You’re a few weeks into the New Year and have, no doubt, checked a few things off of the “Resolution-To Do” List. You’ve purchased new equipment and signed up for a race or two to remain accountable. The year started off with a bang and you hit the ground running (and swimming, and biking). Unfortunately, this is also the time when gung-ho resolutions go from “Something I’ll do this year” to “Something I have to find time to do.” Training for a new distance or a new discipline is a great resolution, but have you really plotted out how to go about this new goal? Are you finding yourself stuck in the muddy waters of not knowing what to do next? Or, have you already lost the spark of the New Year because you started too fast?
Relax…Your feelings are very common. Athletes are a finicky impatient bunch. We want improvements and permanent changes quickly as possible. Sadly, it’s the culture we live in, but anyone can tell you that achieving lifelong goals is not an overnight hobby. Lofty goals are admirable, but with resolutions and goal setting, the end of a resolution often happens at the beginning. It takes a strong-willed person to take action on an inspired goal. Lack of a plan is much like having a brand new car full of gas and a destination, but no map of how to get to where you want to go. Why does this happen and what are some steps we can do to get right back on track? How do you continue to go from “I Wish” to “I Will?”
Here are a four tips to consider if you need continued motivation to stick to your goals.
1. Take It One Step At a Time
It’s true you can go from one side of the Grand Canyon to the other, but it has to be done one step at a time. You are capable of achieving amazing feats, but only if those goals are broken down into manageable steps. If you’ve set a goal to race an Ironman this summer, there’s no need to be doing maximum efforts and distances at all of the disciplines right now. Start small and start slow. Work on drills and fundamentals. Allow your body and mind to adapt to the changes that it will face along the way. I think about friends of mine who hiked Mt. Kilimanjaro last year. They didn’t tackle the mountain in one day. They climbed for several days with shorter distances. In order to survive, they had to take it slowly, get plenty of rest and prepare for elevation and temperature changes. In most sports, you must also find a balance between intensity, frequency and duration. If you hit the new year going full throttle in all three, ease off the gas pedal and hit cruise control for a while. It’s OK to chill for a bit and soak in the view of where you’ve been and where you still want to go.
2. Hire a Coach or Join a Training Group
The TrainingPeaks Coach Match Service is a great referral source for coaches who are certified in their chosen discipline. If you started the new year thinking, “I’m going to accomplish so many great things,” don’t be afraid to reach out to experts in any of those fields who can help guide you there. Working with a certified coach can also alleviate many of the unknowns and frustrations of trying something new and getting stuck in a pattern of no progress. Coaches and training groups provide a built-in support system for weak moments when you want to give up. We’re all stronger when we’re part of a group that has common goals and dreams. Perhaps it’s safety in numbers or even a little misery loves company. Either way, having a group and a leader makes the task more manageable when you can bounce questions, achievements and frustrations off of someone else.
3. Change your Negative Mindset
When faced with an obstacle or lack of motivation, ask yourself, is this truly a deterrent or is it simply a negative state of mind? For instance, I had an athlete riding forty miles last weekend. The weather was blustery and the headwinds for the first half of the ride were relentless. Other cyclists even turned around early to avoid the torture. Mother Nature was presenting an obstacle, but one that wasn’t surmountable. Instead of letting a rash of negative emotion ruin the ride, this athlete simply backed off her intensity and just kept pedaling, knowing that the way back would give her an amazing tailwind. She did finish the whole ride that day and called to let me know how proud of herself she was in that moment. She persevered when others let their negative attitudes become the obstacle. Stay the course because you will get your proverbial tailwind.
4. Buy Something New
You know how your car seems to run better when the oil is changed and it’s newly washed? The same holds true for athletes. I almost hate to admit it, but I just feel faster and more inspired when I’m wearing a new kit or using a new gadget. I picked up a new indoor trainer this winter and it’s given me so much motivation to work harder and make improvements from a year ago. If you find your motivation faltering, ask yourself what it would take to generate excitement. Is it a new gym membership? A new set of goggles? A slick new bike? Surprisingly, adding a little spice can do wonders for your plateau.
When lack of motivation threaten to stop you in your tracks this winter, stay positive and confident. Know that the power to overcome that is within you. Continue to surround yourself with the people and atmosphere of those who are already accomplishing the goals you want to reach. In doing so, you’ll keep yourself and your enthusiasm elevated and, next year, you’ll be the person that helps someone else reach their goals.