Beginners, Podcast, Psychology, Training

Goal-setting and Self-coaching with Simon Brierley | EP#65

 October 9, 2017

By  Mikael Eriksson

Goal-setting and Self-coaching with Simon Brierley | EP#65

Goal-setting and self-coaching for the beginner, improving, and advanced triathlete. What to do at each of these stages of your triathlon journey.

In this Episode you'll learn about:

  • Setting SMART goals but keeping it simple
  • Long-term and short-term goals
  • Why you should never include actions in your goals
  • Self-coaching for beginners, improvers, and advanced athletes
  • Should you use a templated program or work from scratch?
  • Words of warning on social media coaching and copying someone else's program


What should triathletes do in terms of goal setting?

02:02 -

  • First of all, no matter what level you are, ask yourself if you have a goal.
  • Everybody should have a goal, vision, or target.


  • Set goals that are very simple, relaxed, and enjoyable. It can be something like completing that local triathlon next year, doing that pool-based 300 meter swim, 10k bike, and 2k run.
  • Consider also how to complete the training.


  • There is now an emphasis on going faster, quicker, or longer.
    Training now is geared to perform.
  • Set goals that are for example, “I’m going to try and take half an hour off my time for that Olympic distance or half-marathon.”


  • Evaluate if your goal is realistic.
  • Use the business approach of goal setting which is SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timely.
  • Training now is geared to win.

What goes on in a goal-setting discussion between an athlete and a coach?

06:25 -

  • Simon uses this as an opportunity to get to know the athlete a lot better.
  • This is where the coach discusses the athlete’s goal and not the coach’s goal.
  • The coach will be supporting the athlete’s goal or guide the athlete into a more structured, SMART goal.


  • Share your goal with your coach if you have one because that coach will check up and encourage you.


  • This is where it is an athlete-led conversation where the athlete would set the specific goal.
  • The coach then will be willing to take the athlete through the training to the start line.


  • The coach will be reviewing the goals on an ongoing basis to give confidence to the athlete that they are on target.

Examples of goals

10:15 -


  • Complete your first triathlon.


  • Potentially a time goal on the same course that you did as a beginner but not on different courses.


  • Qualify for the 70.3 World’s at Ironman at Staffordshire or Dubai. Not only qaulifying for World’s, but the actual race that you are going to qualify at to go to Worlds.
  • Have a long term plan. Ideally, a year in advance if you want to qualify for world championships.

Long-term and short-term goals

14:13 -

  • Long-term goals are not being focused on in the now. They’re not implemented in the periodization.
  • Periodization will go up to a maximum of 12 months. In that 12-month period, we would be looking at A, B, C races and the emphasis on those checkpoints.
  • A-races are like 70.3 Dubai and Switzerland. B-races are like standalone half-marathons but bearing in mind that these are not close to those 70.3 key races. The C race would be a training event where we may do a shortened half or Olympic distance triathlon.


  • For a beginner and improver athlete, 6 months is the minimum period of time to be physically ready for what’s required to take part in that event or to achieve and be successful of that goal.


  • Short-term goals are needed to make sure that you are on target to accomplish that goal in six months’ time.
  • For example, to get stronger on the bike, you might need to do a TrainerRoad program throughout the winter and you would reassess your FTP or threshold heart rate which would show if you have improved your strength on the bike.
  • But, this is not close to you’re A race. So this would be an interim focus.


  • A long-term goal would range from 6 months to 4-6 years taking into account the Olympic cycle.
  • You would still need to have more short-term interim goals so that the coach can give the athlete confidence in knowing they are in a good position.

Why you should never include actions in your goals

20:12 -

  • Don’t associate the goal with actions.
  • A (bad) example is, you want to qualify for Kona 2018 by increasing strength on the bike over the winter, strength and conditioning, and working on swim technique into the early parts of 2018.
  • A simple, direct goal would have been, I want to qualify for Kona 2018 at the Barcelona Ironman race in one week’s time.
  • That would be a very direct and simple goal for what you are trying to achieve. It does not add in those actions on how to achieve that goal.
  • Increasing strength on the bike, strength and conditioning, working on swim technique, etc. are actions to be able to get through your training and to get to that goal or end result.
  • The point is that when you set that goal, you may not necessarily know what the best route is to that goal. It might not be that you need to increase your strength on the bike or become a better runner, maybe it’s just that you are pacing incorrectly on the bike.
  • Having those actions might cause additional constraint on the goals.

Tips for the self-coached athlete

24:41 -

  • Identify what your goal is. This is a stepping stone to becoming more accountable. Say it to yourself. Write it down. Don’t just have it in your head. Maybe even mention it to your training buddies, physio, independent sports coach, or to someone that you have high regard to your progression and in your sport.
  • Draw up a timeline for your goal. Identify what you will do each month to be able to achieve that goal.
  • Then put your benchmarks in place. One of the best benchmarks that you can do to show progression is to have a test that you can do repeatedly.
  • Adjust your program accordingly as you go through it because you might just be drifting off that journey towards the end goal. You need to come back and refocus.
  • Revisit your goal. This is why it is important to write it down and put it somewhere that you can actually revisit rather than forgetting what it was about.
  • Do a self-evaluation. Ask these 3 fundamental questions: what went well? What didn’t go so well? What would you do differently next time? Without this self-evaluation, we would just keep going and not being able to change anything in the program.
  • If you lack the knowledge on how to write a session or on how to improve, listen to this podcast, read blogs and books. Don’t be afraid. You don’t have to go on a coaching course or to a convention to learn about the elements of fitness.

Should you use a templated program or work from scratch?

31:37 -

  • A beginner athlete will just complete the distance.
  • An improver may have followed a magazine program to complete the distance. There are a lot of articles that provide a free program. A lot of the half-marathons give a free program when you register with them.
  • However, one size doesn’t fit all. Just be careful in using these free programs because these have not been written for you as an individual.
  • These programs also do not necessarily give you a better result than when you were trying to complete. You can use the template and adjust it accordingly but be really careful.
  • Start from where you have the knowledge and experience. Don’t try and stretch yourself.

Words of warning on social media coaching and copying someone else's program

34:18 -

  • Most recently we’ve seen a lot of unqualified, inexperienced people on social media groups who do “social media coaching”.
  • Be very wary with what is going on with people who are sharing their experiences on the groups. There is nothing necessarily wrong with it but it was a program that was written for them.
  • Most definitely, do not copy someone else’s program as it might cause a serious injury.

Rapid-fire questions

40:53 -

Favorite book, blog, or resource related to triathlon or endurance sports:

Favorite piece of gear or equipment:

  • Garmin 920 XT

What you wish you had known or done differently at some point in your triathlon or coaching career:

  • Access to coaching resources and to coaches themselves

Links, resources and contact

Links and resources mentioned

Connect with Simon Brierley and Paradise Triathlon Training

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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Mikael Eriksson

I am a full-time triathlon coach, founder of Scientific Triathlon, and host of the top-rated podcast That Triathlon Show. I am from Finland but live in Lisbon, Portugal.

Please contact me if you have feedback on the podcast or want to make suggestions for improvement or send in a question for a Q&A episode.

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