Kicking off 2016 without defining your health and fitness goals is like taking a road trip without knowing your final destination. Sure, there’s a time and place for wandering around aimlessly — but it’s not what you want to do if you’ve got an idea of where you’d ultimately like to go, which most of us are in the process of mulling over right about now.
One of my favorite posts on this exact topic from last year was, “9 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Next Season,” based on my fellow Coeur Sports teammate Kecia’s blog post evaluating her 2014 triathlon journey in order to set S.M.A.R.T. goals for 2015. She just did the same for her 2015 season, and it inspired me to do a reprise, as well.
The point here isn’t just to pick a few things to accomplish willy-nilly over the next 12 months; it’s about reflecting on the previous year and taking a look at what went well and what needs improvement before planning for the future.
As a reminder, here were the five goals toward which I was working in 2015, as well as how I think I did on ’em:
- Seek Balance. I did have a nice mix of races for time and for fun, so I’ll give myself an 80% for this one!
- Train Smarter. I’ll give myself a 50% on this one because I was consistent, but it could’ve been more measurable.
- Face Fears. Ditto — 50% here. Points for recent consistency in the pool, but toward what am I working?
- Push Myself. The duathlon, ultra and century ride all fell through after Baby H came into the picture = 0%!
- Give Back. This one’s my only 100%; we knocked it out of the park with LUNA, and are pumped for 2016.
So with that in mind, here’s my stab at the nine questions outlined in this article from USA Triathlon, which will allow me to more effectively evaluate the season and plan for next year:
1. In hindsight, were your season goals clear and attainable?
Did you achieve what you set out to do at the start of the year? Knowing what you know now could you have aimed higher, or were you somewhat unrealistic in your expectations of your time, commitments or the physical skills you needed to develop? Use hindsight as a barometer for thinking ahead to next year and create goals that push you and inspire you to go for it.
Hm…yes and no. Knowing in the back of my head that we might be starting a family this year — and having the timing of it up in the air — prevented me from being as specific as I would have liked with respect to my goals.
For example, when it came to “training smarter,” I talked about building an aerobic base using heart rate, continuing strength training and pre-hab to activate glutes, along with regular cross-training for flexibility and functional fitness. All great things, yes, but I should have made them measurable — e.g. hit a certain range for heart rate training or designate a number of days per week to focus on pre-hab, etc. — in order to be able to better track progress.
2. What were you most proud of this season?
Was it the improvement you saw in your swim, bike and run splits? Or your dedication and ability to balance your other responsibilities around the sport? How you overcame setbacks and still performed at a high level? Think of the big things and the little moments that you look back on with pride and delight in what you accomplished.
Although I’d love to claim a shiny new PR here, this just wasn’t the year for that. But I am most proud of the fact that I’ve been on top of my game when it came to cross-training in 2015. From kettlebell to barre, bootcamp to yoga, spin to kickboxing — you name it, I’ve tried it and had a blast challenging myself in the process.
3. What would you like to duplicate next year?
Perhaps it’s working with the same coach or training plan, continuing to do a variety of races and taking on big challenges that excite you and motivate you to train consistently. Of the things that you really enjoyed, what would you like to be sure you experience again?
The first half of next year will be interesting, to say the least, with Baby H making his or her entrance on the scene. But I think, at least at this point, I would like to try maintain some kind of consistency when it comes to working out to re-build my foundation — as well as weave a heavy mix of cross-training into my marathon training in the second half of the year.
Signing up for different classes this year kept me from falling prey to boredom, but I have a feeling that being committed to classes in 2016 will be more about holding me accountable when I’d much rather be cuddling a cute little baby…or catching up on sleep.
4. What frustrated or disappointed you the most this season?
Did you struggle to see consistent improvement in your speed? Fail to summon your determination when things got hard? Were you unable to overcome nagging injuries? What concerned you and took some of your energy away from the positive things?
Just like last year: injuries. Although my plantar fasciitis has cleared up, my SI joint has been plaguing me for two years now.
Pregnancy has caused it to flare up for different reasons, and I’m hoping some time off from running will help. But I know this will be a big goal for 2016: Finding the root cause of this SI trouble and addressing it so I when I’m able to train, it’ll be full speed ahead.
5. What do you not want to happen again next year?
Were you unprepared for some races and found you performed better in training than in racing? Did you take yourself and the sport too seriously, forgetting to have fun along the way? Look for insights from question four — things that you need to avoid in order to be at your best. Put emphasis and focus on things that you can control or influence.
Basically, a repeat of years past where I know there’s a lingering issue but don’t address it before proceeding with training. If it’s there now, it’s not going to go away as I push my body harder and harder.
6. What did you learn by going through these experiences?
We all have good and bad days (and races and seasons) but what you take away from them can make all the difference the next time around. Despite the challenges or painful times, what valuable lessons did you learn? What meaningful lessons can you take forward as you build on your experience as an athlete? How can you catch yourself from slipping backward the next time you hit a rough patch?
It’s not always about the PR, the epic race or going longer/further/faster. Some seasons are for that, yes, while others are more for taking time to regroup, reflect and refocus. And grow babies!
I’ve also learned to keep the bigger picture in mind (being pregnant definitely helped with this). Health and fitness is about playing the long game, and there are so many ways to honor your body and feel a sense of accomplishment, so it’s been rewarding getting to explore different parts of that.
7. What decisions did you make that were empowering for you?
Think about the conscious decisions you made about what you committed to or improved: your nutrition, getting support from a coach or community, your approach to training and recovery, how you managed your life around your workouts, the number or frequency of races, etc. What were some of the most important decisions of the year for you, both related to triathlon and other parts of your life where relevant? And therefore, what decisions must you make for next season to experience even more success?
Opting out of races, whether it was restraining my itchy trigger finger the day a race’s website opened for sign-ups or even bailing on a grueling century ride in poor weather conditions when I knew my body was in need of rest. I felt torn every time, but am happy in hindsight that I went with my gut in those situations.
Also, I’ve enjoyed dipping my toes into the waters of alternative and preventative medicine, be it chiropractic manipulations, acupuncture sessions, regular massage or prenatal movement classes. Not only have I learned a lot about my body through this kind of work, but it also feels great and helps to (hopefully) keep some of those injuries at bay.
8. What habits seemed to hold you back from achieving your potential?
We all have them. Recurring ways of behaving and thinking which sometimes we realize — even when we know it’s not in our best interest — and sometimes we don’t. What causes you to skip training sessions? What do you tend to say to yourself during a race or training session, or when the alarm goes off before sunrise? In which ways has your diet been limiting your body’s potential? Where have you procrastinated or not been as disciplined as you’d like to be? Be really honest and list the items that you must change in order to achieve your goals.
I probably sound like a broken record, but I need to quit ignoring my body when it’s trying to tell me something. I’ve learned time and time again that if something’s bugging me, putting my head down and trying to train through it is not going to make it go away.
So while I would like to make at least a goal or two that really pushes me in 2016, I won’t until I know that my body is strong enough and healed enough to handle it. I won’t let my enthusiasm for going after a new goal with my usual zeal get the best of me again!
9. What decisions should you make in order to have your best year ahead?
Building off your insights from all the previous questions, what will you continue to do, where do you need to get extra help, what will you stop doing? This is a critical step, take your time and identify the key decisions you need to make.
I know myself well, and that means I’ll be anxious to jump back into things as soon as possible after Baby H comes in March. But rather than leap-frogging to a crazy goal to get myself motivated, I know I’ve got to have the resolve to take baby steps in order to build a solid base.
I’ve got to be ok with a half-step forward instead of the alternative — going too quickly and having to take two steps backward — as I heal and get “my” body back.
For example, starting up a marathon training program before I regain my post-baby continence (something I’m genuinely worried about after reading up on the subject and chatting with other mom runners) is probably not the best idea. It took 10 months for my body to make a baby, and I know it may take a while afterwards for it to figure out what the “new normal” is.
And, in the meantime, the most important thing for me to remember is to not put the cart before the horse. Or, in this case, the race before the runner!
Stay tuned for my 2016 S.M.A.R.T. goals…