Someone a lot smarter than I am told me, once: "If you don't ask for what you want, you'll never get what you're looking for." As race season builds into a flurry of race plans, race reports, and weekly workout updates, your CBCG coach is swimming in data. Now, we don't mean to be picky, but there are ways you can set up your Garmin devices (well, any devices, but Garmin is the big player in this field and—full disclosure—a sponsor of mine, so they get top billing today) that make it easier for your coach to interpret your data and get you the best feedback possible.
By Chris Boudreaux
“Taper time! Time to put the legs up and relax till race day!”
“The hay is in the barn!”
“Last long run done! Time to chill…#tapertime”
How often do you see (or say) something along those lines in the last few weeks before a big race, like an Ironman or a marathon? Pretty much all the time, especially if you’re on twitter and follow a bunch of other distance athletes. And it’s not that they are completely wrong. Of course, if you’ve been doing a big training block leading into a major event, you will reduce the training load. And there will be a focus on rest and recovery and making sure you’re 100% on race day. But there’s a key word there many of us miss- FOCUS.
There are a ton of articles and opinions on an ideal taper leading into events, but I’m sorry, over the years I’ve seen tons of different ways to approach a race as far as the % of workout reduction, specific workouts, etc…that have all worked. I’m not saying that there isn’t good, bad, great ways to taper, but I think the mental focus during that time is the most important.
When you think of a “taper," we think of down time, less work, more rest, basically a little off-season. But what happens when you take your off-season break? You won’t lose a ton of fitness over a few weeks, but try to go run a great track workout in the middle of November or December a month after your last race…Not fun, right? There’s some physical sluggishness, but it’s overwhelmingly mental. Your body and your mind are just not ready to work like that. You’ve told your body that we’re resting, and guess what? That’s exactly what it wants to do. So when we do the same thing in the last 2 to 3 weeks before our most important race of the year, why are we surprised when we feel flat and sluggish and “off” on race day?
It’s not that exact of a science to be already to go for a 8-17 hour event. You just don’t need to be that perfect. You need sharpness, but not as much physical sharpness as if you were running the 100meters (or even the 5-10k). You need to be healthy, engaged, and be ready to work. Think Sharpening VS Tapering.
When you think about sharpening over the last few weeks, you think of more focus, more attention to detail, more time spent preparing for the event. So while that includes a workload reduction, that doesn’t include less preparation and attention to detail then what you’ve done over this 8-12 week block to prepare you. You should get dressed the same, warmup the same, eat properly, everything you’d do for that huge ride or run a few weeks back. Total focus and concentration on the task at hand. Sharp. Focused. Ready to give 100%. So even your 20 minute run w/ 30 second pickups has the same level of focus and attention that the 2 hour run with Ironman intervals did.
When you sharpen, everything you do over those last few days or weeks is preparing your mind and body for the task at hand. When you feel like you’re resting and relaxing for 2 weeks, then asking your mind and body to be “on” for a huge event, it’s a recipe for disaster. Use that time to be fully prepared, and then “taper” into your off season, the real time to relax and check out.
I took part in my first triathlon in 1983. I was young and eager to race, and tried to find a race every weekend. I breathed the sport. Back then news about events, results, professionals, and products lurked in corners of the country. Still, I found my way to as many as I could find, going off of rumors and tips. I could not get enough. Still, even accounting for my obsession, I never dreamt that the sport would become such a big part of my life. Yet here I am, running a triathlon store, coaching triathletes, and promoting the Portland Triathlon each fall. The sport has become my life—and not simply from an athletic perspective.
If we’re lucky we get many chapters in our book of life. I’m very lucky to count Chrissie Wellington as a friend, and when she retired a few years ago, many of us were shocked. But Chrissie reminded all of us that there were many things she still wanted to do with her existence, and she’s attacked her list with the same verve and commitment that made her one of the best athletes of all time, regardless of sport.
Since you’re reading this blog post right now, I’m guessing that you’re still firmly in the triathlon chapter of your life. That’s awesome! I’m glad you’re here. I get the honor of meeting many athletes like you, and they all come to the sport with some kind of goal: perform, participate, or connect. Regardless of the goal, something I often see in the store is that people come into the sport, throw themselves into it completely for a few years, and then move on to something else, to some other chapter. I don’t see much middle ground.
For athletes like Chrissie, it made sense to move on from the sport—it was time, she literally had nothing left to prove; she’d accomplished everything she’d set out to do in the sport. But comparing ourselves to athletes at that level can muddy the waters for the rest of us. The real question is what do we want to accomplish in the sport? What, many years from now, do we want to feel proud of? Having goals for races is great, but triathlon can supply us with life goals, as well, keeping us healthy and active well into our later years, and arming us with a career of memories we can deploy with our friends, enriching the lives around us.
When I picked up the sport, I had no idea where it would take me, but here I am, many years later, having made a life partnership with triathlon. Like any long term relationship, there have been good patches and bad, sickness and health, but its companionship has shaped my life for the better, as long as I respected and honored it in return. I’ve gone through periods of obsession, and periods where the sport lived on the fringes of my existence; through it all, though, I’m happy to say the relationship has been balanced, and the things I’ve gotten back from my investment—things like lifelong friends, beautiful memories, and amazing places visited—have lingered long after my results have faded from memory.
When I met Molly Balfe, over a year ago, my first thought was "How have I not met this person in Portland's triathlon community?" She struck me, right away, as fun, committed to improving her athletes' abilities and her own coaching knowledge base, and sharp as a tack. I couldn't be happier, then, to announce the fact that she's accepted a position at Chris Bagg Coaching Group, bringing her years of experience to our body of coaches.
As with many of the CBCG coaches, Molly draws upon a strong swimming background, coming from a US Swimming history in her youth. She leveraged that knowledge into teaching swimming and water safety in the New York City public school system, and then continued her work with kids here in Oregon and Washington, increasing physical activity and improving nutritional choices in those educational settings.
Molly is passionate about triathlon as a sport but also as a lifestyle, she told me. Time goals are good motivators, she notes, but really she wants to encourage genuine enjoyment and personal development in all the athletes with whom she works. When I heard her say this, I knew she'd be a great fit, as those are the values we hold dear at CBCG: going fast is part of our DNA, but having fun and being nice make up a crucial part of our working ethos. Molly is committed to helping athletes find a balance that pushes them to exceed their goals without sacrificing their overall happiness. She's coached for Team In Training, JackRabbit Sports, Asphalt Green, and our own partner Tri Team PDX.
Doesn't this sound perfect? Yes, I think it does, too. Molly will help you meet your goals, and make you a happier, more well-rounded person. If you want what she's able to give you, go visit her coaching page here and start that journey today!
In October of last year Ivan Dominguez, a Cuban-American who’d recently taken up triathlon, nursed his new car—its transmission failing—through the outskirts of Las Vegas, less than 18 hours ahead of his first half-iron, Silverman 70.3. He managed to pick up his packet and drop his run shoes at T2 before limping to a local dealer, who told him the repair would be $4000. Not having the time to make a suddenly expensive decision, Dominguez rented a car, piled his bike into its trunk, dropped it off at T1, and managed to get in the water for a short swim as the sun was going down. “I didn’t get to the hotel until after eight o’clock,” he told me. “I was totally wrecked from the day.” He choked down some food and went to bed, sleeping fitfully, and rose at four.
After a solid swim he banged out the second fastest ride of the day, only sacrificing one second to that year’s eventual professional winner, Drew Scott. “After going crazy on the bike I was feeling pretty wasted,” he said, but ran strong enough to win the amateur title by four minutes. He came in 7th overall, beating a handful of strong professionals. After the race he realized he had no way of retrieving his rental car, and finally bummed a ride back to the lake at 6 pm, hours after the race had concluded. He returned the rental and crashed on a friend’s couch for three days, waiting for his own car’s repair. “You cannot plan on being late,” he told me, reprising the whole affair. “You have to be prepared, though, for lots of crazy things to happen. You have to go with the flow.”
Dominguez is no stranger to crazy things and trying to stay relaxed. An elite road and track cyclist in Cuba, he traveled to the United States in 1997 for one of the track World Cup races. Upon returning home to Cuba after the race he bumped into one of his friends who, surprised to see him again, said “You didn’t stay there? Why didn’t you stay?” Dominguez told me it hadn’t occurred to him before the trip, but now his friend had planted the seed. “I saw the other older racers in Cuba—once they stopped getting results, they didn’t get any support any more from the federation. A lot of them ended up with nothing, working in the street. I started making a plan.” He came back to the States in 1998 for the Goodwill Games and called his uncle in Miami. The first thing his uncle asked him was “Are you going to defect?” His uncle gave him a number to call of a friend in New York, who agreed to meet Dominguez at seven in the morning, a few streets from the hotel where the Cuban team was staying. The friend was late. “I started seeing police cars on the streets, headed for the hotel. Lots of flashing lights. I thought ‘Those guys are looking for me!’” Eventually—an hour after the arranged time—a van pulled up, the window rolled down, and a man inside asked “Are you Ivan? We’ve got to get out of here.”
A week later he was in Miami, living with his uncle. He took one of the newspapers with his picture on it (“CUABN CYCLIST DEFECTS!”) and his passport and went to immigration. “It was easier for Cubans, and an easier time for immigration in general,” he said. “I showed the woman my stuff and she said ‘Oh, cool. OK, here, sign these, and you’ll get your green card in a few weeks.’” He got his green card, got a job, and didn’t touch his bike for nine months. “I was so tired from cycling,” he said. “From 1993 to 1998 I would race eight to ten week-long stage races a year and ride on the track full time. I was the best rider in Cuba, but I was trashed.”
He worked quietly, lived with his uncle, learned English, and started riding again about a year later, winning local races on “almost no training at all.” He joined the Saturn Professional Cycling Teamin 2001 and then embarked on the journeyman career of a pro cyclist in the United States: different teams each few years as the teams folded; not much in the way of prize money; tons of time on the road. Despite the conditions, Dominguez won at almost every major race in the US, winning bunch sprints all over the country for a handful of teams, earning the eventual nickname “The Cuban Missile.” He retired in 2010, closing out twenty years of racing on the bike.
“In Cuba,” he told me, “The offseason for cyclists is different from here. Here you guys don’t do much—maybe lift some, or do some skiing. In Cuba we just swim and run in the offseason, maybe lift a little. So when I thought about doing triathlon I already knew how to swim, how to run.” He started racing in 2014, found success quickly, and qualified to race professionally after Silverman. “If I was going to do it,” he told me, “I wanted to do it really well.”
As athletes who enjoy the act of moving and competing, we all tend to focus on the training side of sport's equation, working towards getting faster or more enduring. This tendency is good: it keeps us thinking about the positive and fun aspects of triathlon, cycling, running, or swimming. We think about technique, interval sessions, improving our functional power, our catch-and-pull, our mile repeat time. At a certain point, however, we realize that there are other avenues to improvement. Strength training is one example. Mental skills are another. Today, though, we're going to talk about weight loss.
To paraphrase some professional cyclists, losing five pounds was always preferable to any kind of fitness gain (legal or otherwise). Changing your body composition (for running and cycling, at least) provides the biggest change in performance possible. For every pound you lose, you can expect a .62% and .42% improvement on the run and bike, respectively (data from the excellent QT2 Systems). This assumes the athlete has fat to lose—if you don't have fat to lose, then stop reading this post. So what does that mean in real numbers? Well, if you lose ten pounds, you'd expect a 6% improvement in your running performance and a 4% improvement in your cycling performances. Let's consider an 11-hour Ironman athlete with a six hour bike and 3:45 run. After having lost the weight, he or she now rides 5:45 and runs 3:30—a 30 minute reduction!
Yeah, yeah, you're saying, easy for you to say. Losing weight is hard. Well, yes. Losing weight is hard. As athletes, we're used to doing stuff, instead of not doing stuff (which is what losing ten pounds means: not doing a lot of the stuff you're used to). So I'm going to use an actual case study, here. Greg D is pictured above late last summer at around 164, and then to the right last week, before his PR-performance at the Boston Marathon, where he weighed 152 pounds. Greg qualified for Boston last April at the Paris Marathon, running 3:09:24 on a pancake flat course. Last week he ran 3:08:32 at Boston, which is not pancake flat. Boston is a brutal marathon course: you run downhill for almost 16 miles, and then you cycle through a series of hills in the town of Newton (the infamous Heartbreak Hill is really a group of five hills). Usually, you'd expect to run five to six minutes slower than your PR marathon, so probably around 3:15 for Greg. Instead, given the ten pound loss (and an excellent training cycle leading into the race—let's not forget that you have to do the work, too), he ran close to seven minutes faster than what we'd expect, given his time at Paris last year. You can see how much skinnier he looks above, despite the Beer Mile t-shirt he sported to the Boston Expo.
So how did he do it? Well, Greg and I measured his body fat at 20.4% in early January, which meant he definitely had body fat to lose. Given that number, his body weight (low-to-mid 160s), and his training, we targeted 2300 calories per day, of those about 50% carbohydrate, and an even split of fat and protein. He was supposed to get his carbohydrates primarily from fruits and vegetables, with his high glycemic carbohydrates (breads, grains, rices, pastas, cereals, quinoa, etc...) coming only before and after workouts. We used MyFitnessPal to track his food. I suggested a two-week period, but Greg got really accustomed to tracking his intake and never stopped. He was really hungry for a week, and then his body adjusted, and weight started to come off. By early April (two weeks before the marathon) he was a much leaner 12.5% body fat.
The key to Greg's success, I'd say, was making the food logging a habit. Research shows that if you do something (floss, quit drinking, bilateral breathe) for 21 days, you're very likely to keep doing it for a long time. Greg committed to the food logging, and to hitting his target every day. Now, he says it's simple. We gave him a night off his plan once a week, so he stayed in the game. But more than anything it was just this commitment to developing a new habit—once he did that, the whole question of "willpower" wasn't pertinent any more; he had simply changed his habits.
Camp is almost exactly seven weeks away! How did that happen? Regardless, we've still been working steadily to make the experience awesome, and here are some highlights.
Two local breweries, Deschutes Brewery and 10-Barrel Brewing, have offered to pair their beer with five nights of food at camp! Here's what you'll be sampling along with our trademark amazing food:
- Friday, May 27th Carnitas Tacos and Vegetarian Tamales with Deschutes Brewery Hop Slice Session IPA
- Saturday, May 28th Coconut Pumpkin Curry and Deschutes Brewery Black Butte Porter
- Sunday, May 29th Pork Belly (and meat-free) Gluten Free Macaroni and Cheese with 10-Barrel Sinistor Black Ale
- Wednesday, June 1st Roast Chicken with Beets and Sweets and Deschutes Brewery Mirror Pond Pale Ale
- Thursday, June 2 Pork Green Chili with 10-Barrel Joe IPA
Ride With GPS
All joking aside, someone does usually make a wrong turn at some point during camp. We haven't lost anyone yet, but this year we're taking things a step further. Ride With GPS, a Portland-based route-planning company, is offering everyone at our camp a premium membership for the month, through their club option. You'll be able to download routes ahead of time to your bike computer, watch, or phone, and navigate no matter if you have cellular service or not!
Powerbar is back! Nuttzo Nut Butters, and TYR Sport Join as Sponsors
I'm very pleased that Powerbar is returning as nutrition sponsor. We'll be well-outfitted with bars and gels all weekend long. Nuttzo Nut Butters, an awesome and conscientious company, will be providing every single participant with a 16-oz jar of their incredible product. We'll be using it in some of our dishes, too, so you'll get to see it in action. Finally, TYR Sport is providing a set of Mentor Hand Paddles for everyone at camp.
Not yet registered for camp? We'd love to have you. There are 5-day and 10-day options, and you can register here, via Athletepath.
Some of my athletes are sick right now. That's not too surprising, given the late-winter date on the calendar, the incessant rain in Portland (not that I'm suggesting cold and wet weather leads to sickness—that is a hard-to-kill old wive's tale; cold and wet, however, does promote an environment for the viruses that may be hoovering around your particular airspace: more noses run, more snot is left unwiped on door handles, more fluids and molecules get exchanged than normal), and the fact that, if you're reading this blog, you're at greater risk for sickness, given the extra stress you're putting on your body through training. So let's imagine that you've come down with something.
First of all, it's totally understandable that you're worried. You've been training hard throughout the spring, building your threshold power on the bike, improving your run endurance, and working on technique in the pool. Your first big race is less than four weeks away, and you feel like you're on track to better your performance from last year, which was a strong performance in the first place. And then you get sick, and not just congestion/head-cold sick, but, like, Influenza sick, like if-it-were-the-1920's-there's-a-50-50-chance-you-would-die sick. You can't go to work for days; you can't really get out of bed. Your boss calls you up and, rather than thinking you're skipping work, he ends the conversation concerned for you. You're out for at least a week. What do you do?
This is where this blog post takes a bit of a turn (or, at least, I hope it does). There is a real guideline to follow with sickness, which I'll lead with here: If you're sick, wait until you feel COMPLETELY NORMAL (100% back to normal), and then...WAIT ONE MORE DAY. Yes, you read that correctly. Wait until you feel perfect, and then wait another day. I can't tell you how many times I've told this to athletes, and then heard something like "Well, I think I'm OK. I've still got a bit of a sore throat and a head cold, but I could probably train." A week later, the cold is back, and the intervening week of training is pretty much wasted.
But I get it. Not training feels calamitous. It feels as if you're sliding back into your pre-season lack of fitness. You've spent money on travel, on a race, on a coach (I hope). The thought of doing nothing for a week is terrifying. And here's where I hope you'll learn something from this blog. The basic guideline is simple (wait until 100%; wait one more day), but the execution can be excruciating. Here's a chance to do some mental training, while you're sick.
- Why is it excruciating? What about losing a week of training threatens your sense of identity as an athlete? Or, to put it more bluntly, what are you afraid of losing?
- Now that you've admitted what you're afraid of losing, keep following that thread. If you lose that thing, what's next? What else will you lose? What's at risk if you take a week off of training?
- Keep heading on down the ladder, until you get to the very bottom. It'll probably be something you didn't expect, something like "people will know that I'm a fraud," or "everyone will be proved right about me."
- Now take a step back and see how far apart Point A (taking a week off from training) and Point B (everyone knows I'm a fraud) are, in fact. This greater sense of perspective might expose to you that the only person making this training interruption calamitous is, in fact, you.
- Sorry about that. Didn't mean to make you feel worse. It's important, though, that you recognize this is coming from your own personal demons.
Now it's time to start the journey back up. I hope that by forcing yourself through that exercise you may see that your reaction outstrips reality (is taking a week off of training really going to change how anyone thinks about you? Very likely not; in fact, those people you're worried about really aren't thinking about you that much, anyway; probably something like 30-60 seconds per week, max). With a little perspective you can start seeing the fact that your season is quite long, and a week's interruption won't change much. And if you rush back and get sick again, you've just created a much bigger and longer interruption.
So I (or any one of the CBCG coaches) can say this to you until we're blue in the face, but what we really want is to get there alongside you. There's a great saying in coaching and teaching: "tell me and I forget; teach me and I may remember; involve me and I'll learn." What we're after, here, is mastery of your particular sport. What is mastery? It means, well, literally mastering your sport, being able to direct your ability and your intent on your own, in the moment, without someone else's direction. As coaches (and, in particular, endurance coaches) there is nothing we can do for you while you're in competition. You are largely alone. So what we want for you is the ability to make decisions on your own, respond to new information, and thrive no matter the environment. Learning how to deal with sickness can become a microcosm for being a better athlete. The first few times you get sick you'll want to rush back. Your coach will remind you, gently, to wait. The first few times you won't listen, and you'll be sick again in a week. Then you have a chance to take control of it yourself, owning it and taking the break you need to take. Together, with your coach, you monitor your situation day-by-day, and make the call to come back after a full day of feeling 100%. You don't get sick again. You go on to have an excellent sharpening period before that big race. You do better than you anticipated, probably due to the rest you put in while convalescing (the sporting world is full of stories like this). So that's nice, but the real benefit is that you've taken a step towards mastery of the sport. You're on your way to becoming more of a collaborator with your coach, rather than a mule who just does what's he or she is told. This is how every high-achieving, high-level athlete I know works. They are happier, more confident, and freer in everything they do, inside and outside of sport. They have mastered not only the sickness thing, but they've probably mastered most of their craft, as well.
One thing endurance athletes always struggle with is getting enough quality food. Amy and I do this thing sometimes when we get home from training that we call "Garbage Eating." I'm sure you're already getting a sense of what we're talking about. We come home, famished, from a swim/bike/run/lift, open the cupboards and the refrigerator, and start eating everything. We're soon full, but who knows about the quality of what we just ate?
A few years ago, Amy left me a recipe clipping somewhere, physically or virtually, for a coconut panang curry with tofu. It got me thinking about this amazing pumpkin curry I ate, in all seriousness, in The Dalles three years ago. The recipe she'd left me didn't feature a vegetable, so I picked up a butternut squash while doing the shopping, and came home to give the curry I try. Panang curries are usually milder, sweeter dishes than the fierier red and green versions, and often include peanuts or peanut butter in their construction. After cooking the recipe for a few years, and after discovering Nuttzo Nut Butters, I thought about changing the recipe again to accommodate the new ingredient. The result is a nutrient-dense, filling, delicious, one-pot meal. As a side benefit, it's vegan, if that's important to you (but check your curry paste for fish sauce!). Amy and I aren't vegan, but meat consumption is pretty ecologically disastrous, so we keep it limited. We'd been eating this for about a year before realizing it was not only vegetarian, but vegan, so our Portland cred is a-ok.
Coconut Squash Panang Curry with Tofu and Nuttzo Nut Butter
1" peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoons turmeric
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon panang curry paste (I use a brand called "Thai True" that is local to Oregon and kicks ass)
1/4 cup Nuttzo Power Fuel Nut Butter
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 cup water
2 14 oz. cans light coconut milk
1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1" cubes
zest of two limes
juice of two limes
2 14 oz. packages of firm tofu
Thai basil or cilantro
Chop shallot into fine dice. Grate ginger on a box grater or microplane. Heat oil in a large, deep pot. Sweat the shallot and ginger, stirring frequently to keep the ginger from sticking. Do not brown the shallot! Once the shallot has softened and turned translucent, add the spices and curry paste. Cook for a minute, continuing to stir, until the mixture is fragrant and sticky. Add the nut butter, the brown sugar, and the water. Stir until well blended. Turn heat to low and add the coconut milk and chopped squash. Add a good amount of salt, probably just north of a tablespoon. Add the lime zest and lime juice. Let mixture come back up to a low simmer. As the squash cooks, the curry should reduce and thicken somewhat. You're aiming for a consistency that will coat the back of a spoon. Once the squash is cooked through (probably 15-20 minutes) cut the tofu into 1/2" squares and add to the pot. Let the tofu heat through completely (remember the cardinal rule of tofu: very hot or very cold—never warm) and serve over white or brown rice with chopped thai basil or cilantro, adjusting your seasoning as you take it to the table. Leave each diner with a quartered lime.
I’ve been listening to the podcast Startup a lot, recently, and by “a lot,” I mean I’ve been chain-listening them, making it through five to six episodes a day, like a Battlestar Galactica fan on a bad jag. Maybe don’t click away from this blog post, just yet, if you’ve never listened to Startup, but as soon as you’re done here, go there. I’ve been obsessed because, like any narcissist, I can’t look away from something that reflects my experience. Startup follows, well, a podcasting company called Gimlet Media as it moves through the throes of starting up. Here at Chris Bagg Coaching Group I’ve been fascinated and terrified by all the same things, recently: how do you expand? How do you hire employees? How do you find athletes for your new employees? How do you manage communication? Compensation? How do you stay true to what you’ve done that’s gotten you to this point in the first place? How do you navigate the law? What does a business plan even look like?
Whenever I start to lose my way in the forest of these questions, I do something my wife, Amy, suggests: “Look at your to-do list. I know it’s too big, OK? We all have too much to do. OK, are you looking at it? Pick THREE things, three things you know you can do today, and commit to getting them done today.” Sounds easy, right? Well, it’s 5:54 on a Monday evening, and “FINISH BLOG POST FOR NEW WEBSITE” is burning a hole in my conscience. Where has the day gone? Well, that’s easy. There’s training, talking to athletes, answering emails, managing finances, having meetings with prospective coaches and prospective athletes. If I stick with it, I’ll get this post finished and make good on my list for the day.
So what’s at work here? It’s pretty simple, actually: it’s just another version of goal-setting, something athletes everywhere are doing in this inaugural month of the year. January is a magical month for athletes, I think. The ashy vestiges of last season, December, are gone, and a whole clean year stretches ahead, punctuated by races you and your coach have picked out for 2016. There’s a reason TrainingPeaks calls this time of year #dreamingseason, a wonderful description of that feeling that anything is possible, and achieving your goals is simply a matter of articulating them and then letting them occur.
Of course, it’s not that simple. Your athletic year, my athletic year, like my business, requires not only clear goals but obvious steps along the way to those goals. I’ve worked with athletes who treated goal-setting as simply writing down “get top-ten at Nationals,” and then say they’re done. Goal-setting is a dynamic exercise: the end result stays the same, but the manner of getting there changes regularly. My sports psychologist, Brian Baxter, at SPINw (Sports Pyschology Instiute Northwest: go look them up, he’s the best), has a great way of setting goals that I’ve adopted (many of my athletes, reading this, will say “Ah, that’s where he got this). Ready? OK, here we go.
Grab a piece of paper. At the top left, write “Long Term Goals, to be completed by ______________.” In that blank, fill in something like “End of season 2018.” That’s right. We’re setting goals that you won’t accomplish until just under three years from now! This is a great chance for you to think about this. Just what DO you want to accomplish by then? Complete your first Ironman? Qualify for Kona? Upgrade to a certain cyclocross category? Lose ten pounds? This is a super long term goal, but it should be your BIG goal, maybe the one you don’t like saying to people. Here are mine:
Long Term Goals (by end of season 2018):
• Win AT LEAST one big race (Any WTC 140.6 or 70.3, Wildflower, Challenge Penticton, or Challenge Almere).
• Develop a race-to-win mentality
• Qualify for Kona as a professional.
Those are pretty lofty goals! They scare me, putting them out there, but that’s what your long term goals should do: motivate you, provide a sense of purpose and perspective.
Next, right down “This Year: 2016.” Write down what you’d like to have accomplished by the end of 2016. Imagine it’s a year from now; you’re sitting by your fireplace, drinking mulled wine and eating a candy cane. What have you done that you’re incredibly proud of? Has it moved you in the direction of your long-term goals? Because that’s really important: this year-end goal has to have moved you a step closer to your big, long-term goals.
My 2016 goals:
• Win Wildflower
• Threshold bike power to 400 from 373.
• Run 2:55 at Ironman Mont-Tremblant
• Swim sub-25 consistently at 70.3, and sub-51 at 140.6 distances, respectively.
Next, write down “Monthly: by ____________.” In the blank, fill in the date one month from today. Set three goals. Each one should set you on a course to one of your yearly goals.
My January Goals (by 2/11/2015):
• Make every Tuesday/Thursday C-Velo class (a high-intensity bike studio here in Portland; check them out, because it’s awesome).
• Weigh 176 pounds (down two pounds from my current 178).
• Swim 4900 yards in the USMS one-hour postal on 1/31.
Now, write down “Weekly: by ______________.” In the blank, fill in the date one week from today. Write down 2-3 things YOU KNOW you can accomplish (full-circle, right?) this week that will put you on course for your monthly goals.
My Weekly Goals (by 1/18/2015):
• No dessert!
• Fuel your bike sessions properly (25-50g of carbohydrate in the hour beforehand, and consume a recovery drink afterward!
• Workout first (before other work like email) on 1/11, 1/13, 1/16, and 1/17.
Finally, write down “Daily Habits of Mind.” These aren’t goals, per se, but things you want to remember during the week, to repeat, like a mantra. Mine, recently, is “Why not me?” Why shouldn’t I win a race? What do my competitors have that I don’t? Possibly quite a lot, but I’ll never know if I don’t honestly think I can win a race.
There we go. Done. Now comes the tough part: repeat this exercise once a week. Sound onerous? Just give it a shot. You’ll be amazed what the you of next week thinks of your goals from the previous week. You’ll also be incredibly proud of the goals you managed to accomplish, and the ones you didn’t will leer up at you from the sheet of paper. Your long-term and yearly goals are unlikely to change, but don’t take the cheater’s path of copy-and-pasting them to this week’s goals sheet. Completely rewrite them, so you get the experience of seeing yourself making the goal. They’ll become more real (and more scary) each time you commit them to text. Your monthly and weekly goals, and your daily habits of mind are likely to change each time you do the exercise, but make sure you don’t let yourself off the hook with those monthly goals as you make new ones!
So this is what I’m doing, then, in my sporting life, but also in my business life. CBCG is growing. More then a decade ago, talking with my dad about what I wanted to do, eventually, I said something like “I don’t know…I guess I’d like to own my own business.” Here I am, having completed a long-term goal for my life. I have goals for each of my coaches this year, and goals for my athletes. Taken together, they make a marvelous map, like those “where we fly” maps in the backs of airline magazines: so many destinations, so many routes, all of them wonderful, all of them taking us, inexorably, into the future.