Tyron Venter, 12x World record holder, shares his goal-setting secrets

Tyron Venter, the extreme long-distance swimmer, and 12x World record holder shares his goal-setting secrets and shows us how, with the correct techniques, we can all achieve our desired goals.

Structured into 2 parts, how to set goals and how to achieve goals, there is something for us all to draw from. BONUS: A guideline for any swimmer inspiring to do a single Robben Island crossing (7.5km).


How to set goals:

“Honesty is the best policy”

When setting a goal, you need to be honest and realistic in order to achieve this goal.


Once I have those answers, I follow the following crucial steps:

  1. Put pen to paper

I love this amazingly simple tool as you can then:

  • Hold yourself accountable
  • Always remember your goal when life gets crazy, as it often does 


I stick a couple of copies around the house where I am repeatedly forced to see them. This prevents me from getting stuck in a rut of having the best intentions but never acting on them.

  1. Figure out what is required to achieve this goal

Do your research so that you know what to expect. You cannot control all the elements, but that does not mean that you cannot prepare for all eventualities on your way to success.

  1. Establish a timeline

So often people have a goal without a timeframe, and this tends to become a lifetime goal on a bucket list instead of a goal that was achievable a few years earlier. As much as this is the most important step, it often proves to be the toughest part.


Short-term goals versus long-term goals:

Short-term goals:

Keep a detailed timeline to keep yourself focused and motivated. If you start to feel that you are at a certain point, but not ready for the next step, know that you can always extend the timeframe, but do not fall into the habit of procrastination. Rather redesign your goal and timeframe to change things up a bit and prevent yourself from getting stuck in that rut mentioned earlier.

 Long-term goals:

Ensure that you have a few milestone goals along the way. As mentioned in the podcast, having milestone goals helps you to assess where you are currently in your training as you complete each milestone. This also helps you focus on a mini-goal as you build momentum towards completing your long-term goal. I do this for all goals that have a longer timeline than 6 months.

Now that you have determined your goal, how do you achieve it?

How to achieve your goal:

“ A goal without a plan is just wishful thinking”

All good intentions on paper need to be followed up with action.

  1. Be selfish with your time

If you have taken the time to set a goal, take the time to achieve it. This might be weight loss, running a marathon, swimming, cycling, or being the next Iron Man.  If it was important enough to write it down, then it is important enough to spend time and effort on.

 For those that train in a group, know that there are times when you will need to do the hard work alone. It is in this season of training that you need to be more selfish with your time. Carve out 30mins 3 times a week for this.

 The main barrier between ourselves and achieving our goals is “US”. You cannot blame family, work, or social commitments for your failure, it all comes down to less than adequate time management.

  1. Seek help

Surround yourself with experience. Hearing others’ failures and successes gives one a roadmap of issues to be wary of. This is not as easy as it seems, as there is always more than one way to achieve a goal.  Never carbon-copy others’ successes, but rather evaluate each on its merits for what you have set out to achieve.

Similarly, do not discard all failures as failures. The person might not have been doing it correctly or for long enough to see the benefits of that training methodology. I cannot stress enough, evaluate, and adapt all that you see.

Where possible, be assessed by a specialist in movement and training for added input. This might just be on an evaluation basis to better understand yourself and your body.

Many times we assume that moving our arms or legs is all that is required to get from point A to point B. However, I can personally attest to this not being the case.  As mentioned in the podcast, I had a recurring injury in my groin and back and it was taking longer, and longer with each big swim to recover from.  With the help of Rethink Health and Nicole’s knowledge of anatomy, I found that the source of my pain was my core and engaging (activating) my core at the correct times. Please keep in mind that this was at times when I was easily capable of doing 90 min core sessions and multiple core engaging body movements for long periods.  With Nicole’s guidance, I learned how to switch on small stabilizing muscles in my core at the correct millisecond required for my core to protect my back and function correctly.  

  1. Be mentally tough 

This is one of the key points for me. I don’t mean you must lock away your emotions and become a machine (quite the opposite).  I mean, train for every condition and outcome.

 On the cold, wet, rainy, or windy days (in the worst training conditions) go do a session. Remember, not every day is going to be fun, but make every day count. Try to see everything as a training opportunity.  For example, when training for a long swim in 2002, I started watching foreign films and subtitles. This forced me to read and focus on a plot for 2 hours+. I used this to train my mind to understand the time period of 120mins in a pool.

Training is defined as anything you can do to prepare your mind, body, and soul for the challenges you choose to pursue. Think outside the box to become a complete athlete physically and mentally, this makes you adaptable and that makes you UNSTOPPABLE!

  1. Start a logbook

Use a logbook to keep track of your day, week, and month so that you know where you are and where you need to be. This also helps you narrow in on the minor details of your training as well as add to your “confidence box”.

  1. Fill up your “confidence box”

This is something I have always shared with my clients in the past. Every little victory is to be stored so that when the big day comes you have all these positive things to fall back on. Even if you have had a disappointing session, it is important to redirect your brain from failure to success.

 If the training session did not go according to plan or did not work out, scrap it and save the positive. You learned something that did not work, or you completed a session even though it was not a good day. Find the thing of value in a failure so that you know how to prevent it from happening again.

  1. Break up your goal

It is possible to eat an elephant one bite at a time. Similarly, you need to break up your goal so that it is not a mountain to climb, but a series of hills to hike.

  1. Be kind to yourself and others

“One tree can make 1000 matches, but one match can burn down 1000 trees”

 I have learned more from a single failure than from all my successes combined. Be honest, evaluate yourself, but do not demotivate yourself. In these moments, use the failure and lessons learned as fuel for your fire to achieve success.

 Finally, be kind to others.  Over the years people have said many damaging words to me:

“It’s easy for you.”

“You have put on weight.”

“Thought you would be faster.”

 Thoughtless words can create great doubt in the mind. Remember that we are all striving to be better, so be sportive and celebrate everyone equally, regardless of time, speed or size.  No matter what others have achieved, be it big or small, it took a toll on them mentally, physically, and emotionally.  We don’t know everyone’s story, but it costs nothing to be nice.

 Your words can turn into motivation. Remember, inspiration can be found anywhere.


BONUS: Swimming to Robben Island

If any of my clients want to swim a conventional single Robben Island crossing of 7.5km, I suggest the following:

0-45min: Start the swim with the goal to get into the swim and find your stroke. 

Take a break/feeding drink

45min – 1hr 15min: Get swimming again and focus on maintaining your stroke. Get comfortable and know that you are on track to the halfway mark.

Take a break/feeding drink

1hr 15min – 1hr 45min: This is your “just got to get through this moment”. I often sing Daniel Bedingfield’s song title “ Just got to get through this.” It reminds me that I am nearly there and my focus is on the next 30min and not on how far I still have to go.

Take a break/feeding drink

1hr 45min – 2hr 15min / 30min: This is the fourth quarter and as it is the approximate end to the crossing it is titled the victory lap. Enjoy, smile and wave! You are on the home straight, so, let your great accomplishment soak in.

 I use this method for all my swims and runs. A 4-part plan is easier to remember and also allows you to focus on each part separately in training. You can micro-manage your efforts and training plans for each sector.

 This is where I suggest you also work on your macro and micronutrition and feeding for your above-mentioned plan. Your needs may change according to your goal, and which step you are currently in.