Goal setting and winter motivation

The photograph this week is from Kona. Kona's been on my mind a lot this week as I've been setting out my goals for 2011.

As I write, there’s currently about two inches of snow outside on the ground, the temperature hasn’t risen above freezing since last Sunday, and there’s been a wicked chill in the (already cold) air with winds straight from Siberia.

After taking a month off structured training during November, my mind and body are both ready to get back into the habit of regular training again. Without this incentive to ‘get moving’ again, it would have been very easy to talk myself out of training this week. With the ground frozen and slippery, we’ve got to be sensible to stay safe and injury free, but I’d encourage you not to just take the snow as a sign to stop running and biking. Roosevelt said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” I’m pretty sure that there’s no documented evidence of the 26th president of the United States being a triathlete, but that sounds like pretty good winter training advice to me!

Hit the pool, hit the turbo, hit the treadmill. Run laps around your local park. Any training that you can get in during tough weather - even a thirty minute 'easy' session - is much better than nothing at all. One of the best benefits of 'easy' training is that it keeps your mind in the habit of training everyday, even if your body isn't up to it (or in this case, if the conditions are preventing you from 'real' training.)

Motivational Tips for the Winter

What’s your Reason? – Two time Ironman Hawaii winner Peter Reid said that ‘halfway through the marathon is not the time to be deciding why you’re here.’ That quote counts double for training in my book. Know what you’re training for. Each session has a purpose, right? (It does if you work with me.) When that early alarm goes off, it’s much easier if you have an answer when your sleepy brain says, ‘do we really have to get up now?’

Bite the bullet – Plan out your race season for next year – and enter. Commit to the events, pay for the events, set up an achievable training plan with your coach. It can be all too easy to just roll along through the winter without a plan of exactly where and when you’re going to race. Whether it’s an early season 5k or a full Ironman, just having an event on the calendar will give you something to aim for.

Challenge yourself (and others!) – Every year I set up some fun winter challenges with others as a way to help keep the motivation up. Currently it’s the Advent Run Challenge on tritalk.co.uk – 30 minutes running a day, minimum. The impetus from this challenge has got me out of the door before dawn once this week because I knew I would have no time to train in the evening. 30 more minutes training in the tank!

Plan ahead to prevent failure - Pack your training bag the night before. Keep on top of the laundry. Buy a second pair of running shoes and rotate them, so you always have a dry pair. Think about what you’re going to eat the next day – fruit, nuts, milk – anything to stay away from processed (junk) food. Plan your week out and make sure you (and your family) know what you’re doing.

Indoor training – There’s no getting away from the fact that if you’re not clever about it, training indoors can be very mentally challenging. Make it easier on yourself. Have water (and electrolytes) ready. You’re going to sweat a lot – get a towel and a fan, if you can. Break up the time into small chunks – interval training by the clock makes the time go faster. ‘Interval’ doesn’t mean you have to be going at high intensity! Change cadence, change position (at least on the bike J - seated/standing on the pedals, aerobars/drops) – a few minutes of each makes the time go by much faster. Training DVDs, or DVD’s of races, help the time go by. The best money I ever spent for my cycling was on a Tacx Fortius – if I had my time again, I’d buy one of these (or a Computrainer) before a pair of race wheels. Anything that gets you training more often will ultimately make you fitter!

Stay Healthy – Athletes are always paranoid about catching colds, but the best defence is to eat well, and to get enough sleep. The best tip Gordo ever gave me was that the best performance enhancer on the planet is an extra hour of sleep every day. I find I need it more in the winter than I do in the summer, and when I’m overtired I really notice the sniffles coming on faster.

Write out your goal – make a poster with your picture on, the name of the event, and your target time. Stick it on the fridge, or inside your training diary, or make it your screen saver – somewhere you’ll see it every day. Just the act of writing your goal out gives an instruction to your subconscious that you’re serious about achieving something.

My goals for next year? I’ve got a couple written in stone:

1)      Go sub 78 mins at Wilmslow half marathon

2)      Go sub 2.45 at London Marathon

After that, well… my first Ironman will be at Forestman at the end of June. Then, in the summer, it’s either going to be IMUK or The Outlaw. Do I go to Nottingham to try to put together a ‘fast’ Ironman, or do I chase the elusive Kona slot in Bolton, right on my doorstep? The races are only a week apart, so for now, I’m keeping my options open. The decision isn’t far away. Either way, I’ve put a plan together to be in top shape at the end of July.

Stay safe but keep training though the weather!