Process vs. outcome goals with Fran Bungay | EP#171
Fran Bungay is head coach of Goalspecific and a coaching tutor at the British Triathlon coach development programme, as well as a top-ranked age-group athlete with two European titles to her name. She discusses the use of process goals in triathlon, and why you might want to move towards a more process-driven approach rather than focusing hard on outcome goals.
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In this Episode you'll learn about:
- The advantages of using process goals.
- Why too much focus on direct outcomes can be detrimental to triathlon progress.
- How to set up process goals for yourself, step by step.
- Building confidence and mental strength.
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Fran Bungay's background
- I came into triathlon about 10-15 years ago after giving up my teaching career when I had my three children.
- I first got involved in triathlon as an athlete, and under the guidance of Harry Wiltshire I decided to set up a triathlon club as there was nothing like that in our area in Dorset.
- I worked alongside the BTF and became qualified in my Level 1, 2 and 3.
- I ran tasters in local schools for the juniors, and all the parents got involved too, so it grew to a family run organisation.
- Alongside our non-profit making club I set up my own business, and now coach athletes on a 1:1 basis as well as working for the BTF as a coach and mentor.
I coach athletes both remotely and locally.
- I also run triathlon camps in France.
How Fran uses goals in coaching
- I think process goals are essential, particularly in today's society where everything is very time-focused.
It's easy to forget the journey and how you get there.
- We don't focus on time driven goals, we focus on other aspects of how they get there.
It can be as tiny as a change in run technique in a specific session, to a largest aspect such as managing anxiety towards the open water swim in a race, and how they're going to cope with this.
- Communication with athletes is the key - any successful coaching relationship relies on a two way process between the athlete and the coach.
- If you're coaching someone the other side of the world, you can still do this by adding points that you want to focus on after each individual session.
It's then a responsibility of the athlete to feedback on this, which helps progression to the next session.
- It can be helpful to ensure that athletes still have their garmin/strava ect but use these as a tool, and not rely on them for the end result.
For example, on the bike if they want to push a certain number of watts, you can break this down. What do you need to do beforehand, think about your cadence, body position and fuelling.
Getting the athlete to look at the whole process is vital.
- Process goals can be as simple as consistency in training across a few weeks - e.g. completing 3 swims, bikes and runs around managing your family and your job.
This can then be built on to slowly increase the amount of time spent training.
- It's also important to educate athletes that sometimes having rest is a good thing - it can actually be a process goal in itself.
If you go too far, you can hit your immune system and end up losing your consistency because you're unwell.
Using outcome goals
- It's different depending on the ability of the athlete.
If you have novice athletes, they're generally not as concerned about the outcome but more about the process.
- For the more advanced athletes, they know what they're walking in to and often have a key outcome goal.
Breaking that back to the basics of the race is sometimes harder, but they can do it.
- I always get athletes, 1-2 weeks before a race, to send me a breakdown of their race from the moment they turn up to the venue, breakfast and the timing, and every little detail.
I get them to tell me exactly what they're going to focus on in each different aspect of the race.
- Focusing solely on the outcome can be detrimental to the athlete in many ways.
- For example, the swim might be a bit long, the weather could be horrific, or the athlete is shattered etc.
The athlete will then be very upset if they don't get the goal they wanted.
- However, if they take all those aspects into consideration and then break it down to focus on specific athletes on the way, they'll know they've achieved some goals even if their outcome isn't exactly what they wanted.
- This is really important for athletes who have come back from injury as they might not necessarily be at the performance point they were six months before, but they have bigger challenges to overcome along the way.
Process goals can really help move these athletes forward.
Focusing too much on outcomes in everyday training
- Sometimes the hardest sessions you can do are when you're fatigued and tired and it's a mental balance.
Your times will be low because you're fatigued, but you still get to the end of the session.
If you look at your watts and they're not as good as they were 2 weeks ago, it could make you feel quite negative.
However, if you think about how you mentally toughed it out when it was feeling very hard, then when you're in the final stage of the Ironman, you know that you can do it.
- It's not possible to set a new PB every training session in this sport.
Using process goals for the beginner triathlete
- There's loads of process goals for athletes at this point in the year (February) as they're going to be new to the style of training.
- Getting into the consistent routine and developing a routine is really important.
- Focusing on weaknesses, whatever they may be - it could be as simple as nutrition and fuelling around activities.
- Usually, a few of the novices we have have a weakness in swimming. For them, getting in the pool and getting 1:1 coaching so they can develop their technique and confidence is really important.
Before their race season comes up it can be important to get into open water and find a group you can train with in this environment so you can train your fears.
- Put yourself in a situation so you can overcome your fears, meaning you go into race day feeling much more confident.
- Getting beginners to develop the ability to visualise what they're going to do, focus on themselves rather than others and develop mantras they can use.
This can be done throughout the year - you don't need to wait until race day!
Using process goals for an advanced triathlete
- Just like I do with a novice, I'd ask them to write down everything they're going to do from the moment they turn up at the race to the point in which it's finished.
E.g. where are they going to position themselves in the swim.
- All athletes are different but there is usually an element of technique or breathing that they can focus on throughout their swim.
I'll get them thinking about breathing/positioning/drafting on someones feet so they are focused on that element and process throughout the swim.
- Once they're out the swim, I'll get them to think about what they're going to do in transition/where their bike is/how they're taking their wetsuit off and whether they will fuel.
I get them to write all these things down before the race starts so they're on automatic once they are in the race.
- Once they're out on the bike I get them to think about their nutrition - e.g. set an alarm every 10-15 minutes, what are you going to eat/drink, how are you going to break that down, how are you going to cope with the terrain, have you practiced your corners.
If there's a weakness in their biking skills I'd get them to focus on that throughout the bike.
- Exactly the same with the run, and it's quite often the hardest and the leg where the demons come out.
The negative talk can sit into the athlete, so this is where mantras and small targets are really important.
E.g. I'm going to get to the next aid station.
- Putting all these little processes together, the time will take care of itself.
- Sometimes athletes think about the big picture and the final outcome but they then get lost along the way and the demons and negative talk can hit them and slow them down.
- It goes back to the training sessions when you focused on the tired athletes who still completed the session - this gives you the mental strength when you're racing and you know you can do it.
Training process goals for the advanced athlete
- Get them to focus on their areas of weakness! They'll be keen to do lots of what they're good at and not lots of what they're not good at.
This could be nutrition! But it also could be running.
If it's running, you want to be doing lots of 5 and 10km races, and trying to do them when fatigued as it's more similar to a triathlon.
- When they're doing it, focus on cadence, form and fuelling. The winter is great for practicing this.
- Specific situations is really important for these athletes.
- With nutrition, I try and focus on both the fuelling before workouts, and the day-to-day nutrition.
Some athletes are brilliant at this and do everything by the book. You then have another cohort who are a little hit and miss.
This is where doing a food diary alongside their training can be important.
- You don't need to regularly review the food diary, but it helps the athlete think more about their nutrition before and after each workout and makes them more responsible for it.
Building confidence and mental strength
- Get your training as specific as you can and practice as much as you can. The more you practice the better you get, and the better you get the more confidence you have.
- Build your A, B, C races into your macro cycle, and try and make the practice races as specific to your A race as possible.
If you're doing a hilly race, practice on hill terrain.
- Developing self-talk and mantras, doing mindfulness is brilliant. The mental side of it is often forgotten about.
If you're mentally strong going into a race, you're going to have a much better race than if there are doubts and you let them control you.
- I let people make their own mantras because I think they're quite personal.
I'm a fan of Yoda - 'do or do not, there is no try'.
People find their own, and I think that process itself is very important.
- Some people find listening to music before races can help, and sometimes having the same tracks you listen to in training.
- Writing quotes on their bike can also help.
- Using the same race kit is another one I've seen - it's very personal but whatever works for you.
- Visualisation is hard. People are busy and if you tell them they need to sit down and spend 20 minutes thinking about their race, it can be hard to get them to understand why this is helpful.
- There's an advantage if you see your athlete face to face because you can do this with them and help talk them through it.
- If you haven't got the opportunity to do it with them, you give the athlete it through their training plan.
E.g. Every Sunday, sit down and visualise your race from start to finish, and have them give you bullet points on how that went.
You're actually writing it into the programme, rather than trying to find extra time to do it.
- I think it's important to visualise lots of different things happening (good and bad) and how they may react to these, particularly for the novice athletes.
- Talking athletes through situations such as your goggles getting knocked off in the swim, or being swum over. How are they going to deal with these situations?
- There's no limit on how many times you can visualise your race, so visualise your perfect race and then visualise different things that might go wrong and have a plan for them.
- When it comes to races, sometimes your sensible head can disappear so if you've practiced these situations you'll know exactly what to do, rather than panicking in the situation.
- Similarly for training sessions, visualisation can help particularly if there's an element in your training that you really struggle with.
Some people get quite stressed about swimming, so spending time thinking about the process of getting to the pool, relaxing and swimming can be helpful.
Break it down into little chunks, and the time can seem much less daunting.
- Similarly for running, visualising a good training session can help you not go into it with a negative mindset.
- Sometimes if you're focusing too much on 'oh god I've got 10 x 2 minutes maximum effort I can't do that', you won't do it.
If you think 'okay I'm going to do 2 minutes, and I'm going to focus on breathing, or pedal stroke etc' before you know it you're half way through the set and you're pleased because you've hit the watts you wanted to at the start.
- We're back at the process goals again!
Process goals for athletes coming back from injury
- This type of athlete may well have been quite a good athlete but they can no longer reach their goals because they broke their leg or arm or had some kind of illness/injury.
- Moving away from the outcome time goal is really important for them to get back to where they were, because otherwise they may become quite downhearted.
- This is where developing a good coaching relationship with good communication is important.
Rapid fire questions
- What is your favourite book, blog or resource related to triathlon or endurance sports?
- Other coaches!
- What is your favourite piece of gear or equipment?
- Definitely my TT bike. I'm fortunate enough to be sponsored by Planet X and I love my bike.
- What do you wish you had known or done differently at some point during your career?
- Personally, listening to my body. Triathletes often think they're invincible!
Mikael's use of process goals
- I have a ton of goals written on paper and taped to my bedroom door!
- I have drawn up a calendar, for lots of things - for example I have one for my core training, so everyday I do it I draw a cross through that day. Similarly I have one for visualisation.
I use this for both triathlon and other goals outside of triathlon.
I keep these details in TrainingPeaks as well, but I find having a physical piece of paper that I can cross through helps me.
For example if I have a process goal to do core training 4 times a week, from my physical calendar I can quickly see if I've met this goal.
- I have my racing goals which are performance based goals, but I've broken them down into process goals.
I then make sure I execute these process goals consistently.
- On a workout level, I have a recent example:
I did a VO2max workout on the bike, it wasn't going well and I wasn't feeling good. The idea was to do 10x2minutes at VO2max with 2 minute active recovery between.
From the first one it felt hard. Rather than focusing on my power being too low, I focused on getting through the first one doing the best I could, and planned to then reassess.
I got through the first one, saw that the power was below what I expected, but I said okay maybe today I adjust the workout. I changed it to 10x 1.5minutes, with 45 sec in the aero bars and 45 sec sitting up.
From the next interval I was able to work in 45 second increments, and it allowed me to slowly but surely work into the workout and get closer to reaching the power.
I got to interval 10 and felt I could extend it to get the same amount of time at tensity as planned - so I kept going for 3 more intervals.
I ended up having a good productive workout because I broke it down into a process driven approach and taking it a short time span at the time, remaining present on the process.
Links, resources and contact
Links and resources mentioned
Connect with Fran Bungay
Connect with host Mikael Eriksson
Hi! I'm your host Mikael,
I am a full-time triathlon coach and an ambitious age-group triathlete. My goal is podium at the Finnish national championships within the next few years.
I first started the website Scientific Triathlon in autumn 2015 as a passion project to share my learnings with a larger triathlon audience. Later on, in early 2017 I started the podcast That Triathlon Show.
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