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Triathlon Goals When Events Are Cancelled

Sadly, none of the certifications I’ve done over my career have included a Triathlon Coaching During A Global Pandemic module so I’m just gonna have to wing this. Within a week, many of the races planned for the first half of the season have been cancelled with doubtless more to come. I think it’s unlikely they’ll even hold the Olympics this year.

To varying degrees your life goals and priorities have altered in the space of just a week so there’s some pretty big psychological adjustments to deal with unrelated to sport. Putting that aside we all still share a common desire to stay fit, motivated and healthy for when life returns to normal. So how do you set goals for yourself when races are cancelled?

This will be a fluid situation depending on where you are in the world. The San Francisco Bay Area has taken an extreme stance which basically amounts to stay inside away from people. Technically you can still engage in “outdoor activities” away from other people, so we’ll include that in the options, but of course follow local directions.


If pools are open, swimming goals could be focused on time trials in the pool. I have my squad complete a 400 yard time trial periodically to both assess where they’re at (often difficult to tell from triathlon splits) and to set training rest intervals. You could also use this period of time to set new PRs for that and other distances like 1650 yards (1500m) or the distance you can complete in an hour. Pick a date, put in on your calendar and train for it like it was an event.

If pools are closed. Well, if you have open water access and you’re comfortable going alone there’s that. Maybe a course could be set for a time trial in your local body of water. There’s lots of different ways you can mix things up and still include intensity and intervals to maintain your fitness in the open water. I have experience writing open water plans but it’s usually for Hawaii vacationers! You’re probably not going to run out and buy an Endless Pool right now but those people that did are laughing. Nothing on dry land really goes close to substituting being in the water but swimming specific strength exercises and resistance bands might maintain some of that muscular strength.


Cycling is probably the best set-up for being able to compete and set goals in the absence of formal competition. FTP testing, Zwift and even outdoor Strava segments could all be used as motivating performance goals in the absence of races and friends to race in-person. I think the danger here is too much competition and measuring every time you step on the bike which might take away from the still necessary low intensity and structured interval training needed for optimal overall fitness. So again, I would put well spaced out challenges on the calendar and work towards them like you would a real race.


This might end up being the least disrupted of activities training wise. However, if you’re anything like me, it’s hard to push yourself running when not in a race situation. Virtual races are becoming more common. I once mapped out a 5K course with a favourable elevation profile (yes, cheating) to get a time for a virtual race. You might want to schedule a popular hill climb or circuit in your area and try for a virtual trophy on Strava for that. Otherwise, if you don’t feel the need to test yourself this wouldn’t be a bad time for putting a running focus to your training plan and build mileage for anxiety relief and for when times become more certain. Scheduling a regular time in your day for these activities may help bring some structure to your new work arrangements.

Stay healthy and feel free to share your ideas on staying on track during a life temporarily derailed.

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