It has been more than a week since New Year’s, and for some, the resolutions made with such good intentions have already fallen by the wayside. For endurance athletes, though, this is traditionally a time to reflect back on our performances over the past year and to think about ways to tweak our training and other aspects of our life to continue to improve our abilities.
The problem with many New Year’s resolutions is that they are too large in scope, too all encompassing, and very black and white. The key to effective resolutions and to making lifestyle changes in general is to think – and start – with small, actionable steps. Trying to overhaul your entire lifestyle overnight isn’t sustainable (or attainable). Embracing small change is.
It is with this mindset that I reflected back on my past year and what I can do to continue to develop my skills over the next year. I am sharing my thoughts with you in the hopes that perhaps others are in the same position and looking to make similar small changes.
2019 was generally a very positive year for me. Following surgeries to repair femoral neck stress fractures in both 2017 and 2018, I am happy to report that I made it through 2019 without any significant injury and without needing to spend months in physical therapy. I got smarter about my training and set a new marathon PR at Boston in April. I made the jump to triathlons after that (which I strongly believe helped keep any major injuries at bay) and even completed two 70.3 events. Triathlon quickly became my passion and 70.3’s have now become my distance of choice (at least for now). I have some big plans for my “A” races in 2020.
If everything is so rosy, what could I want to change? To begin, my improvement over the year came in part from the beginner’s learning curve in triathlon. As I spent more time balancing swimming and biking with my running, I naturally got faster at all three. But to see continued gains, I need to start looking at some of the small things I can change to give me more of an edge.
Yes, I want to swim and bike and run even faster this year. Who doesn’t? Will that happen thanks to my training? Probably. Does that make for a good resolution? Not really.
The first thing I want to incorporate more regularly into my life is strength training. Let’s be honest. We all talk about how much we need to do this, and yet relatively few of us actually do. We all know it can help make us stronger, more resilient athletes. And yet we are still more likely to pick a pool session over time in the weight room. It’s just more familiar, easier, safer…
But I have read enough to know that I truly can not continue to ignore this component of training if I want to continue to improve and become a serious age grouper. Do I need to do it every day? No. But 1-2 sessions a week is going to be better than 0 sessions. The trick for me is picking which days I will do it and sticking with those days each week – make it a regular part of my weekly schedule. A small, attainable change? I think so.
The other big area for me is sleep and taking steps to ensure I get what I need every night. I know how I feel when I’ve had a good night’s sleep and I know how I feel if my sleep is disrupted for some reason. Considering how much training beats up my body and how much recovery and repair takes place during sleep, it seems like a paramount area to focus on.
But aside from going to bed earlier and focusing just on sleep quantity, I am more interested in making resolutions to support sleep quality. If I wake up in the middle of the night, it is usually because I had a few too many sugary desserts before bed or a few too many glasses of wine. While I have no intention of giving up desserts or wine (which I don’t think are sustainable in the long term), I can become more aware of what I am eating and how much I am drinking every night. Do I need an extra glass of wine (or two) with my dinner? Probably not. Nor do I need to reward myself with five different desserts just because I did a ton of training that day (exaggerating… sort of…).
And those are my big things. Riveting, right? Yes, I want to also incorporate a greater variety of fresh vegetables instead of always picking up the same bag of frozen vegetables. I also want to start taking a daily probiotic, because I think that a big part of success in endurance sports has to do with a happy, healthy gut. And I am determined to try a yoga class at some point this year.
None of these things are huge, earth shattering lifestyle changes that would be unsustainable in the long run. If anything, I am just sharpening my focus on a few areas of my life that could benefit from a little tweaking with the hopes that I might see a nice return on my investment.
2020 will tell.
What resolutions have you set for yourself to help you become a better athlete this year?