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Training Talk: How to face a challenge?

Happy New Year 2017!

A new year of training stands in front of us, it is time to reflect on the ups and downs of the past year and to focus on the 12 months that are to come. Every year most of us feel the need to set a "List of Goals", New year is source of motivation, it gives us the opportunity to take a "fresh start".

As sport enthusiasts we observe this New Year phenomena, during the first week of January our training playgrounds become full. People start running, going to the gym, riding their bikes... but how long does that last? Maybe for 3 or 4 weeks, then we get the roads and paths back to ourselves.

Why do so many people fail in meeting their goals? Can't they handle a Challenge?

Managing a "CHALLENGE" is mostly conditioned by two factors:

- Your capacity to set an achievable challenge/goal

- Your capacity to handle the pressure of this challenge

How difficult should a challenge/goal be?

Setting a challenge is a very difficult task, it is sometimes difficult to know what we can achieve in a certain time frame. The most experienced of us will define them easier.

- If you aim too high, the pressure will progressively build up and create this fear of failure and feeling of panic, you will end up with very negative thoughts and a loss in motivation during your preparation.

- If you aim to low, your goal will not be exciting and you will not manage to push yourself as much as you could. On "goal day" you might not be very combative.

- If you set a well balanced goal: You will feel challenged and motivated to invest time and effort towards your success. You have an ambitious goal and you are convinced that good training will get you there. On race day you will be focused and will be in a combative head space.

Tip: You can talk about your goals with your coach or with friends and training partners. Ask their opinion and get another point of view.

How do you handle the pressure?

Setting a smart goal will be highly influenced by your capacity to handle the pressure . We react positively or negatively to a failure or a success.

Two examples:

- Mike has a goal of 12hr on his Ironman event, he plans to swim in 1hr20, ride in 6hr40 and run in 4hr. He is half way through his ride and starts thinking about his goal, he swam in 1hr instead of 1hr20 and is 15min in advance on his bike time.

He can react two different ways, either he will decide to slow down as he thinks he is producing a too hard effort and won't manage to sustain it, or he will continue at this pace because he feels he can do better than he thought.

- Joe is half way through his marathon, in the time of 1hr40, he has a goal of 3hr. As he is slower than expected he could mentally break down and give up or decide to fight and finish and do the best time possible.

I have chosen these examples to explain that we should evaluate our response to a challenge. That way we can adjust the difficulty of the goal in order to set a level of stress that we can handle. There are of course more ways individuals can react to both of those situations, I decided to show you the more commonly found behaviors.

In further training topics we will discuss about how to be mentally stronger and improve our capacity to face a challenge.

Here is a graph that will make this topic easier to understand:

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