Last January, when I was planning my goals for 2013, I decided to sign up for some triathlons with the plan of motivating myself by putting the dates on my calendar. I found a pool-based Sprint triathlon in May, an Olympic distance in July and finally, a Half-Iron in September. However, I also wanted to improve my marathon finish time this year so I found a marathon in October. Then I came across a Century Ride in April. Although I did opt out of the Half-Iron, I still got a little too ambitious.
After missing out on some races last year because I registered too late, I wanted to plan everything out well in advance and sign up ASAP so I wouldn’t miss out. This seemed like a great strategy at the time but there is one aspect of this approach that I overlooked. It’s real easy to have big, ambitious plans for the next summer when you are sitting at your computer with a warm cup of coffee on a cold morning in January. “Sure, I can simultaneously train for two races at the same time”. “A mile swim by that date shouldn’t be a problem once the lakes are warm enough to train in”. “100 mile bike ride in April? It should be nice weather by then.” Man was I wrong.
All I can say is that yes, the endless series of races on my calendar IS forcing me train a lot. However, I didn’t anticipate how much less enjoyable these activities are when they are done as training for an event. Not only is it making them less enjoyable, it’s actually making me less motivated to push myself. Last year I relished my bike rides to work and back. This year, I have done it once. Last year I woke up extra early one morning and for a personal challenge, I ran 13 miles then hopped on my bike and rode to work. This year, I have to follow a set training schedule and which doesn’t allow for any ‘impromptu’ running whenever or however long I want.
This will definitely be something that I consideration next winter when setting my goals for 2014. Personal goals might not work as well for some people but I’m discovering that they are by far the best way for me to push myself. For me, good ole’ fashion fun is an extremely effective motivator.
Why can’t I just go out and run 13.1 miles when and where I want? Sure I don’t get a t-shirt or a medal but I still have the $80 in my bank account that is would have cost me to register for an event. The awesome feeling that I get after hitting the STOP button on my Garmin is still the same whether it’s the finish line at a big event or it’s in my driveway. When I am running on my own, I even have the freedom to change the course or push myself even further if I want.
Now I am not going to stop entering races but I am going to stop using them for as motivators. Next year, I’m setting personal goals first then, when they have been met and I am full capable of competing, I can enter an organized event. This will take out all of the stress involved with training. Instead of preparing for a event on a certain date, I will prepare first then reward myself with the option of entering an event. This will make both, the training and the event a whole lot more enjoyable.