How to set and achieve your goals!
On Sunday I completed my first Standard distance triathlon! I appreciate that this may not be everyone’s cup of tea – especially sinking in a weedy river at 8am on a Sunday – but I wanted to share my journey for the useful lessons I’ve learned along the way around setting and achieving goals.
Essentially, I set my Goal. I did some Planning. I completed some Preparation. I encountered and overcame some Obstacles. And now I’m celebrating Success!
If I can do it, then so can you!
This dates back to autumn last year. I’d done a few Sprint distance triathlons over the past few years – always at the same location, run by the same event team. I felt it was time to push myself out of my comfort zone a little, either by trying a different event or by doubling the distance. I decided to go for distance
• This was quite a feat for me. I’d always felt exhausted by the end of the Sprints, feeling that I wouldn’t be able to move another step, let alone 100% more of the same!
• The other thing was that I couldn’t enter back in November – as entries weren’t yet open
But I didn’t let these put me off, I decided to do the first race of the season in early May. The fact that I’d a) made the decision and b) told a few people about this, I was as good as committed at this point. Ultimately, when I actually signed up in February, I shared this much more widely on Facebook. Public commitment can certainly be a great motivator!
My initial goal was just to complete it. I subsequently added that I wanted to actually enjoy it too, not just endure it. If not, really what is the point?!
With my goal firmly in mind, I started planning. I had six months to train and I was starting from a reasonable base level of fitness. However, I needed to train throughout the winter, so planning was key to making the most of the time available.
At some point I’d downloaded a training schedule, but for some reason I discounted that. I felt too constrained by what and when, so I planned my own more flexible schedule. I knew the end goals for each ‘discipline’ (swim, bike, run) so I just got on and made steady progress on each:
• Swimming – 1500m – I was already in the habit of swimming twice a week before work. Over time I increased my average swim from 50 lengths to 60 (and even 64 on occasions to round it up to a mile and to account for river drift).
• Bike – 28 miles – This was my real challenge, having ‘rested’ my bike from September until Boxing Day, and my occasionally bike ride being 16 miles. So, I took the bull by the horns and did 2 things to get in some winter mileage: joined some spinning classes and set my bike up inside the house on a turbo trainer. Remember all that snow we had a few months back? I was busy putting mileage on my bike around this time.
• Run – 10k – I typically run once a week all year around, with an extra session if I’m training for something. My normal run distance is 7 miles (11.3k). Keeping up more of the same – come rain or wind or snow or shine – was the order of the day. I also practised running when I was tired or really didn’t feel like it to simulate the event – as the run comes last on the day.
As I got closer to the event I continued to adjust my training to ensure I was still on track. This included some dreaded ‘brick’ sessions – bike followed by a run, as it’s important to practice this transition before the day.
This may sound obvious, but knowing the date, timings, locations, who’s looking after the kids etc. are all things to plan for too. These gave me a peace of mind more than anything.
Preparation is key
It may seem confusing to distinguish preparation from planning, but they’re quite different to me. Preparation is “the act of preparing or getting ready”. In the case of the triathlon, I equate this to all the stuff required in addition to my physical fitness.
I shied away from triathlons for years because I was put off by all the “kit” required (especially compared to the simplicity of running). It’s true that triathlons can become expensive if you let them, but you can do them with quite modest kit – including second-hand and borrowed. By the way, this is how four-time Ironman World Champion Chrissie Wellington started off, so you’d be in good company. As a minimum you need goggles, a tri-suit (or costume, shorts and t-shirt), a wetsuit, a bike, a helmet and trainers. Preparation involves ensuring that you’ve got everything you need, when and where you need it, that it fits, and is fit for purpose.
You probably know from some of my other blogs that I’m pretty restrained financially. I bought a second-hand road bike 4 years ago, I’ve received a few items from my husband as presents and I’ve picked up some other bits on eBay.
These are the extra things I’ve done/acquired / borrowed this time around:
• Bike fit – I took my bike along for a professional bike fitting to ensure that it’s as closely configured for me as possible – this helps to mitigate risk of injury as well as making me as ‘efficient’ on the bike as possible
• Drink holder for my bike – I needed a special cage to fit my small bike frame to allow me to have a drink during my almost 2-hour bike ride – boy, was I grateful for this in the heat?!
• New goggles – my old ones had started leaking…
• “Bento box” – borrowed from a triathlete friend ? – this enabled me to graze on energy snacks throughout my bike, to keep energized for my run.
My aim here was to keep my blood sugar as stable as possible (it’s very sensitive) and to try and keep my energy levels constant. This has been important through my training, with deep focus over the last week. This also included preparing my nutrition for the day, including my bento box snacks…
My training hasn’t been without obstacles as those close to me will know.
The UK weather isn’t predictable at the best of times. Compound this with the long cold winter and there have been weeks when training has been seriously affected. The best solution for me was to plan training on a weekly basis and flex to train inside if required, rather than putting it off.
I made a tough decision in early April. With one month to go before my triathlon date, I decided to defer as the water was still too cold for me, with limited signs of warming up. I deferred until July with the hope that the water will have warmed in the meantime. Given today’s heat this was the least of my problems. The swim and the bike were perfect, even if the run was a little on the hot side.
Unfortunately, unlike professional athletes I have more to do than simply train. Fitting training around family, full-time work, travel, study and writing my weekly blog, has been a challenge. This is compounded by my husband’s work, travel and training commitments. Luckily our kids are very tolerant and supportive and we are fortunate to have some invaluable help on hand?
Four weeks ago, I was out running and I tripped over a tree root. I landed on my knee causing a nasty graze, bruising and ultimately prepatellar bursitis. This cost me a couple of weeks of training at a critical stage. Fortunately, I’m about 90% recovered (I’ve just signed up for some physio to help recover full mobility) but I had feared I’d have to defer my entry again.
Last but not least, it’s important to have some means of celebration to motivate you and to look forward to on completing your goal. When I beat a triathlon record last year, I treated myself to some Rhubarb gin. And I rewarded myself to some new saucepans for passing my recent coaching diploma.
Up until recently I hadn’t actually thought about how to treat myself for achieving this challenge. Luckily, last week, a friend introduced me to Bellabeat, smart jewellery, which seems a fine treat for all my hard work. Maybe I can review this in a future article…
Through the various challenges I have worked hard to achieve, I know that I can do pretty much anything I set my heart and mind to. Things that feel huge and daunting can be achieved, by breaking them down into manageable sized steps and tracking progress against them.
Now, what’s my next challenge?……..and what is yours?
Thank you for reading. For more interesting articles, visit my blog at www.agelifebalance.com to learn more.