Jeez it is cold out! Yesterday I was really caught underdressed and even as the Tube doors opened my hair was whipped into a dance as the wind gusted in. Autumn has made its presence more than clearly stated to cheers and boos. For triathletes racing season is over and we now enter a period of base training. Personally, I am happy to be giving the intense CSS (critical swim speed) paced swims a back seat and welcome technique focused sessions as well as scenic endurance runs. But home for me is London and for all its beauty you do not live here for the weather, long drawn out down pours and icy mornings are its speciality-at any time of year-so training outside can be an endurance challenge in itself. Embracing nature and my surroundings is one of the reasons I took up triathlon competitions over becoming a gym bunny, why would I want to stare at the same section of wall for an hour in a sweaty gym when I can watch deer grazing in the park? However, shorter daylight and inclement weather means it can be dangerous training in the dark so sometimes I am faced with long turbo trainer sessions in my garage-at least this is free, unlike the gym.
Surviving this base training period requires inspiration and motivation, where you find this is entirely personal.
The key is to set short, medium and long term SMART goals and to reward yourself appropriately when you achieve them, because you will. This acronym is often used by corporations and organisations to help employees set realistic goals and achieve them efficiently but I hope you can see how suited this is to an athlete in any discipline. Each letter stands for the following:
- Specific– target a specific area for improvement
- Measurable– quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress
- Actionable– what will you do/change to achieve your target
- Realistic– state what results can realistically be achieved
- Time-related– specify when the result(s) should be achieved by
For example: It is October and Brian is currently swimming at a speed placing him 15th in a swim squad of 30, he would like to be ranked 10th by the time triathlon race season begins. His CSS is currently 1:50. Brian has been told by his coach that his catch is weak and that there are specific drills which could improve his stroke efficiency. So Brian’s SMART goal is:
S- swim faster to be ranked 10th in swim squad
M- improve CSS from 1:50 to 1:25
- ask the coach for catch and stroke specific drills
R- over the Christmas period he will be heavily engaged in work related social events and has a holiday booked for two weeks in Spain in January. Most of the improvement he can expect to achieve is likely to come after January once he has settled back in to a regular training routine again.
T- April 4th, Brian’s first competition of the season
How is Brian going to reward himself along the way to stay motivated? Rather than waiting six months to reward himself he could break his goal down into monthly or bi-monthly ones. At the end of each month, if he has dropped his CSS by 2 seconds, then he could buy himself a small new piece of kit such as funky goggles or swim shorts he has had his eyes on. When he has achieved his ultimate goal (CSS 1:25) he could invest in a pricier piece of kit, a specialist wetsuit say, or treat himself to a spa day including a deep tissue massage.
The little rewards/new kit will freshen up training, make you feel more pro and the better the equipment, the more pro you will perform.
After completing my first sprint triathlon I indulged in a deep tissue massage. Fortunately I was able to get a great deal on Amazon local with the Nick Castle team at Fitness First in South Kensington.
I have set my SMART season goal but am working on my smaller ones to get me there. What should I reward myself with? Well there are a number of things on my wish list!