The first month of the year is over; however, I know many are yearning for spring instead of nearly two more months of winter! The cold months can make you feel stir crazy, yearning the warm sun and ability to wear shorts. For me, the winter months are tough as I am back into the full swing of training and building up my fitness for a full race season in the coming months.
Although this may seem as a tough time for many triathletes, runners, swimmers and other athletes preparing for an upcoming spring and summer race season, it can be rewarding each week to see the progress in fitness from week to week. I have had a tougher fitness hill to climb this year since I had a longer off-season “break” due to an injury at the end of 2010. At the end of each 3-6 hour training day…after day….my tired body is rejuvenated by the joy of my health and accomplishing the goals I have set for myself each day. In the back of my mind, I am focusing on the end goal, which is to qualify for the 2012 Olympics in London. It seems as if Beijing was not so far in the past and London was far off, but the reality is London will be here before I know it. Every day is a step towards that goal of getting to the start line in London 100% ready to go.
Every year, I always try to make improvements. Not just improvements in what others would feel the obvious would be in a triathlete; the swim, bike and run, but all the little additional improvements an athlete can do the other 18 hours a day. I have focused on additional steps of improving my goal of not only becoming the best triathlete of my capabilities, but also becoming the healthiest I can be in mind, body and spirit. I truly feel that if you are not working on the latter; mind, body and spirit you cannot reach your full potential in whatever your goals are for the future.
I began the year by writing my goals/mantras with marker and paper and put it on the kitchen cabinet. I feel it is very important to write your goals down, make them visible, and tell others (in this case my husband) about your goals. Following these steps will be much easier to stay on track towards accomplishing these goals. My cabinet reads,
1) Keep stress free
2) Breathe, breathe…calm
3) Healthy fuel
6) Moments of Pain for a Lifetime of Glory
Steps I have made towards following through with the kitchen cabinet goals are really thinking about what I do every day. For example, goal #3, I think about what exactly I am putting in my mouth. I want to be able to power myself through workouts with the right and correct fuel, but I also want to keep my body healthy for years to come, including an effort to prevent cancer and other diseases. I have bought a Brita (keeping my water filtered and pure ), continue to take supplements; including a Mulit-vitamin from First Endurance and Omega-3 supplements, and eating as much natural and unprocessed foods as possible. I have made a conscious effort to avoid artificial sugar, for example, sweetening tea with Stevia instead of Splenda. When fueling before a workout, I turn to my easily accessible Pure Bars or something as simple as a banana. Taking these little steps in my diet every day, I feel will add up immensely in years to come. When you fuel your body with healthy fuel, you really feel so much better in your mind and spirit; your quality of life improves.
My coach/husband and I have also focused on what my muscular weakness are in my body. I spend 3xweek in the weight room focusing on not only strengthening the weaknesses, but improving balance and agility. Remember, you are only as strong as your biggest weakness! Focusing on this will improve my swimming, cycling, and running but will also help to keep my body injury free (which helps with the goal pertaining to stress free, although sometimes injuries and accidents do happen!) In addition to strength training, I have begun yoga (supporting goal #4). After several weeks of yoga, I have noticed huge improvements in my flexibility in the hips and hip flexors (what I intended for yoga), but I have also noticed increased core strength and improvement in full body strength, rejuvenation and breath control. The last part of class is used for a short meditation and relaxation, possibly thinking about your goals, or clearing your mind completely and letting go. Yoga is not just about improving the physical strength of the body, but yoga allows you to reach into your mind and spirit. I leave each yoga class feeling relaxed, calm and a stronger, confident woman on the outside as well as the inside.
Finally, when pushing your body each day it is so important to use your mind and really listen to your body and spirit. Elite athletes are constantly pushing, but can get into trouble when one pushes too far and the rubber band (body) breaks. It is much tougher to return back to the rubber band once it breaks verses stretching it out and pushing the boundaries. The tough question is how far can you stretch and expand your body without breaking? I feel this takes evaluation every day of listening to your body; how are you sleeping, how are your muscles responding, etc.? Knowing the physical and mental limits does take experience and practice and often needs the help of other therapists. I use massage, physical therapist and chiropractors, educational books, etc. to help keep my body in check, but the most powerful tool I have is my mind. I am the only one who can truly know how I feel, when to push and when to pull back.
Remember that any goal you are trying to tackle can be challenging on the mind, body and spirit. The process of reaching that goal is a journey that manifests more fulfillment, satisfaction and growth as the achievement of that goal. So, I encourage you to get out that pencil and paper and think about what you want to achieve!
Part of the goal process setting is realizing when to “let go” and give yourself a break. I have a recovery next week and know my mind, body and spirit is ready for it! Pure Bar is giving away a trip to Costa Rica on February 21st. This is a perfect way to relax and rejuvenate! (And to get a break from the cold, winter snow!) Go to www.thepurebar.com for more information on how to register. In addition, free Pure Bars can be won each week! Good luck!!