Motivation – Time to get it on!
One thing is for sure, maintaining motivation to train at this time year can present a big challenge for most people. Some of you might have already said a long goodbye to the glorious summer months where your fitness levels were high and motivation to train was at its peak. To drag yourself out of your super comfy bed on these dark, dank, miserable mornings becomes the hardest battle of the day. The idea of hitting the pool or gym is now but an after thought and your fitness is well and truly on the decline... sound familiar? Then please read on.
With that in mind it should be said that is it actually OK to take some time out after a big training & racing year, your body and mind will appreciate the rest. So if you've treated yourself to a nice summer holiday where sunbathing and pina coladas were the order of the day then this is absolutely fine, its also fine for you to have a few weeks off or a month of downtime after the race season finishes. The key factor now is not to fall too deeply into that comfort zone, let this last too long at your peril. Remember time away from the pool equals fitness lost and if you leave it too long you will pretty much be starting from scratch again. The smart & most determined ones amongst you will realize what a great opportunity you now have to make 2012 the best fitness year of your life by starting early and not leaving it too late.
Why should 2012 be any different from any previous year? ..well there is a pretty big event happening here in London, you may have heard about it ... itÕs the Olympics! We have a one in a lifetime opportunity to be part of something very special here in the UK. 2012 should be the year that you challenge yourself to do that fitness challenge you've have always wanted to complete. If that challenge is swimming related then thatÕs even better because with the British Gas sponsorship of British Swimming the opportunities for you to be part of this are incredible.
As a former swimmer and Ironman athlete am constantly asked how I maintained my motivation at this time of the year, to be quite honest it wasnÕt difficult as there were a key set of objectives I always adhered to once the racing season was over. I would usually give myself a good few weeks off where I basically did very little. If I had the urge to do some training then I would just do what I felt like doing without falling into any particular focused routine. I also used this time to go on holiday, catch up with friends and family and really enjoy myself....and yes this would include the odd drink or two ! It wouldn't take long though for me to get this out of my system, then slowly but surely I would start to get that excited urge when I thought about starting more structured training again. Most importantly it was the planning for the following year that really got me excited and motivated, thereÕs nothing better than knowing you've set your targets and the wheels are well and truly in motion for a bigger and better year next year.
If all of this sounds a little bit familiar to you and you are struggling find that much needed motivation then look no further, IÕve included 10 very important tips below that could really help get your training kick started for 2012:
Julian's top 10 tips for maintaining motivation through the winter
1 - Find an event or series of races that you would like to complete in 2012
Creating your own race schedule will provide you with a huge surge of motivation for training. Once you have created this personalized plan you will have a big reason to go to the pool early in the morning or when you finish work, this makes you more accountable. It will take a bit of planning on your part to get this done but it is incredibly satisfying when you see your year laid out in front of you. If you plan on doing a few races then list your races either as in order of importance as either A, B or C, your A race is your "peak" race where you want to be at your optimum fitness level for the year whereas the B and C races are races you use to test your fitness and take you towards your main A race goal. Some great resources for race listings are the H2O Open water swimming magazine or Triathlon 220 magazine and website links shown below:
2 - Set yourself specific goals or fitness targets
No matter what your level of fitness there will be a goal you can set yourself that is personal to you, not everyone has to enter a big race. If you are new to swimming then that goal might just be to be able to swim 25m of full front crawl , this would be a huge achievement for some people and it certainly doesnÕt make the goal any less important. What is important is that you challenge yourself in a way that is specific to you. For those of you that are more confident swimmers then now is the time to benchmark your current fitness by completing a 100m,200, 400, 1000m or 1500m-time trial, this gives you a baseline to work against and a measure of your current speed and fitness. Once you have this time you could set yourself a new target for later in the year and smaller sub goals that you would like to achieve on a monthly basis. For example if you can swim 30mins for 1500m, then you could set yourself a target of re-testing every 4-6 weeks with the aim of taking 10-15secs off your time, but please be realistic! If you are not putting the training hours in and you spend long periods out of the water - your times gains will be much less significant, so donÕt be disappointed if you donÕt get faster if you are not putting the training effort in. Also donÕt forget to record all of the these times in a file or diary so you can track your progress throughout the year, you will be amazed at how your times improve over time.
3 - Set yourself a minimum training goal each week
The key builder to great fitness is without doubt consistency, if you are consistent with your training and this builds week after week you will be well on your way to great success at your chosen events. Its essential that there be a minimum target for training hours each week, I would suggest that to get results and see both noticeable improvements in fitness, strength and overall health you need to be doing a minimum of 3 hours of training per week. Anything hours above this is a huge bonus and you will feel the benefits for this extra effort.
4 - Identify your strengths & weaknesses
When you sit down to plan your year ahead it is a great idea to list your strengths and weaknesses. All too often I see athletes working their strengths and ignoring their weaknesses, to become a better more rounded athlete you have to eliminate these weaknesses and this time of year is the perfect time to do this. Be smart and gain that extra edge by turning your weaknesses into strengths.
5 - Work with a coach
If you are serious about your goals for 2012 then working with a reputable coach could be the key to unlocking some amazing performances next year. A coach will help you identify areas from improvement and provide you with guidance so that you optimize your training time. Some coaches might also offer swim video analysis, this is more than worth the investment. To be able to see yourself swim is invaluable, once a coach highlights these mistakes the easier it will be for you to correct them.
6 - Join a local swimming or triathlon club
If you are one of those people that really struggles to self motivate yourself then a swim club or masterÕs squad could be the perfect choice for you. ThereÕs nothing more motivating than training with highly motivated individuals in a group situation, this will give you the extra push you need to get the best out of yourself. Contact your local pools and swim clubs to see what they have on offer.
7 - Find a training partner
Training with some you know like a work colleague or friend can be highly motivating, not only will you push each other to new highs but you will also have great fun at the same time. You also become more accountable because you wont want to let that person down so you are more than likely to make the effort to go and put a great session in.
8 - Treat yourself to some new kit
If you've been wearing the same old boring swimming costume in the pool for some time now then its time to go out and splash some cash on some new gear. ThereÕs no better feeling in the world than slipping on the latest set of swim goggles or some fancy new swim kit, this will make you feel good which increases motivation to want to get out there and train. ThereÕs also lots of swim toys out there that can keep your training interesting and fun, things like - wetronomes, hand paddles, swim fins, snorkels, swim watches all help to add a bit of spice to your sessions whilst helping you improve your technique.
9 - Reward yourself
But only if you really earn it ! Once you've set your goal for the year then why not reward yourself with something you've always wanted. This could be kit related or even as much as a holiday, the bigger the challenge you set yourself the greater the reward should be.
10 - Don't be lazy !
Success comes to those that are prepared to put the hard work in ...you cant get fitter by thinking about it !
Just remember those fitness targets are there for the taking in 2012, there arenÕt any limits to what you can achieveÉ.think big and remember the sky is the limit.
Julian Nagi BA Hons
BTF level 3 Triathlon Coach
British Gas Swim Ambassador/Coach