Planning for success. How sport strategy can help your impact planning

The other day I arranged to meet up with a friend of mine who is also a solopreneur. I wanted to catch up because we hadn’t seen each other for a while and his mentorship and the discussions that we have are inspiring, insightful and of great relevance to the work I do. It is always great to sit down with like-minded people that may not get exactly what you do, but can bring a new perspective and quiet the noise in your head.

Although it is always good to connect I did have a specific topic that I wanted and needed some help with. What was really interesting, was when he mentioned what he had wanted to ask me about during our meeting. I guess I never thought of what I would be giving to him. Turns out he wanted to ask me how I manage my time and get stuff done. I wondered why on earth he would be asking me this, I hardly feel organised most of the time. He said that he specifically wanted to know this from me because of my achievements as a four-time Ironman triathlon finisher and as someone who has finished a PhD. I was flattered, obviously.

Initially, I thought I had nothing to offer. However, after some thought and reflection, I realised that I have inherent strategies that I have developed and now take for granted because of these achievements. I am a big fan of setting goals and once I set my mind to it, I will do whatever I can to meet those goals. In this post, I want to outline for you how I approach this and share with you how you can use similar strategies to plan your research impact.

Set your goal

Finish an Ironman (4km swim, 180 km cycle and a 42.2km marathon run) (by the way there is a 17 hour cut off)

Entering an Ironman is daunting, particularly if like me you don’t have the running gene and you have two wonky knees. But, there is nothing quite like taking the plunge to make you achieve something. You are probably thinking why then would you sign up for this? Well, my husband had been racing triathlon and Ironman for years and as a spectator I would see all types of athletes, skinny, fat, young, old, disabled. It was at this point that I realised if they could do it then I had no excuse and I set about proving this to myself.

Develop a strategy

To finish the Ironman need A plan made up of multiple elements


In deciding to commit to something that will require training twice a day for most days of the week for up to 30 weeks in a row you need to consider how this will fit around your existing work and life commitments.


You have to have a training plan that encompasses training distances and intensities week by week for the three sports and how they fit together. This is a program that is broken down into four-week cycles of building effort and recovery.


You need to consider your training locations; no one wants to run the same route every time, nor do you want to ride the same 120-150 km ride every weekend, you have to plan to mix it up, where, when and whom you train with. Variety is definitely the spice of life when training for an Ironman triathlon.

Nutrition and support

You have to plan and consider your nutrition, what to eat and when, both for training and for race day. You need to find good support and people to help you reach this goal. Your team consists of physiotherapists, massage therapists, coaches for each discipline, training partners, and a very good bike mechanic.

Measures of performance

Also, within the plan will be the incremental goals that you must achieve to ensure you are getting fit enough. This could be heart rate measures, running distance, recovery from intense sessions, swimming laps faster, riding faster and so on.

Impact Planning

What does all this have to do with impact planning? Well, planning to achieve impact is no different to planning for other goals. It encompasses the same elements – time, activities, support, measures of success.

  • Time to achieve the activities and to do the required things to achieve the activities and to do the required things
  • Activities to be done, where and when those activities will be done, etc
  • Support – develop and build your team to make it happen, who do you need on your team?
  • Measures of success along the way – what are the milestones and KPI’s that you will reach along the way?

Much like planning for research impact, when training for an Ironman, or for anything, you have to deal with unforeseen circumstances. There will be things that happen that distract from your path, for me these were inclement weather, cycling in a thunder and lightning storm is not fun, broken equipment, and injury or fatigue.

A couple of weeks before my first Ironman I was diagnosed with shin splints, very painful indeed, this meant no more run training and definitely no running in the event, I was heartbroken. When speed bumps get in the way and challenges occur, we must reassess, plan and continue the journey. I had come too far to give up so I switched from land to water running (3 hours of that is not fun) for the final weeks of training and then during the race I power walked the entire marathon. I was like a woman possessed I have never walked so fast, I was even walking past people that were running (shuffling actually). I was elated; I achieved my goal of finishing before the 17 hour cut off.

Without realising it, I live by the goals I have achieved, the strategies used to achieve them and the belief and resilience to overcome obstacles.

Much like training for an Ironman event, we must plan, set goals, work as a team, and overcome obstacles to create an impact.

Need more help and guidance, check out our KT planning cheat sheet.