Adjusting Your Goals
Nothing turns me into a two-year-old more than having to adjust my training goals. I get stubborn, refuse to change anything, and throw a temper tantrum. But then I breathe and take the detour. At some point there will come a time when you are going to have to adjust your own goal. Whether it's adjusting a day of training because you got called into work, or adjusting your goals for the season because you got sick or injured, it can be challenging to accept the change and take the detour. Here are some tips on how to maintain your motivation and confidence when things don’t go exactly as planned.
Adjusting Your Goals for the Season
At some point during your athletic career you're probably going to have to face adjusting your goals as a result of being injured. The energy and effort you were putting into training for your race needs to shift to recovering from your injury. You will feel anger, frustration, and disappointment - but once you accept being injured, you can see it as an opportunity. What can you do that you wouldn't have been able to if you were still training? Maybe your injury recovery allows you to do some fun cross-training that you wouldn't have thought to do. Maybe you take the opportunity to improve other parts of your fitness. I’ve seen athletes come back both mentally and physically stronger after injury when they are able to seize the opportunity.
Change In Priorities
I'm going to blow your mind with this next sentence: there is no such thing as perfect balance in life. The truth is that over the span of your life there will be times when the scale needs to tip in one direction. An increased load at work or a shift in your responsibilities may require taking time and energy away from training. This adjustment is challenging because your ego knows you're physically capable of more training and that if you could train more you would be more competitive. Backing off training is sometimes a harder adjustment on your ego than stopping altogether. When faced with a necessary change in priorities, you need to stop comparing yourself to others, stay focused on your own goals, and know that you will eventually be able to tip the scale back to your sport again.
Adjusting Your Goals During a Race
Unexpected Changes In Conditions
Competition likes to throw in surprises. When race day comes you have to be ready to embrace what comes with race day. You have to accept that whatever the universe throws at you that day is meant to be a part of your race experience. It helps to be prepared for any potential conditions that may arise, and it also helps to tell yourself that you're ready and can handle whatever race day brings. The adjustment here is to embrace the change.
Goals Weren’t Realistic
Occasionally, even though you trained like a pro and thought you were prepared going into your race, there are times when you realize the race goal you had in mind isn’t going to happen (i.e. there was more climbing than you expected, you weren’t prepared for the change in weather conditions, you had stomach issues, you had cramping issues, you experienced a mechanical, etc.) And sometimes the adjustment has to occur in the opposite direction. You may start racing and feel unexpectedly strong and think “Whose legs are these!?” When you're faced with having to adjust your goal mid-race, it’s difficult to change your original expectations. How quickly you return to your resting heart rate is a sign of your physical fitness and a sign of your mental fitness is how quickly you adapt to immediate feedback and go to Plan B.
No one has ever had a season that didn’t come with some kind of challenge. Adjusting goals is part of being an athlete and when you’re committed to your goals, setbacks are temporary. Resilience is part of being a mentally strong athlete. Being resilient doesn't mean that you won't feel heartbroken and devastated at having to adjust, but it does mean that you understand it's all part of being an athlete. You feel disappointed, and then pick yourself back up and say, “Okay, what’s Plan B”? Overcoming setbacks will always be part of the journey. If it were easy, it wouldn’t feel as good to accomplish the goal. The challenges are part of the reward of being an athlete. And every once in a while, the detour ends up being the better way to go.