Welcome to 2020. What are your goals?
January is a brilliant month for every athlete or those aspiring to become one. Despite the rain and cold and the abundance of darkness it’s a really motivating time. The gym is full, the trails always seem to have people walking, jogging or riding on them and everyone has that determined gleam in their eye, with the inevitable invincibility that the New Year feeling brings.
However, by February most people have burnt out, they’re tired, work is ramping up before the April end of year duties, kids are bored now they’ve been back at school for a few weeks, and the dieting and lack of a glass of wine in the evening has become a chore rather than an exciting adventure. So what can you do to maintain your fitness regime for a bit longer? How can you maintain that initial motivation? How can you press on training through February to May when it gets a bit easier again once the sun comes out and the longer nights give you more time to cram everything you need to do in?
The answer could lie in setting yourself a decent goal.
There are lots of other tips I can offer you, but I would suggest that, as an absolute essential, you set yourself an achievable target that you actually care about. There’s no point setting yourself the target of losing the same amount of weight as your office friend, they’re not genetically created the same way as you and inevitably one of you will find it easier than the other, one of you will be going out on loads of birthday parties during January and will find loads of excuses to start their regime in February instead and of course one of you will always hide a stash of biscuits in their office drawer and find temptation just too hard to resist. Instead of relying on someone else, set your own goal, however big or small, write it down and read it out loud. Does it make you excited? If it doesn’t then I 100% guarantee that you won’t maintain enthusiasm for it for much more than 6 weeks. If it feels like work then it won’t be fun, if it’s not fun then you’ll struggle to stick at it.
Try something simple but achievable like ‘I want to run a whole Park Run without stopping’, then add a time frame onto it like ‘By April’ or ‘By my birthday’ or similar, then work back from there to set yourself mini goals to see how you’re doing and to give yourself feedback on how it’s going, and then add in some training sessions that will help you get where you need to be. All of a sudden, you have set yourself a goal, and a plan to get there, and regardless of what anyone else is doing or how their ‘regime’ (I hate that word…try using ‘adventure’ instead, it’s so much more positive, and this is an adventure right?) is going, you will still be able to keep going by simply being true to your plan.
Here’s an example
By May I will be able to ride 50 miles on my bike without stopping so I can take part in the local 50 mile bike sportive.
By April I will be able to ride 35 miles.
By March I will be able to ride 25 miles
By February I will be able to ride 15 miles
Week 1 – 3 sessions per week.
1st session – 30 minutes on a loop from my house to get comfortable on the bike
2nd session – 45 minutes, try a couple of quick blasts of 30 seconds to see how going faster feels
3rd session – 1 hour, steady the whole way, record the distance covered for future reference.
Week 2 – 3 sessions per week
1st session – 40 minutes with 3 x 1 minute hard efforts in the middle.
2nd session – 50 minutes, try a few quick blasts of 30 seconds standing up to see how going faster feels
3rd session – 1 hour 10 minutes, steady the whole way, record the distance covered for future reference.
Week 3 – 3 sessions per week
1st session – 45 minutes with a hill or two in there…don’t worry about getting up fast, just spin.
2nd session – 55 minutes, try 5 or 6 quick blasts of 30 seconds standing up to see how going faster feels
3rd session – 1 hour 20 minutes, steady the whole way, record the distance covered for future reference.
All of a sudden, after that last ride you should be around 15 miles, that’s goal one achieved! Feels good right? It’s rewarding this isn’t it? Sure it was tough, but you feel great now don’t you. Reward yourself with something, a new cycle jersey, or enter that race now, or even just a slice of cake after tea. You’re not a robot, and this isn’t a job, so remember to enjoy it.
That’s a good start, now do the same thing until you hit your next monthly target.
What if you don’t hit your target? Just give up on the whole plan right? You’re a human being aren’t you? You’re busy, got lots of jobs to do, relationships to cultivate and maintain and you’ve not been able to hit your target one week, so move on, forget about your missed sessions and get back on with the plan. Even the best athletes in the world get sick sometimes or get injured or have other commitments and have to miss a session, their ability is to stay focused on what they need to achieve, what their goal is and to keep moving forward as best they can and you need to do the same. It’s a skill in itself to stay motivated and to think about the future rather than dwell on the past, but once you can do it you’ll find yourself much more positive and much more likely to enjoy the process and stay on track. Imagine what kind of teacher you liked. Did you like the ones who shouted and screamed and threw chalk board cleaners at you or did you like the philosophical, kind ones who made you feel special and reminded you that while exams were important, being kind and happy was much more so. Well, be that teacher. If you castigate yourself for every mistake and constantly get annoyed with yourself for not being good enough then is that a good environment to grow? If you’re kind to yourself and forgive your minor indiscretions but keep yourself focused on what you want to achieve then are you much more likely to succeed?
My final tip around setting goals is to understand why you are doing it. Are you trying to qualify for the World Championships to impress your boss or is there something more intrinsic you can focus on? Are you setting out to feel better and get fitter? Great aspirations but not a goal, and far too woolly to remain sustainable in the depths of a cold March in Winter. You need to choose a goal that is achievable and measurable, with a time goal as we said earlier, and is something you care about, for whatever reason. Then you need to own it, write it down like we said and display it on your fridge, or your office wall, or as your screensaver on your phone. If you’ve chosen the right goal then seeing it will fill you with excitement and a bit of fear and will remind you why you are doing it.
We work with people all the time who have set themselves goals and get stuck or who find their goal is unreachable so they come to us for help. The first thing we do is try to unpick what it is they want to achieve and why, that way we can work together to set a plan, some mini goals and an amazing end target that they will enjoy achieving and remember for the rest of their life.
So, dig deep, be honest, be critical, be kind and then commit…you can do it. Enjoy.
Marc Molloy for Sole Cycling Jan 2020Follow us on Social Media or Blog post updates.