The new year is just a few days away and many of us are starting to think about our goals and plans for 2017. There’s a reason why resolutions are so popular on the new year. January 1st marks a new year and a new start; a sense of renewal. As athletes most of us will be starting our base training again for this season’s events. But with two months of winter ahead of us, it’s not exactly the best time of year for running and cycling. So what can we do to make sure we’re making the most of this crucial early base training and taking the right steps towards our 2017 goals?
Now is the time to work on our weaknesses and develop better form, be it pedal stroke, swim stroke, or stride. Write down some small goals that can easily accomplished over the next few months. These should be things like working up to holding 120rpm bike cadence for one minute or practicing bilateral breathing in the pool. Small attainable goals make them easier to follow through and achieve. It also makes setbacks in our larger more important goals easier to deal with.
Weight Loss and Nutrition
Losing weight is arguably the most common New Year’s resolution and it’s also probably the most difficult to achieve. As athletes we’re always trying to cut weight and gain a few more watts per kilo. The easiest way to do this is, once again, to break it down to smaller goals. Don’t start by focussing on your weight or calorie intake. Make small manageable steps to decrease the amount of junk food and non-nutritious foods we consume and start putting together healthy meals. Practice meal prep work and meal planning for the day and the week. Source healthy foods and ways to incorporate them into your favourite dishes (ex. instead of hamburger meat, use lentil and sweet potatoes in tacos). It’s much easier to make these small steps toward better eating and diet habits, then you can start focussing on strategic calorie cutting to lose weight. For athletes weight loss has to be gradual. Having a caloric deficit is fundamental to weight loss but we also need to fuel our training and recovery properly so we can continue to improve our fitness. Keep your calorie deficit small. This will aid in your training and prevent binging and excess hunger.
Add a Social Element to Your Training
January and February are the most difficult months for people with depression and seasonal affective disorder and it’s also difficult to maintain focus and motivation to train. Spending months alone in the basement on the trainer can demoralize even the most steadfast athletes. While the bulk of your training will likely be done by yourself at this time of year, you can increase your motivation and increase mental health by training with other people a few times a week. Join a masters swim group and/or an indoor spinning class. There are many options out there for both so do your research and find a group or class that can easily be incorporated into your training program. See our article on Choosing the Right Spin Class for more about how to do this. HPP coach Ian Fraser runs a Bike/Run program every Wednesday in Ottawa that is great for triathletes who want to maintain their run and bike fitness with other like-minded individuals. This is also a good time of year to start building relationships with your local bike shop. Take your bike in a for winter tune-up (it will after all rack up hundreds of hours on the trainer). Chat with the shop owners and the mechanics, you can never underestimate the value of having a good relationship with your LBS. When race season starts and you have a critical component failure right before your bike race or event, it helps to have a good rapport with the mechanic you’ll be relying on to fix it in time.
Register for Events
There’s no better way to motivate yourself than by registering for events. It might be all the motivation you need to kick start your training. Instead of making vague resolutions like, “I want to run a marathon,” pick a marathon and register for it. It adds an element of excitement and realism to your resolution. For the seasoned athlete now is a good time to start thinking about performance goals in smaller events (since you’ve probably already planned your big A-races) and register for those. Having a solid outline of your racing season at the start of your training cycle is a great way to plan and prepare to peak at the optimal times. Giving yourself small goals in less important events and working towards them over the next few months is a great way to build your skills for your big A-races. It might be something as simple as reducing transition zone time at a local race all the way up to nailing a PB in a Sprint triathlon or riding a sub 3 hour metric century. It might seem daunting to register for events and commit to something so far away but it’s taking these small steps that eventually lead to our greatest accomplishments.
Invest In New Gear
Everything from training gadgets to new bikes, investing in the tools you’ll need to hit your goals in 2017 is a great idea for January and February. Buying a new bike is both exciting and motivating and will allow you to dial in your fit and position before you ever even hit the road in spring. It also gives you time to get used to your new gadgets and how they work. You might also find good deals on summer gear before the arrival of new 2017 lines.
It’s an unfortunate reality that the vast majority of New Year’s resolutions are abandoned in the first month and are never realized. But by taking small steps and breaking down large daunting goals into smaller more manageable goals, we can follow through and be our best in the New Year. 2016 was a tumultuous year so let’s do our best to make 2017 the best yet. Run your fastest marathon, ride your best race, get that personal best, or challenge yourself to do something you’ve never done before.