Setting goals is no new thing, I know it, you know it – having a goal makes it way more likely you will achieve/make progress/challenge yourself and if all goes to plan – surpass expectations.
What has became apparent to me over the past year is that we need to set a goal to follow on after the goal we are currently focusing on.
In 2016 I had one main focus at the start of the year – the Bryce Canyon 50km Ultra race in Utah, USA. Race day was in mid June. The first 6 months of the year were all about getting to the start line in the best shape I could – both mentally and physically. Now, it wasn’t a straight forward line, as training never is. But I got there and I did really well finishing in 8hrs 29mins – just 17 minutes longer than it took me to complete the 55km Long Tour of Bradwell (LTOB) in the UK in August 2015. (Bryce was nearer 52km!!). LTOB was my first ultra and was completed in hot conditions so I felt it prepared me well for for 32 degrees in Bryce.
I knew from experience that after LTOB, and as is common with many that complete long distances, you need time to rest and recuperate. I dipped after LTOB and just didn’t feel like running much. So in my plans for Bryce I decided to not plan anything for the period afterwards. And this was my downfall. I planned nothing. Well I did – I planned to allow myself time to rest and then make a decision based on how I felt.
Now I’m not saying this approach is wrong. But, and for me this is the crux, I never got going again. I felt really ‘meh’ about running and exercise in general. I failed to make any decisions.
By the end of July my running was sporadic and the feeling of lack-lustre just hadn’t gone away. I was having serious doubts about doing anything related to running. The joy was gone. I knew it wasn’t still being tired from Bryce, but I had no focus.
To inject some motivation I set myself the challenge of running every day in August – with 3km being the minimum I would run. I completed this and then running returned to being sporadic. I felt more enthused but the joy hadn’t entirely returned. Just running for running’s sake wasn’t enough.
With hindsight, I needed to have something to aim for after Bryce. The stagnation had set in within the first few weeks after Bryce and I didn’t recognise this until 3 or maybe 4 months later.
It’s like returning from holiday without having the next one planned out, or even booked. The post-holiday blues set in, you lose motivation to do anything. It was the same for me.
So, I urge you to learn from my mistake. Goals don’t need to be massive, long or arduous to get your fired up and motivated. But you need something to aim for to stave off the stagnation.
I am now in the final stages of training for the London Marathon and although I haven’t voiced this anywhere I have a plan – I know what I’ll be aiming for afterwards.