This time of year is a tricky one. On one hand, we're all "New year, new me! Clean slate! Resolutions!", but on the other hand, there's the siren's call of holiday parties, champagne and sugar cookies. For me, this season has been a particularly tough one: I've gone between the extremes of head down, hard work, clean eating, counting down the days to my next race and then late nights, second helpings and (gasp!) a skipped workout... or two. The hardest has been slipping away from the family for a gym sesh when it feels like you've flown all this way just to... stare at the black line at the bottom of a pool.
Already, just a few days in (my holidays didn't really start until Christmas Eve), I find myself craving the regular routine and looking forward to life as usual. I miss my trusty bike-and-trainer set-up (I don't trust gym spin bikes one bit) and I miss knowing that I wont piss off the family if I crank open the garage door to slip out to the pool at 5-am.
But on one of my lovely (and lonely) swims across the past few days, I was in an empty pool, in the middle of a kick set and found myself reading the text of this poster each time I headed down the lap (if you click, you can read some of the smaller fonts).
"FINS" is the local performance swim team in my hometown, one that I happened to swim on back in the day. It's a year-round deal and most of the swimmers who stick with the team through high school end up swimming at top-notch D1 college swim teams, while a handful have gone on to swim in the Olympic trials.
Even though my goals don't necessarily align with a bunch of 15- and 17-year-old swimmers, reading these goals made me push a little more and kick a little harder as I worked through the set. If you look closely, some gems include:
- Swim as fast as I can in every practice
- Take it to the wall
- Make Olympic Trials in next 3 years
- Stop skipping turns and resting on the wall
- Use swimming as a vehicle to take me far in life
- Make every morning practice
While I can clearly identify with some goals (stop skipping turns and resting on the wall) more than others (make Olympic Trials in next 3 years), skimming the entire list started to motivate me to be a better athlete. It was almost impossible to not face the goals and reminders tacked up across the chain fence. I even braved an extra few seconds out in the chilly weather to hop out and get a closer glance (and photo) of the entire poster once I finished my swim.
Can you imagine if these were YOUR goals, and not some strangers?
In my own history, posting goals in a visible place has proved successful. In high school, I sharpied our school's 1600m record on my watch during the off-season before my final year. Every long training run or interval session when I wanted to stop early or ease up, I was forced down to look at those numbers before hitting "stop" or "lap" and be reminded of what I was working toward. Long story short, it worked.
The problem with triathlon is that it's not always black-and-white when it comes to goals. Instead of a perfectly measured, flat, 400m oval, we have various differences, distances, elevations, conditions, etc. Your goal could be to quality for USAT Nationals, for Vegas, for Kona—but then those benchmarks all just depend on who else in your age group shows up to play that day. The list goes on.
As a result, I think I'm going to take a page from the FINS and focus on the everyday and not necessarily the end game. Take it to the wall. Listen to your coach. Don't cut corners. Trust. Performance. Ambition.