Guest post by Pro Triathlete Kat Matthews
January is a conflicted month. For many it feels like a fresh start to make new goals and initiate a new momentum without negativity from previous perceived failures of the year before. This can definitely be a useful tool if you need that refreshed starting point. However, I think a more realistic view is to accept the times you think you failed at a goal last year and embrace why you think you failed. It is normal not to have a perfect training or health “streak”, why do you think so many people lord it over social media when they do? Because it''s pretty remarkable for them as well. I believe the reasons behind why we have these perceived failures is really key to addressing any behaviour change for the “new” year.
In my training for long distance triathlon I have to do hours of swimming, cycling and running every week. In 2021, swimming for me had so many mental challenges and I wasn’t really enjoying it. My negativity had spiralled. Every session I would resent the idea of even packing my swim bag, the 30 seconds it took me to get to the car and even the faff of getting changed afterwards, let alone the 45-75 minutes of actual swimming where each 500m felt like a mountainous achievement. I am sure that feeling resonates to many for an activity/sport in some way.
For some, I’d probably just say; find a new hobby! For me however as a Professional Triathlete I have to do this swimming training to compete on the World stage. I want to do it. For you this example equates to anything you’ve decided you want to do. It might be vital for a performance goal or race coming up, or for general physical or mental health.
The repeating failure for me was how much I was resenting the training and not necessarily the swimming itself. I needed to come to terms with this and decide how to make it “easier”. So, by accepting I was finding the faf of the session hard along with all of the stress of actually performing during the session I decided to change tack a little and my focus would now be on making each swim session as logistically easy, and physically easy, as possible. All I had to do was get in and finish a 3-4km swim, no timings just complete it. Five times a week.
Any goal worth setting is likely going to be a big ask but just how “big”, you have control over. Sometimes it isn’t about making big goals, it's about making goals as easy as possible to achieve.
I now swim 20km a week and I actually look forward to going swimming; I’ve started to add back in time targets and I am improving. I think taking away the mental stress and energy from a goal really helped me move forward.
Knowing that it is very normal to struggle on some days is also invaluable. Everyone struggles. That’s what makes the goal worth doing.