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Setting and Achieving Endurance Goals: A Psychological Perspective

Setting and Achieving Endurance Goals: A Psychological Perspective JoAnne Bullard Run Tri Bike

Whether you’re an experienced athlete or just beginning, setting realistic goals can significantly impact your performance and overall satisfaction with your sport and training. This article will explore the importance of setting and achieving endurance goals and the psychological impact of goal achievement. 

The Importance of Setting Realistic Goals:

Setting realistic goals is a critical aspect of performance.  Realistic goals are challenging yet achievable by an athlete. These goals require the athlete to put forth effort and stay dedicated to the process, which can assist athletes in staying motivated and focused throughout their training. Goals should also be motivating for the athlete. Motivation is the driving force behind athletic performance, and setting goals that inspire an athlete can significantly enhance performance.One main component is that goals align with the athletes’ values, purpose, and passion.  

Athletes can often set unattainable goals, which could lead them to experience frustration and challenges with motivation. When setting goals, it’s essential to consider the realistic factors as an athlete and training, including current fitness level, available time for training, and potential obstacles. Establishing realistic, motivating goals assists athletes with their determination to succeed.  

The Psychological Impact of Achieving Goals:

Accomplishing goals has numerous benefits, including enhanced confidence, self-esteem, and overall well-being. As athletes achieve goals, they usually experience a sense of satisfaction and enhanced achievement motivation.  Some athletes might notice that they feel more resilient as they continue to achieve their goals and can apply these skills to other aspects of their lives. This development of growth validates the athlete’s hard work and dedication they have put into their desire to enhance their potential.  

Sometimes, the process of setting goals can feel overwhelming. Below are some tips to help you with setting and achieving your goals.

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Tips To Assist With Setting And Achieving Goals

  1. Goals should be specific: Athletes should clearly define their goals and what they would like to achieve. Instead of being vague with the goal, be as specific as possible regarding measurable data, such as the date of attaining the goal, the distance, or the desired time. For example, this broad goal “to get faster at running” could be more specific by stating “to complete a half-marathon in under two hours.” Being particular helps athletes develop a roadmap to success!  
  2. Make goals measurable: Measurable goals can be quantified, which allows athletes to track their progress over time. Benchmarks are established when setting goals so an athlete knows their starting point. Examples of measurable goals for endurance athletes could include speed, distance, or time. Measurable goals allow athletes to track their progress and stay accountable throughout their training.  
  3. Break down goals: It can be extremely daunting for an athlete to only focus on the big goal. The truth is that much growth happens throughout goal setting, which is why breaking goals into smaller, more manageable goals is essential. This helps to make the process more manageable. Athletes should remember to celebrate the smaller victories along the way to stay motivated and be proud of what they have accomplished leading up to their larger goal.   
  4. Setbacks provide growth opportunities: When goal setting, athletes can encounter numerous obstacles along the way. Setbacks are natural parts of the journey for any athlete. How an athlete responds to setbacks can impact how they continue to approach their goals. Instead of viewing setbacks as failures, athletes should try to view them as opportunities for growth. Setbacks can provide valuable lessons, helping athletes become stronger and more resilient.
  5. Remember to stay flexible: Flexibility is important for goal-setting. Even if an athlete has the best action plan developed, something might occur that causes them to adjust. Adaptation is key!  Some athletes may experience unpredictable injuries, sickness, and unexpected life events that can offset their training schedules.  Being flexible allows an athlete to maintain self-awareness throughout their training and recognize when they might need to modify their approach so they can adapt when needed.  
  6. Celebrate all the achievements: When focused on long-term goals, athletes can sometimes lose their ability to recognize all of the amazing accomplishments they have achieved along the way. Celebrating each of these short-term goals will allow athletes to stay motivated and connected to the process. Athletes should take the time to acknowledge and celebrate these accomplishments and consider adding rewards for themselves. Recognizing the hard work and dedication an athlete puts forward is vital throughout the process.  

Setting realistic goals is essential for performance. Athletes can set themselves up for success by establishing specific, measurable goals that challenge them to grow. Achieving goals can be a long road, but remember the importance of staying focused and motivated throughout the process. This can be done by recognizing all of the amazing accomplishments achieved along the way!


Dr JoAnne Bullard Run Tri Bike Magazine Doctor of Sport and Performance Psychology

JoAnne Bullard is a Doctor of Sport and Performance Psychology and a Certified Mental Performance Consultant through the Association for Applied Sport Psychology. She is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

She serves as a tenured Associate Professor at Rowan University and is the owner of Absolute Fitness, LLC.  Her goal is to provide a holistically applied approach for clients through performance psychology consulting. She has experience working with athletes of all ages, including endurance athletes, in individual and group sessions.  Her research areas include mindfulness, performance anxiety, goal setting, coping strategies, and mental well-being of athletes.

She has completed five marathons, numerous half-marathons, and is always looking for her next race.