Motivation and goal setting

Yesterday, I gave a lecture titled ‘Exercising: Where Do I Start? What Should I Do?’ The lecture, as you would guess based on the title was really targeting an audience of people who would like to exercise, but don’t really know how, what, where, etc. However, some of the questions I had were very similar to what my athletes ask me on a regular basis, and for the most part can be summarized by a unique question ‘How do I motivate myself?

Here are a few of its forms: I want to start liking to run, how do I do that? I can’t seem to break the 1h mark for the Ironman swim, what should I do? I know I should run more if I want to break the 3h mark in the marathon, but man, it’s hard’. ‘My FTP is only 3.1w/kg, and all my friends have an FTP above 5.2w/kg,I’m demoralized’.

Yesterday during the lecture, I gave a few tips, and these tips apply just the same to seasoned veteran triathletes as they apply to beginners.

1.Measure. Have objective measures of where you are. A 10km race, an FTP test, a 20×100 swim test, weight and skin folds, etc. Use a measure that is validated, and is appropriate to assess what you want to improve, and one that can also be replicated in identical conditions. Don’t go test your swimming improvements in ‘what seems to be roughly 1mi’.

2. Once you know where you are, then set short term goals. Short term goals are far easier to manage psychologically. Thinking about your Ironman that’s in one year can be daunting and leave you flat half way through your preparation. Choose your objectives wisely. For instance, if you are currently swimming 20×100 on 1.30 hitting 1.18, then aiming for 1.15 in a month, while pushing your swim volume from 10mi a week to at least 12mi a week is realistic (discuss it with your coach, or friends if you don’t have a coach). If you aim to swim 1.12 without changing anything else, it may be less realistic. Similarly, losing 4lbs in a month, while raising your FTP from say 250 to 260w may be realistic, whereas going from 250 to 320 is not. And tie your objectives to actions. Having goals and no action will achieve nothing.

3. Set long term goals, and use the milestones set before to change the aims if need be, either extending the deadline, or making the goals higher if you realize you’re going farther than anticipated (the advantage of setting short term goals to the big goals). The adjusting may be necessary simply because it’s actually difficult to know how far you can really go.

4. Remember to focus on the process of improving. This will help if you realize you are not meeting your targets exactly. As long as you are improving, and you focus on the experience of improving (or trying to improve) then it’s never wasted time and effort.

5. Have a small network around you. Make your network aware of your goals. Maybe some are training partners who are a bit faster and can help you reach your objectives. Your partner can tell you to that maybe that 8th oreotella won’t help you reach your race weight (Maya, don’t even think about it…) Think about a small network around you that can support your endeavor, and that will be honest with you.

Happy Training!

PS And I knew I had another point to make…Your friends with 5.2w/kg FTP need to either check their weight more accurately, or the calibration of their power meters. Or (most likely) both.


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