Training and working out is not only about race results. It seems like its all about the "Race Results" sometimes, but if it were, I don't think I'd enjoy it for very long and neither would others. Otherwise there wouldn't be 1000's of people racing. It would widdle down to just a few in each age-group. Or, as we notice that we are getting slower, we'd quit. Some do, but some keep entering events their whole life. Of course everybody wants to do the best they can. If it turns out not so much like what we planned, we usually keep training and if you race, you probably sign up for another one. I believe most people think alike and when it comes down to it, we attach something personal to why we train and why we race. It could be as simple as our own health--to keep or get in shape, change our lifestyle in a positive way, fill a void, or something like that. For me, although I like racing and doing the best I can and admit I am a competitive person by nature, I learned that I like to be an example for my kids. I was actually going to quit racing after the 2008 season. I saw how our son was getting into sports and thought "I can't quit." I knocked training time way down, but I didn't hang up the bike, so to speak. Its hard to measure if and how your kids are influenced by what you do, but they are. There are some little ways that tell me. Our little girl who will be 4 in March, knows what it means when mom or dad are getting dressed to go running--she says "Are you going running?" I wonder what goes thru her mind when one of us heads out the door. Where does she think we go? Same with biking--she knows what cycling clothes look like and that its not just regular clothes. When I told her the other day that I am going to instruct a cycling class, she said "At that place with the pools?" (She has been to the athletic club.) She knows what it is to workout. She may not know why. She thinks playing on the treadmill is fun though (good thing it has the start/stop key that you need to insert to keep in running--we hide it). I didn't have 'athletic' role models growing up. I didn't even know what football was until 4th grade. Running as a sport? What's that? A pool, beach...what? Our son did his first toddler mtb race at age 3 (with training wheels)--this was when I was mainly into mountain biking. At age 4 he was going off jumps and riding thru mud--no training wheels. Carin did a lot of walking and some jogging and I was getting into running more when he was 6--we didn't know it, but he was loving running in school and wanted to do some running races. He did his first 2 mile and 5k at age 7. He also did a tri, a couple du's and an mtb race at 7. He's 9 now, loves running, plays football, doesn't care for tri's that much anymore, but knows that running is essential for almost all sports and it helps him with football. Hopefully these are reliable ways, even though they are subjectively measured, for us to know that the things we do that are good for our health rub off on the little ones.
However, it is hard to stay motivated when the goals are based on outcomes that are subjective to our interpretation. I love racing and that is my way to objectively measure training effects. In the process, the training is what I hope the kids see as a positive thing for them to do. I don't necessary set goals that involve placing in a race or winning (but that is the sort of dream goal), but I like to set goals based on a pace that would be a challenge, on prior performances, not falling too far behind others that you know are faster, etc. I have never been a fan of the goal to "finish" the event or race unless it is something that you never replicate in training. For example, if you are going to do a 5k running race or a sprint triathlon, chances are you already know you can do the distances involved because you've done it in training. If its your first 5k, you may want to 'finish' it and that it first and foremost, but most of the time the newbie will have a time in mind (even if its in the back of their mind). However, you are not going to run a marathon or train for an Ironman by doing the actually distances in training. Come race day it may be hard to even finish and that may be the goal.
Set some goals, train for them, and keep keep it fun. You may not realize who is watching or who you are inspiring--could be your kids, could be the neighbors kids, could be a co-worker.