you motivated.

Trevor Connor  14:54

We all love the Disney story. The person who’s brand new to something or nobody is heard of, and they show up and they suddenly win the big champion. Like one of my favorite all time favorite movies is Rocky. This guy, just a little local fighter in Philly and gets a gets a title match. Those are movies, they do happen every once in a while in real life. Not very often, really not very often, in my experience with most successful athletes, is it comes down to a lot of work, steady progress over time. So you can have that big hairy goal that if you think, Oh, I’m gonna have that Disney movie, or if that’s your goal to have the Disney movie and go from somebody who’s just a little local cat three race or to the tour or winning national championships, chances are you’re not going to have that movie. Yeah. And you’re just better off with the steady progress.

Rob Pickels  15:46

Yeah, Neil, I’m interested in your take on this right? Because you have been a part of the Cinderella story. If we think back to St. Stephen’s right, who went from Wall Street broker or banker, if I remember right, two World Champion, and you’ve worked with Roman kreutzberger Right when he had a little bit of a setback in his career. But you’ve also worked with bucketfuls of masters athletes. What do you see? Because you’ve literally been on both ends of the spectrum in terms of what is audacious and what isn’t for a goal?

Neal Henderson  16:12

Yeah, I would say it kind of comes down to like the goal should make the athlete feel uncomfortable initially, that it’s, this is a lot, it’s a challenge, but it shouldn’t be unreasonable. And the reason often comes from the coach’s perspective of the understanding of what change will be necessary for that to be a possibility. And so there is that little bit of uncomfortable like, that’s okay, it is okay to be a little bit scary to put it out there. You know, at a high level of like, that’s a lot.

Rob Pickels  16:45

It underscores how serious this is and the dedication and the devotion that’s needed.

Neal Henderson  16:50

And that’s part of it, it’s then getting the commitment, okay, if you want to achieve this, we need these steps to occur in the process to get there. And so that’s a lot of times then what are the necessary kind of benchmarks or points along the way that are going to show you whether you’re on on track for that Evie was a great example, like she had already been racing. You know, at the highest level. When I started working with her, she had had a couple of kind of bright successes, but nothing massive. And because she came into the sport very late, it was really bike handling skills in that comfort in a group that was absolutely the most difficult thing, especially racing in Europe and a peloton with 100 120 riders. She did not have that skill set developed that was not developed because when she raced in the US, she just had a massive engine and could just ride away from everyone. And so she was very good and skilled at time trials and other races. But it was either in a big race, she could be at the front of the race, because she was strong enough but expending a lot of energy unnecessarily early on or at the back dangling, which, if you ever do road race and you realize the back is you get whipped around a lot and the acceleration, deceleration at the back is is very costly. And so one of the things that we we talked about in setting goals for her 2012 season, the season started, you know, the fall of 2011 was we need to improve your comfort in a group. And so we had different methods and one of those was actually riding with the juniors that I coached on a velodrome we had the little velodrome in the warehouse here in Boulder back then the boulder indoor cycling 110 meters, I think I think they may have built it is bigger than that. But it was about 110 meters. And it was scary. Yeah, no matter what, like physics, it was only 40 degree banking with that short, like it was scary. And the juniors that I coach were pretty skilled, very capable athletes, several of them went on to race professionally, but putting her in that position, elevated that skill set over that period of time where we could make change that offseason, you know, November, December, January, February, is where that opportunities for 2012 became possible in that kind of work. And, you know, the biggest success then early that urine 2012 was her winning the flesh alone. And it was because she could stay in the group she could conserve energy early on. And when it came to the year two we on the on the final time she was there with the boss with Mariana Voss, and she had a tactical sense, she could realize how hard Mariana was working at one point, and she saved, save, saved and finished it, you know, in that last 100 meters, but it’s those things that you look at where are your opportunities, what do you need to work on, and then setting a pathway to addressing those and so many other examples, but has to be a little bit uncomfortable, but it also can’t be unrealistic.

Trevor Connor  19:33

So I think that’s a good segue. What I think we really want to focus on now is hearing from both of you of what’s your process for setting goals with your athletes, Is it as simple as just say saying to the athlete, come back to me with some goals and I’ll give you some feedback or their steps or things you asked them to do first, that’s going to help them to figure out what their goals should be.

Neal Henderson  19:54

Normally so if it’s an athlete that I’ve already worked with, we go we have an end of the year review of what things they did, what went well, what didn’t go well. And that actually really helps formulate then going forward, what they are looking at. And so it kind of naturally falls after that. And it’s usually a face to face meeting on occasion, you know, when somebody’s across the pond or across the pond, and then it’s, you know, some sort of a virtual, whether it’s phone call, or, you know, connect that way, and we talk through, okay, this year, like, what are the, you know, a lot of times schedule? What are your major events, then which of these are the highest priority for you? What do you really want to achieve? What are you looking at, and I also kind of want to address not just that outcome, because a lot of times, it’s easy to say, I want X place, I want to, you know, win this race or be top five or top three, and you only have so much control over an end result. And so a lot of times, I really always want to look at a process thing oriented to what we can do in training and something we can be tracking in that way as well. Because on race day, you know, if you got sick the week before, you can’t even do the race. Well, that sucks. So you crash out and you break your collarbone and World Championships, or, you know, or crash and get a concussion, the third day of the of a grand tour that you’re focusing, we’re gonna have to, you know, have something other than just hanging your hat on that one thing and being able to then go back through what some of the other things that you’ve talked about and be able to refocus in some case, which is a whole nother episode, I’m guessing. Yeah. But in that initial, yeah, look back a little bit. If you’re working with somebody new, you just have to have a longer period, in that interview initially of understanding who they are, what their motivation is, where they’re coming from. And make sure you get to that point, I’ve rarely ever had somebody that has like three goals that they already know. And they’re pretty well vetted, and they’re realistic. And we’re good to go. I can always take some more back and forth.

Rob Pickels  21:52

I want to hear from Joe on this. But Neil, before we get there, I do want to know with new athletes, do you personally as a coach have a goal of establishing their goals? Immediately or within the first three months? How quickly? Are you trying to get direction with your brand new athletes within

Neal Henderson  22:07

the first month? We need to know where we’re going otherwise, we’re we’re wasting usually valuable time. Because even that that training process in the beginning is is establishing a pattern. How do we work together? What are the expectations on both sides? You know, somebody’s uploading files, but never adding a comment after the first week, okay, thanks for uploading the files, I need you to include a little bit more information, though. In your uploads, you know, what you did how you felt I know what I prescribed to you. But did you make any adjustments? What was weather? How did you feel, just give me some of the basic color to it, because the black and white sure is helpful. But it’s much more useful when you give me a little bit more feedback that makes sense. We can talk about and discuss and make adjustments.

Trevor Connor  22:52

Before we hear from Joe and his process. Let’s talk with Adam St. Pierre and how he develops goals for his athletes.

Adam St. Pierre  22:59

This is something I’ve changed pretty much every year as a coach, you know, and I haven’t found a perfect way. Like all the ways that I’ve found success with have a couple things in common. And one of the key things is that they have to be viewed, be verbalized, and recorded, so that we can remember them. One thing that’s really hard for a lot of athletes is having goals that aren’t just results related. So having having process related goals, you know, it’s easy to say I want to win this race, you know, if that’s the sort of the tip of the pyramid, then you know, what, what things can you make goals below it to support that, whether it’s, you know, I want to train this many hours. And when I get my threshold up to 350 Watts, I want to drop two kilos, you know, whatever, whatever the process related goals might be. But I think as long as we have goals that you can control fully, like I’m going to get up at six every day and do yoga, those kinds of things are really important, as opposed to just having, you know, I want to be top 10 NCAA is, which is a great goal. But there’s dozens of other people that have that same goal. So what are you going to do day in day out to achieve it?

Rob Pickels  24:05

Adam, how often do you check in with goals for your athletes?

Adam St. Pierre  24:08

For us? You know, kind of what we are trying to do this year is we’ve gotten individual goals related to skiing related to academics and related to outside, we’re trying to really focus on having kind of the three pillars of self as school sport and other at least for our NCAA athletes, and we’ll kind of check in on those. Not necessarily formally, but most days, right, like, what are the goals for the session? How does that complete? Or how does that build into the overall season goals? Know pretty regularly. We’re talking about our team goals, you know, which are something that we’re trying to set cooperatively this year, things like you know, having having a GPA above three, getting a podium position NCAA championships, doing that by being on time for training, making sure equipment is well maintained, those sorts of things. So like Some goals we’ll talk about almost daily, right? Like, alright, being on time for training is how we’re going to get more training volume in how we’re going to improve the quality of our training, that is going to lead us to our ultimate team goal, which is to be on the podium and NCAA championships. So I don’t know if it’s necessary to have like a formal check in regularly, as long as the goals are kept kind of in the forefront of your mind. And that’s where, you know, reading them down and talking about them frequently is really important.

Trevor Connor  25:29

Joe, what about you? Where do you start with your,

Joe Friel  25:31

I could really just say, ditto. And move on, we have a lot in common is that the way we see the world, working with athletes, and I’ve noticed that over the years is not unusual. But let me give you an example of the hardest one, working with an athlete when they come to you. And they really don’t know what they want. But they’ve got a lot of talent, least a lot of talent, you can see. But they don’t think they have it. That was one of the most difficult athletes ever coached. It was the young woman who came to me this is like 20 Cash 24 years ago. And she was new to the sport of cycling. She worked in New York City, and she rode her bike to work. And some people convinced her she ought to show up on a Saturday morning and in Central Park and Ride with a group there. And she did and she turned out to be this one of the strongest people in the ride. And she doesn’t even train she just rides to work because all she does that got interested in sports. So she decided to become a cyclist and try some racing as an amateur. And she won races as an amateur. And so next thing you know, she’s gone from age 21 to age 22. And all of a sudden, she’s racing Pro. And she never been on really used to bike at all except just a ride to work. And so she came to me Want me to coach her. She’d had a good coach before I knew the guy. And he had done a great job with her. And I basically told her, I really can’t do anything different from what the other coach did for you. But she was convinced she had to have me. So I took her on board. And then we started the conversation about what are we aiming at this year? What what is your goal for the season, she had no goal, she didn’t really know anything about the sport to speak of. She just wanted to be there in the sport and ride with the other riders and hopefully something would happen. Good. So we started out down that path together. And I soon realized the problem was not so much that she couldn’t set a goal. The problem really was that she had no confidence. She had no belief in herself as an athlete, she had just been lucky all along. So I realized that the issue wasn’t really how this former coach coached her the nuts and bolts of designing training plans and workouts and all that kind of stuff, no different than what I would do. The problem wasn’t that the problem was her head. And I had to become a sports psychologist to help her get through the system. And this is back before sports psychology was really all that big a deal. There was a little bit of going on. But there really was no sports psychologist I could talk to to find out how to deal with this. Except for one I knew I knew I had a close friend who did some sports psychology back in in northern Colorado in Fort Collins. And so I chatted with him about this. And he gave me lots of good ideas. So I started working on these things with her. And we’ll go in the details because there’s lots of little things that we’re doing. But eventually we got to the point I realized and she’s becoming quite a good athlete, she’s really powerful, especially in time trials, cornering skills were terrible. She was not a good sprinter. But in the weight room, she could squat more than most guys. And she was just on a time trial. It was hard to beat her she had finished. I think in her third year, she finished second at nationals in time trial. And so I knew she had some potential there. So we started working on that as kind of becoming our focus. And I won’t go through all the details. But eventually she winds up winning a national championship time trial that season. This is less than a year this is probably like six, seven months after I started coaching her. And it’s only because I just helped her with her head, things she could do from what this other guy had told me. And that began to help her I could tell, but she still didn’t really quite believe in herself. I could tell so she wins a national championship. I’m at home, she calls me and she says Joe Guess what? And I say what she says I won. And so I said, That’s great. That’s super. Then she says but Mari Holden, the woman who has been the national champion the previous I think two years at that point, took a wrong turn on the course and she would have beaten the edge she’s not taking the wrong turn. So I should have been second and I’m thinking I’ve we’ve spent the better part of a year here just kind of get her head together. Now she’s won the national championship, but she doesn’t believe in herself and so became this ongoing saga of dealing with her head as opposed to her physiology or physiology was great but I had to get her head and go in the right direction. And we’ll go through the whole story but she winds up making the national team going to Worlds she has the highest placement of any woman in worlds that your US woman she finished fifth in the time trial is the story itself of her time trial was amazing story how she did it. But she found He’s fifth. And then at the end of the season, we had, as Neil mentioned a while ago, this debriefing, we talked about, you know, how the season go. And I’m like ecstatic. This has been a fantastic season, when the Nationals and he finished fifth at Worlds, what more could we ask for? And this year, she said to me, you know, I’ve been thinking about going after the, the our record on the track, I said to her, you know, the securities because I had just been thinking about that, myself a couple of days, gonna have to look to see what the national record was on the track, then what would take to do that? She said, Oh, no, I don’t mean the national record, I mean, the world’s record. So she had gone from not believing herself to even be able to finish a race to being able to think with herself as being a world champion, a world record holder, which was a fantastic thing. And as it all turned out, she was picked up by the best team in the country for the following season. And they never gave her a chance to even think about doing that, let alone train for it. So we never got a chance to go at it. And so she went on racing very, very well after that. But Red Road Racing was really not quite her thing. It was really time trial was her thing. And that’s what we aimed at really was doing really well there. So it took a year better part of a year to get her, her head screwed on straight, so she could aim at her goals.

Rob Pickels  31:11

The big thing I’m hearing when I listened to both of you is individualization for the athlete is key. It’s not necessarily about I want to be this spot on the podium. It’s about understanding the athlete and setting their goals around their specific needs. You guys both gave some great examples on what that is for those individual athletes. What I’m wondering is, what else when you’re creating goals is important to ensure success beyond this individualization.

Neal Henderson  31:39

So establishing what those goals are, and really kind of going through the aspects of what parts of this are like an outcome. And what parts are process oriented is really often a component that sometimes you need to have an establishment of really these process aspects that will then lead to the opportunity for the performance for the outcome. And we talked about that a lot of times in training, you know that I talk with athletes that we’re trying to build your capacity, your abilities, your confidence, and to be able to execute on that day. But you don’t have control over everyone else. When it’s you know, most mass start type events, unit a time trial, you can’t control what someone else is going to do. You can’t control whether the conditions for the early starters are better than for Late Starters. And if you’re a better writer, you’re going to start later or vice versa. There’s all these kinds of things that become like interactions in there. But on occasion, an athlete will just be fully switched on. And even though things may not be set up for them to potentially like you would think be well suited for them to achieve that. They can still do it, which is I’ve come to have this saying with athletes of don’t place reasonable expectations on unreasonable individuals. And I’ve had that fortune of working with some unreasonable individuals like Taylor Finney, his first year at Junior World Championships he was 17 years old. So 1718 are the juniors. And he didn’t win nationals in the time trial that year, I think it was maybe it was maybe third in the individual time trial. He hadn’t won races in time trials, you know, at that national level, let alone an international level. And it worlds he won. I mean, he beat Michael via kowski, who had been like, unbeatable as a junior he had beaten everyone everywhere, every time and every which way. And afterwards, it wasn’t a goal that Taylor had shared with us. His parents know a thing or two about cycling a little bit. He hadn’t shared that. That’s what he wanted to do. But he’s like, I’ve been dreaming. I’ve been dreaming about that. It’s what he wanted to do, but he didn’t share it. And I always say it is better with your goals to share them. Otherwise, it’s a hole which there’s no accountability if you don’t reach what you don’t you know what you were hoping for, but you didn’t share with someone. So even though he may have had that success, like I do encourage people to share those goals because it is more useful. You can get more support, you can have accountability. And that’s again part of this process. That’s what establishing those goals with an athlete early on is about then how do we hold each other accountable towards getting towards that?

Trevor Connor  34:24

We just heard about one top athlete let’s hear directly from another Rach McBride about how they manage their ambitious season goals.

Rach McBride  34:32

I have to choose specific competitions that are going to be the most important and that are going to be the ones that I really, like focus on to do well, and those are usually my goals are often for every year. Based on my race schedule. I will have not results goals because you have no idea who’s going to show up where what’s going to happen, but it’s more about goals. have, for example, when I’m racing iron distance, I have a specific, you know, Marathon off the bike time that I would like to hit or a certain, like average power on the bike that I want to hit. And so for me, I set those goals. And then I see okay, what do I need to do? What kind of training do I need to do? What are the races I need to pick that will help me like achieve those goals in those manageable steps?

Rob Pickels  35:30

Now the 2023 is here. Many of us are thinking about our personal and professional goals when it comes to goal setting what works and what doesn’t. Well, we have some guides that may help in our new craft of coaching module. Joe Friel shares stories of three athletes and important lessons they’ve learned about setting goals, get this season off to the right start, check out more at fast talk labs.com. Neal, if we can back up to the process and the outcome goals. When you’re thinking about the season as a whole, it’s the beginning of the year, you’re planning for the next 12 months, maybe maybe even longer? What does a process goal look like versus an outcome

Trevor Connor  36:08

goal? We take a step back and we define those Yeah, we actually just did an episode with Sonya Looney, we’re talking about intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation. And basically, this is what we’re almost getting at with process and outcome goals. So how would you define those?

Neal Henderson  36:24

For me ultimately, that process side of things are what are the steps that you need to take that can build the potential for performance and outcome goal is ultimately some sort of a performance. And so it’s those those kind of intermediate steps, a lot of cases like with with rolling leading into Tokyo, we did some things of doing a virtual ride of the course, we actually preview the course what ended up being you know, whatever, two plus years before the event, because we had a little bit of a one year pause there and everything got pushed out. But we had video and different technology that we use to be able to ride connected where he was in Europe, I’m in the US and the team director, Brad was in Australia, and we were connecting in an appropriate time zone that fit best for Rowan because he’s the athlete performing. So whether it was midnight, or 2am, for Brad or I or four in the morning or six in the morning, we did that at a time where we could all together be going through that course, writing it scene, talking about it, talking about effort, thinking about the weather where the sun might be shade, hot, all of those things. And we had multiple rounds of that leading into Tokyo, we had started it, you know, early in 2020. And then we restarted again in 2021, and had multiple rounds of that. So that that was a process, we wanted to have a certain number of repetitions, our women’s team pursuit squad from 2012 to 2016, there was a lot of new members, the race had gone from a 3k to a 4k. So a 4k team pursuit with four riders starting was a totally new thing, even for the riders who had done 3k And who had had good success, you know, had a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics. We wanted to get 100 rides was part of our process in that four year period of getting ready so that we would be prepared and 100 was kind of an arbitrary number, but it was how many training sessions how many times can we do that? How many races are there. And so we built that as part of our longer term process to build the capacity, the confidence, the understanding of the task

Trevor Connor  38:31

to just make sure our listeners understand outcome goals are exactly that. That’s where you’re looking for something that’s more a result. That’s your extrinsically Motivated goal. So a good example, going back to what you’re talking about with Taylor Finney. An outcome goal is something like I want to be 10th at Worlds or I want to be fifth at Worlds. The process goals are has you’re saying it’s how you get there. So for example, simple process goal there might be well, I need to be stronger on the bike to be able to do the sort of time that I would need to get fifth at Worlds. Therefore I need to get my FTP my threshold power up to x that would be a process goal.

Rob Pickels  39:10

And for anyone interested in more in depth information on what Neil was talking about describing this process prior to a race, we actually recorded an episode with you it was episode 213, which was prep for race day success with Neil Henderson. So we got a whole hour to geek out over that and there’s really great info in there. Joe, are you a process and outcome goal guy to or how do you look at it?

Joe Friel  39:32

This is amazing. I just sitting there thinking these are the same things I always think about when when I was a boy, I wanted to be an engineer. I don’t know why. I can recall to this day, thinking back and thinking engineers are pretty cool. Especially aeronautical engineering. I thought that was really great. So I kind of evolved into an engineer in many, many ways and one of those things is boiled over into my coaching. So I see the coaching process as from Coaches perspective as being kind of like an engineering process, exactly what you guys were talking about. So for example, if I’ve established a goal with an athlete, we’ve we’ve got this rock solid goal, that is certainly a possibility, that’s gonna push the athlete to his or her limits, the first thing I do is to ask myself, why do they need me? How come they can’t do it by themselves? Why do I have to be the guy who tells them the things to do? Is there something here that they don’t know? That I know that I can help them with? And the answer is almost always yes, there’s some way I can help them achieve their goal, even though it may be a very high goal, but nevertheless, so what I call these things that have to be achieved along the way, you guys referring to them as extrinsic and intrinsic goals. So I call them limiters are just things that limit or limiting the athlete’s performance. It could be lots of things I mentioned a while ago, the athlete who the her limiter was her mind, she just was psychologically not prepared to race, even though she physically she had all the talents he could possibly had need to achieve the things we were aiming at, psychologically, she wasn’t there. And I had to discover how to go about helping her achieve come up with these things that changed her way of seeing the world. So that was the thing that that my sports psychologist friend told me that I began to work with her on that, to help her become the athlete she became, which was really quite good. But that’s unusual. It’s not unusual to have a psychological limiter. They’re usually more physiological for the most of the athletes I come across, we just need to do things we need to change things about their training, we need to achieve certain things. As we go along these intrinsic and extrinsic goals, we’re aiming at the limiters, I refer to them as. And so I said, what I call objectives along the way, by this point in time, I think we should be able to achieve this objective, which will correct one of the limiters or at least give us a good headway in making a change a significant change to it. So I’d be able to lay out a pattern in my mind of how we’re going to get there by the time we’re ready to go to our a priority race. So I’m thinking in terms of all these things have to be done. Things that don’t have to be done doesn’t mean that we’re gonna ignore those things. I talked about the athlete having delimiters, which are weaknesses, basically, but they’re, they’re race specific weaknesses, for example of the athlete is very poor at climbing hills. But there’s no hills on the course. It’s not a limiter.

Rob Pickels  42:25

Sounds like my kind of race.

Joe Friel  42:30

That’s the sort of thing that would be a non limiter. It’s a weakness, but it’s not a limiter. So the all these limiters, that the things that we’re really going to focus on are all weaknesses the athlete has. And my goal, my objective, my purpose as a coach is to figure out how to go about if you will, correcting those, or fixing those those limiters. What do I have to do to get there? And so I go, I’m going through this long head scratching continent, his conversation with myself about how do we go about getting to the point where XY and Z are no longer holding you back. So become very focused on those things, those race specific weaknesses, I get very focused on those. But at the same time, I’ve got to maintain their strengths. I can’t let the strengths go, they’ve got to be maintained, but don’t need to provide nearly as much energy and time and thought into those things as I do these limiters. So spending more time working on the limiters. And I’ve set the objectives along the way. And as we’re getting closer to a limiter I become, I get the athlete very focused on that themselves. And we start aiming at achieving this limiter, whatever it may be. You mentioned the FTP. While I mean that maybe that’s the limiter, one of the things we need to do is we need to raise your FTP, you know, from whatever it is right now by up, we need to take it up 20 or 30 points to get to the point you need to be at. And as we start approaching that point, I become extremely focused with the athlete on this limiter. When we achieve it, we celebrate this the moment of celebration, whatever it may be often doing this remotely. We’re not together. So it’s not like we’re gonna go out and have a beer together just like we’re going to be able to celebrate in some way when we have achieved this thing. But along the way, we’ve known this, this is one of the things we need to achieve. We’ve celebrated now we know there are other limiters who still got these other limiters in front of us we’ve got to work on also. And as we achieve those, we can check them off once we’ve achieved it, and we’ve got to maintain it, but we can check it off as something we’ve now achieved. And as we get closer to the race, I’d like to have all those limiters checked off. That’s extremely difficult to do because you get down to the end, you’re talking about things that are very challenging to do. pulling all the pieces together at the very end is not exactly what you’d want to wind up with. But that is often the case. And so Tom, sometimes it comes down to the athlete, just accepting where we are right now. And what we have to do to get the best performance we possibly can and let fate take care of itself. From that point on we really have no as Neil mentioned a while ago, we have no control over who shows up for a race and How fit they may be. So we really can’t say I want to finish first, in the race I want to be on the podium is a big challenge. If you say you want to finish, you want to win the race, and you don’t know who’s gonna be there. That’s like a fairy tale. That’s, that’s not the sort of things you need to be thinking about. We want to wind up with things that are really realistic that we can measure along the way. And we can, if we achieve them, we know we’re going to do extremely well in the race. And whatever extremely well means comes down to who’s the athlete, I’m coaching? And what is our goal. So that’s kind of the way I see the world actually, is from that same engineers perspective. So you’re

Trevor Connor  45:36

gonna get a laugh out of this. But when I read your newest edition of the cyclist training Bible a few years ago, I had this really depressing moment when I actually read your whole section about how you set goals, because I thought I had this very unique and creative process that I had come up with. And the one minute summary of it is I start just like you guys just described to do the season assessment. Then I had the athletes do what I call a gap analysis, which is first identify what’s your current level, and identify what’s the next level. So for example, there might go I’m kind of middle of the field in the local masters field. So next level is I want to be a podium finisher and the the 40 Plus field, and then it’s identify what are the gaps that separate you from that next level, and that’s your limiters, your what do you need to overcome in order to be able to get to that next level, and then that very simply leads to the goals. So the outcome goals need to be things that show you’ve achieved that next level, if you say, I want to be a podium finisher, in the in the Masters 40. Plus, it’s got to be one year goals when your outcome goals. And the process goals are exactly what you’re just talking about. You look at those gaps. You’re looking at those limiters, and you read the word the musical. So for example, an athlete might say, going with what we’ve been talking about my FTP isn’t high enough. So the process goal would be let’s raise your FTP and put a number on it. So reason was very depressing for me because I was can give myself a good pat on the back for Hey, you got this great process. And I read your book, I was like, that’s exactly the process I have. You probably wrote this 10 years before I ever even thought about mine. So I completely stole your process, and I didn’t even know it. Good for you.

Rob Pickels  47:17

Well, if two people arrive at the same conclusion,

Trevor Connor  47:20

I am absolutely certain because I everything I figured out I’ve gotten from other people on there. So I’m absolutely certain if I tried to my entire process I can trace back to you.

Rob Pickels  47:33

Trevor, as you were just speaking, I thought of this, do goals always have to be steps forward? Is there ever a situation or a time where a goal isn’t achieving the next level?

Trevor Connor  47:42

You say to the 51 year old who used to be

Rob Pickels  47:48

gaining and many? That’s that’s a famous Niall ism in my book. Yeah, maintaining is gaining.

Neal Henderson  47:53

Yeah, that happens as we get a little older, having worked with some, some older athletes, for sure. There’s times where we look at, okay, well, we’re not going to the next level with certain things, physical, you know, capacity, whether it’s a power production power per time, something like that, that’s not where we’re changing. Now, it might be a behavior, we’re gonna be doing strength training twice a week, year round, not going to do it, you know, like, start off in a good way. And then just let it trail off. We know that for your health and benefits, this is something that your future self is going to say thank you for doing or tisk tisk, we should have done this. And just make sure that that is now an accountable goal. It’s a process, it’s something that’s going to lead potentially to performance as a side benefit. But for overall health, wellness. I mean, it’s just one of the things like this becomes a safe non negotiable.

Joe Friel  48:40

The other side of that coin, this is sort of thing I pick up sometimes just by being around athletes love for example, I’ve heard this so many times when I’m in the gym, especially in the locker room, men’s locker room afterwards, I’ll hear somebody say, you know, I’m just getting too old to do this. And the guy’s like 35 years old. And I’m

Rob Pickels  49:00

even I’m past that at this point. If

Joe Friel  49:03

you’re not even close to being at the end of this thing. You can see you’ve got so much room in front of you right now that there’s definitely no doubt you can be a much better athlete than you aren’t because I know who you are. Many people have this thing in the back of their head that the next birthday means the end of my career, or I’m going backwards from now on. And they’re not even close to it. I’ve got a friend who’s now in his 80s when he was 75 years old. He won his age group at Ironman Kona he did 13 hours 28 minutes at 875 Tell me that guy’s too old. He’s 75 years old. How many 30 year olds can do 13 hours and motorists 25 minutes have we been able to kind of even up the score by giving an age comparison here. He would have been the winner of the race. I guarantee it. That’s an achievement that which is beyond most people’s even you know at age 35 things they can think And the self is even doing. And he does this all the time. You know, he’s been doing this for more than a decade. He’s just a tremendous athlete. And he’s never, I’ve never heard him say, I’m over the hill. Now he’s in his 80s. I’ve yet to hear him say, I’m getting old. He just refuses to accept that he can’t do things that most people who are half his age, don’t believe they can do. So that’s the other side of the coin is sometimes people give up on themselves, because they see their next birthday is going to put them at age 40. And that’s going to be the end of the road at age 40. It ain’t even close ain’t even close for

Rob Pickels  50:37

me, Joe, it’s more that that pint of ice cream is calling my name. And that’s why I just give up on on everything

Trevor Connor  50:43

will rub them in this gets at what you were saying before, which is goals need to be individualized. And you should never set your goals based on Well, I’m this age. And people tell me I can only do this at this age, don’t let other people define them for you. Just think about yourself, you know, you have to factor in how much time do I have? How much time do I want to commit to this? What’s some of my natural talent? How have I been performing, and then come up with goals that are, as you said, ambitious, but realistic for you.

Rob Pickels  51:11

And I think that the realism oftentimes, in my opinion comes more from life situation than age. I think that as people age, they definitely can keep up some some really amazing performances. But I do think something that undermines people sometimes is a major life situation, Shane’s new job, new kid new, who knows new COVID and not adjusting goals in a realistic fashion. Sometimes people will charge headlong into trying to achieve everything they did before. And ultimately, I think that that causes burnout and a huge regression back that sometimes people disengage from the sport, they might even go that far, but they may be at least disengaged from the goals that they had. And I don’t know that they needed to go that far if they had just adjusted preemptively.

Neal Henderson  51:56

Yeah, definitely. And that’s the thing, there’s, I mean, you shouldn’t have a goal that’s so rigid, that it’s all or none, and you can’t ever, you know, make a modification based on a situation. I know, some years ago working with a very, very successful athlete who, when I started working with her actually one of the goals we set out, she said, I want to race bikes and have fun. She had competed in the Olympics before this point in a different sport. And she just she was over that sport. She said, I want to race bikes have fun. She was in college, university. And I was like, Oh, that’s great, that that’s very, very doable. And there were other things that she wanted to do. But you know, being healthy, having fun, and racing, competing in a way without any of the kind of pressure and expectation that she had had as an Olympian, in a different sport, was a huge thing. Well, a couple years later, she got back into that first sport that she had a very bad experience at her first Olympics. And at the 2012 Olympics, her performance was not in line with what her capabilities were, there was a crash that occurred in the race early and she did not perform, relative to what her ability was. She kept doing it and had more success. And in the years after, and in 2016. Going into that season, the goal was a top 10 at the Olympic Games in 2008. She had not finished the NF 2012 40 Something in the field, not a great day. So going into 2016. Early on, we had set you know certain goals and a top 10 at the Olympic Games in Rio was was that goal, she actually finished eighth. And it was a failure in her mind. Because she had taken a step up in her performance she had graduated from school from university was racing at a higher level had won World Championship Series races or WTS races, I think it was called at the time. And so there was an increased now capability and that expectation, but she didn’t share it as directly with me in that like I really want to be up here. And so when she finished I was like, it wasn’t the best day but you still have a success. And she’s like really wasn’t a success. And she actually won the world championship that year in 2016. And she won the most recent Olympics in Tokyo gold medal. I don’t work with her anymore. We work through the 2017 season. She had won two world championships in a row then in 16 and 17, which he just repeated 2020 and 21. And, you know, they implore enough. He’s a pretty tough, capable athlete who’s made adjustments and in her goals and how she approaches sport over time. And it’s kind of cool to know that you don’t always have to be the same way and have that same I want to do the same races I want to do the same events in the same way. She had some intervening years where she had success in extra racing and changed the focus and learn how to race and compete in a different way before coming back to that earliest kind of thing where has become a master That story

Trevor Connor  55:00

is a great example of what’s been the message of this episode that goals have to account for the individual. Let’s hear from Coach John Tarkenton and how he accounts for the individual when setting goals with his athletes.

Jon Tarkington  55:13

I actually think goal setting is one of the Paramount pieces of coaching. With the new athlete, I will rarely dive into that first thing, I will always usually try to get a lot as much background information as I can get to know the person who they are, you know, their athletic history, their personal history, what I who I am, what I’m doing, and then slowly start to push into the goal piece. Well, why are we talking and what do you want to do. And that way, you’ve at least got some parameters already set up so that you can if they’ve got lofty goals that may not be attainable, you can steer them just a little bit in one direction or another. So you can take a goal that might be unattainable and make it a little more attainable. I think that’s a key piece to making a really effective goal. It needs to be lofty, but it also needs to be possible. And I think the timing is definitely key, because you can get lofty goals, but it may take 10 years to achieve them. And then in that case, you just start working backwards, you know, sets of goals along the way to get there. And to be honest, one of the favorite times of year of the year with athletes is always kind of the end of end of a season, transitioning into the new one, number one, because training plans are pretty easy to create during that time. But really, more importantly, is getting to have kind of a season review. And then season goal setting for the next year. Those are always really fun conversations, I enjoy them a lot, because it really does give an athlete a chance to step back and look at what they’ve done, analyze and then help them you know, set in setting those goals for the next year. And it’s really great when you’re actually in that position of encouraging them to do more, you know, where they you’re seeing that they really do have potential and you can push them to that potential. And I’m pretty convinced if you are following a process that always incorporates that pushing for a little more something that’s attainable benchmarks along the way that your athlete is going to continue to thrive. And the other thing, especially if they’re not top level, elite athletes, tying them in to the balance with their life as well. You know, that’s always got to be a major, major factor. If you’re really wanting to develop somebody as an athlete long term, then balancing out their work, their family, those pieces with their goals is extremely important.

Trevor Connor  58:00

But that raises a an important question that I really want to ask both of you, is it really important for athletes to celebrate goals when they accomplish them? And I know this is an issue with elite athletes, I had my best years I had this issue where I was never satisfied. You know, when I won a race, it was always build, don’t care. What’s the next race? What’s the bigger race. And you see that with a lot of elite athletes where even when they accomplish the goal, they’re not satisfied. So I do think never been quite satisfied is a good thing. But should you have those moments of saying I just accomplished one of my goals? Let’s celebrate that for a minute,

Joe Friel  58:36

you definitely do that. There’s definitely a need to to celebrate achievements. I mentioned a while ago, I celebrated achievements with my athletes when they achieved something along the way, they improved a limiter, something we had been aiming at for weeks, if not months. And they achieved that we would celebrate that in some way. And then move on with celebrate now let’s move on, you know, but we’d never like just pass it over and say, you know, it wasn’t important. Let’s go on to the next thing. Because that that becomes theirs. We’re humans and humans like to celebrate. When we achieve something that’s a good time to say, you know, we achieve something, let’s congratulate ourselves about that. pat ourselves on the back and say good things about each other and have a good time here for a few minutes. And then we’ll get through this again about whatever else is on the agenda. The I think you have to celebrate along the way. And the big celebrations are at the end when you finally achieved the overall goal that you’ve been aiming at, hopefully, for that season. That’s a lot of fun. And I can still recall some of those with my athletes over the years where they achieved things that were of gigantic goals. But we celebrated we had just such a good time to these days. I still remember some of the celebrations some of the things we said to each other, the family and the things they said to each other and how that a whole the whole group just had a great time. So I think those things are extremely important that One of the things that encourages an athlete motivates an athlete to keep on achieving is seeing that others support them. Nobody says, but that’s not a big deal is gone. And everybody says that what a disastrous life that would be, seems very negative to me. So I like to see celebrations at the appropriate times.

Trevor Connor  1:00:18

So can we flip this around and say an important part is setting your goals as an athlete, as you need to be able to look at these and go, if I accomplish a goal, that’s something I’m gonna be proud of, that’s something I’m going to celebrate. Definitely, particularly because very few of us are going to be standing on the top podium of the Tour de France with everybody graduating us, most of us you accomplish, whatever you’re you’re going to accomplish, and the only person who is going to see it as you right, you’re patting your own back. Yeah. So you need to be happy you and hopefully, your coach or family and your family

Joe Friel  1:00:47

and those around you and team members, there should be this group that comes together to celebrate the achievement of the goal. And there could be lots of things going on within a cycling team, for example, there could be lots of celebrations going on within the group, which is a lot of fun. When that begins to happen. It brings people together, I like to go back to Paleolithic times as a lot. That’s one of the things that brought Paleolithic people together was this idea that when we achieve something together, we get to eat that celebration is because we brought back this meal for everybody. So let’s celebrate that. And then we’ll celebrate by eating. And we still do the same thing today. We know we basically the same as our stone age ancestors, we’re still doing the same sorts of things. And we can’t set these things aside and say don’t count anymore. Because they do count. They’re just a part of our DNA. It’s what we’re what we’re good at, is celebrating when we have success.

Neal Henderson  1:01:42

Yeah, that absolutely is a critical part of things. And I learned that, you know, years ago, but Connie carpenter very well drilled that in like you celebrate those successes. She was also very big on you know, there’s liquid gold in terms of writing down what what led in those cases, what were the, you know, highlighted learnings that that helped that result occur, you know, having the athlete write it down, and talk through with them, you know, what they learned in that because a success can be again, a teaching, you can learn a lot from a success, it’s not always that you only learn from, you know, lack or a failure, or whatever you want to call that, you know, and this, you definitely can learn from success from that and repeat certain things, learn what, you know, what’s important in that way, but you have to celebrate it. And I can tell you, I’ve been been fortunate to be able to get some pretty big celebrations, and sometimes they get postponed, and you have to push them out, because it’s just situationally where people are, where you are, and, but celebrating those, I can tell you, there’s some of those that are just awesome, great, fun times. And, you know, I do something now with athletes, when they have a great result, you know, whatever that is, I tend to buy a bottle of wine that I put in my cellar and write down you know, the athlete’s name what they did. And we get together at some point in the future, I’m planning for the future I last year, was able to get together with Laura and her husband and several other friends. And we had bottles of wine brought over one of those special bottles of wine to be able to share from you know, her, I think it was 2017 worlds, but we celebrated her Olympic victory with that, at that time as well.

Joe Friel  1:03:21

So a big seller that

Rob Pickels  1:03:21

the sellers, it’s not small. Like, I’ve never had a bottle of wine with Neil, I might have had a bottle of beer with you, but not about wine.

Neal Henderson  1:03:31

We’ll have to work on it. Rob got to find some goals for you. And, you know, set those set your sights. I know

Rob Pickels  1:03:37

truth Truth.

Trevor Connor  1:03:39

So as we’re getting towards the end of our time here, I’ll just throw one last question to both of you. What are some other practical ways you can suggest for setting goals?

Neal Henderson  1:03:52

Well, I know it may be, you know, something that people have heard before. There’s an acronym that we often use, and it’s smart goals. SMA RT with S stands for Specific M as in measurable, a as an achievable, are for realistic and T for time sensitive. So smart goals, you can look at things it may not like you may not hit 100% on every single aspect of that being perfect. But those are some of the guiding principles that I use a little bit in assessing that goal and working through a goal with an athlete does it have most of those things accounted for maybe not 100%? Every time but are most of those things in some way available to be judged against or assessed?

Rob Pickels  1:04:38

Yeah, Neil, when you went back and you’re talking about the athlete that just wanted to ride their bike and have fun My immediate thought was, how do we measure that?

Neal Henderson  1:04:46

Exactly. are they smiling when we’re at training sessions together? They laugh at my dad jokes. There we go.

Trevor Connor  1:04:52

My favorite part of all this is Rob clearly had SMART goals up in his computer with what each letter has stood for now. You’re just waiting for them. he’ll

Rob Pickels  1:05:00

I didn’t want him wrong. I didn’t what I laughed about is a Simpsons quote where Homer is like, I am so smart SMRT and I was hoping that Neil missed the A. Like, he said it, it’s like, wow. Drop a bow.

Joe Friel  1:05:21

Yeah. You know, sometimes it’s really good to think about the realism of what we’re trying to achieve, because sometimes we’re not realistic. We’ve talked about that. And this is part of the smart thing. Talk about from my family, my son, Dirk, very solid careers as a cyclist won the national championship in Colorado beating Bobby Julich, who was third of the podium, like what 98 or something like that, went on to right out of high school, go to Europe, and race for a team in Europe, and then went on to race pro in Europe, and a lot of podiums, then came back to the US and raised X ray extremely well here, but I think it was 2003, his wife, and he had the ad their first child, only child. So I had a long conversation with him that from this moment on your life has gone through a gigantic change, you’ve been pretty much free to train as you wanted here. Now, since you were 13 years old, and now you’re in your 30s, it’s going to change. Having a child in your life is a gigantic change in what goes on and your training what goes on in your work, it’s really extremely difficult to work through all the things are going to be demanding your time your family comes first training does not come before your family, your family comes first you got to make sure that things are done the right way for them. And so that’s always uppermost in your mind. So whatever your goals may be, from this point forward for the sport, realize that there are secondary goals relative to your family, this is now the most important thing in your life. And it’s going to be that way for the rest of your life. It’s never going to change. You know, my son at this point was 30 some years old, and then I’m, I’m still his father, I am still a member of the family who has a deep abiding faith in the future of the frill family. And that’s my primary goal in life is that so I don’t want to get things out of balance. There’s a balance and your goals and you can’t give up those things that are extremely important to you as a person like family to achieve your goal. So that’s one thing I always keep in the back of my head that there are limits on our goals. They’re not open forever and ever and ever. The only thing in your life is your goal. It’s got to be somewhat modified by what else is in your life that’s important.

Trevor Connor  1:07:36

Well that’s said great place to say I think it’s time to finish up and do our one minutes and Joe that might have been your

Rob Pickels  1:07:44

was a big Yeah, I think Joe is one minute his priorities people make sure they’re straight.

Chris Case  1:07:51

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Trevor Connor  1:08:37

So let’s dive into you guys know the routine each get one minute. Like I said, Joe, you get an exemption if you feel like it just dropped the mic and it’s time to leave the room. But who would like to go first? Neil?

Neal Henderson  1:08:49

Yeah, so setting goals is a big part of being an athlete. And being a person, even like National Institute of Health actually has goal setting as something that is one of the important things of creating change. So when we’re setting a goal we’re actually explicitly talking about we’re trying to change something that we’re either not capable of doing right now or haven’t done and so you’re going to need to enlist help. And so share your goals with others who can help you that you know, often is going to include coaches, but also family members, your co workers, friends are also part of that support network, and then continue to work towards them that consistency and not being afraid to be making some adjustments over time adjusting, adapting based on the actual reality and situation, but continue to work forward towards them and you’re going to have a ride that you should enjoy regardless of whether you hit all of your ultimate highest goals ever. Along the way. You should be enjoying that.

Rob Pickels  1:09:54

Yeah, I’ll go a second because I’m going to echo a lot of what Neil said and that is, goals are important. because they provide guardrails that keep you moving in a particular direction. And you do have to focus your energy. If you do expect to make any progress, otherwise, you potentially, you’re going to play this internal tug of war with yourself. Some choices, pull in one direction, other choices pull in the opposite direction, and you never get anywhere. But again, as Neil said, and I think Neil has been a huge mentor of mine over the years, so everybody here is influenced by everyone else. There is a tough balance there of when to stay the course and when to change. If you are so stubborn, and you always stay the course, that might work sometimes, or it might work for some people, but a lot of people are going to have some negative outcomes from that, even just unhappiness or a loss in confidence because you didn’t adjust. On the other side of it, though, constantly adjusting your goals doesn’t help you get anywhere, with every little cold with every little extra work assignment, you can’t necessarily put your goals aside because you will never make progress. So goal setting itself is a difficult process that I think people need to respect. But it is something that’s important that people engage with and that they continue to engage with throughout the year if they expect and want to keep making that progress.

Trevor Connor  1:11:10

But I have to follow this problem. We’re going third, no, you

Rob Pickels  1:11:13

can echo me and say I’ve been such a great mentor to you. Oh, Rob

Trevor Connor  1:11:17

said, There you go. Well, I’ll start with Rob and I right now we’re actually going through defining the 2023 goals for the business. And one of the comments I made about that is writing goals is really easy. Writing goals that’s going to make the business successful is really hard. And that’s what’s important, because I honestly think the biggest mistake I see athletes make is to take two minutes to come up with their goals go the sound really cool, let’s let’s go with these goals. And it actually sets them up for an unhappy season. I think it’s telling that you have two coaches of this caliber who basically have the exact same approach to developing goals, and I was at least smart enough to completely steal it from them. But there are a lot of different processes, but have a process and at the end your goals need to be something that’s ambitious, but achievable. And I think the thing that was really important that we talked about here is it’s something you can celebrate if you’ve accomplished it. And Joe, did you have anything else you want to add? Or

Joe Friel  1:12:16

just just one last thing very briefly, one thing we haven’t touched on here is the plan that goes along with the goal, which is a huge piece of all of this. That’s you know, the saying I’ve always used with people is a goal without a plan is really just a wish, you’ve got to have something that ties this all together. I’ve got this goal. Now what do I do to get to that goal? And that is the hard part setting a goal. It can be difficult, but it’s relatively easy compared to the plan. How do I achieve the goal? What do I have to do? You know, what’s all the stuff that goes into my preparation to achieve the goal? That’s the hard part. That’s the gigantic piece. And that’s usually where the coach comes in is to help with that aspect of it. But I’ve also known a lot of age group athletes who are pretty good at coming up with their own plan. I’m always amazed sometimes what people can achieve that took me decades to figure out and they’re able to do it, even though they’re not in a career field of coaching, just because they’ve given a lot of thought. So that that’s the key. You’ve got to you’ve got to have a plan for that goal.

Trevor Connor  1:13:17

Great. Well, guys, always a pleasure having you here. Thank you so much.

Joe Friel  1:13:20

Thank you. And thank you.

Rob Pickels  1:13:23

That was another episode of Fast Talk. Subscribe to fast talk wherever you prefer to find your favorite podcast. Be sure to leave us a rating and a review. The thoughts and opinions expressed on Fast Talk are those of the individual. As always we love your feedback. Joined the conversation @ forums.fasttalklabs.com to discuss each and every episode. Become a member of Fast Talk Laboratories @fasttalklabs.com/join. To become a part of our education and coaching community. For Joe Friel, Neal Henderson, Adam St. Pierre, Hunter Allen, Rach McBride, John Tarkington, and Trevor Connor. I’m Rob Pickels. Thanks for listening!

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