Fitness Makeover: Stay motivated, focused on your season

With the month of April already upon us, I have selected Troy Williams of Phoenix, Ariz., to be our next candidate for the Fitness Makeover column.

Before I go on, let me first encourage all readers who wrote asking to be picked for the makeover that your letters are not going unnoticed! On the contrary, I am selecting candidates whose overall fitness goals cover topics that the rest of you may have touched upon or inquired about in your Pick Me pleas!

I am also saving several of your letters for coverage in later columns, so youll just have to keep reading if you want your 15 minutes of fame, fortune, and makeover fitness!

Troy Williams sounds like a high-energy guy. At 29 years of age and a limited athletic background, he is obviously someone who wants to do it all. Since he already completed a marathon last year, at least we know Troy can run, walk, crawl, or find his way over 26 miles, even if it takes him five hours or more to do it. But this year, Troy has decided to tackle running, biking and swimming, having never seriously competed or practiced any of those sports.

With an AIDS ride in June spanning 600 miles over less than a week, an Olympic-distance triathlon in September, and a marathon in December (hopefully under four hours this time), Troy has a lot to accomplish in the next few months. Although he has hired a spin instructor/trainer and already has a workout schedule in mind (thanks to previous Makeover columns, of course), he would like to know how best to stay motivated and focused during the course of the year.

He writes that his biggest obstacle is dedicating himself to a program and sticking with it for the long haul. Indeed, it can be overwhelming when you go from being a weekend warrior to a full-fledged triathlete virtually overnight.

Rarely in this column have I discussed discipline, dedication, and staying motivated (because I incorrectly assumed everyone who read was an obsessive athlete), but Troy brought up a valid point: Its hard to stay focused when there are career, family, and social obligations pulling you in every direction. At least Troy recognizes his Achilles heel, and can begin his training by announcing his goals in public.

By making a verbal commitment to friends and family that completing his chosen events is an important goal for him, Troy will be able to rally their support and set the stage for their understanding when hes socially AWOL the rest of the year (because hes too busy training)!

Another advantage to openly discussing his goals is that it is a self-acknowledgement on Troys part that he is moving forward with his plans, and his world of supporters is watching. It is a lot harder to quit, or lose interest, when you think everyone around you is expecting great things!

In addition to announcing his plans to everyone, it is important that Troy find friends who can become training partners, or training partners who can become friends, to motivate him and keep him on track. Training can be a lonely activity, and a buddy to keep him committed and perhaps even challenge him during workouts is important in his quest to stay focused.

Depending on his busy work schedule, Troy may choose to work out in the mornings before tackling his career as a corporate publicist, or in the evenings after work. Either way, he needs to make time for at least seven workouts a week so that he can run three times, swim three times, and bike at least once per week.

Up front, he needs to make a commitment to himself that no matter what, he will do something athletic each and every day, and if he misses a day due to business engagements, he is to make it up on the following day with a double workout. He should open up a training log to keep himself honest, and make it a priority to fill out an entry each day. This will also help keep him motivated when the going gets rough because he can refer back to all his hard work and see how far along hes already come. By having something tangible, like a written diary of his progress, Troy can quantify what he is doing and actually have evidence of his progress.

Goal-setting is also something I have not touched upon in previous columns, although it is a very valuable tool in staying motivated. In addition to keeping a training log, I used to post my season goal times on my bathroom mirror where I would see them every morning when I woke up to go to the pool. This would spur me on when I felt like returning to bed instead. I would also stick a Post-It with my goal times on the steering wheel of my car (not that I was a reckless driver or anything).

By having such daily reminders to egg me on, I was able to stay focused and carry my goals with me until they became "comfortable. If I thought about them randomly throughout the day, eventually they became less intimidating or impossible-seeming, and attained a more "achievable status in my mind.

Troy might want to write down and post the distances he aims to complete: 600 miles biking, 26 miles running, etc., until they become second nature. The more he thinks about them and the more he trains with those accomplishments in mind, the more motivated hell be to succeed.

Before I completed my first 10-mile ocean swim, I gauged the distance in my car every time I drove somewhere until I knew what driving 10 miles felt like (and as I swam the race I kept telling myself how easy it was to cover that distance).

Since running a marathon requires lots of endurance and swimming requires consistent time in the water for improvement, Troy needs to dedicate himself to these two sports over all else. This is why I suggested he run and swim three times a week, initially. He can ramp up his cycling in the six weeks before the AIDS ride, but the cross-training in the other sports will definitely carry over and increase his endurance capabilities overall.

There will be times when Troy will inevitably feel fatigued and unmotivated to go for another five-mile run, or to spend an hour in the pool. The advantage of cross-training and setting a multisport goal for yourself is that you can mix and match training routines to suit your daily desires.

If the thought of running or swimming makes Troy want to skip a workout altogether, that is the day he should choose to go cycling, or at least spin on a stationary bike. If he just doesnt have the energy to do anything cardiovascular, he can attend one of the yoga classes he currently favors as a mental break and as a stretching exercise, or he can do light weights to build strength. Better to do something than nothing at all, with his heavy racing lineup!

It is evident from Troys correspondence that he has the enthusiasm and energy to become an endurance athlete. His concern is budgeting his training time and staying focused, as he self-admittedly lacks the disciplined training ethic of lifelong jocks.

Regardless of athletic background, there are times when we all would prefer to throw in the towel. Hopefully the self-motivating tips above can help guide him to achieving his goals.

If you are interested in being the subject of a Fitness Makeover, please e-mail your questions to Alex, and include a phone number where you can be reached upon your selection.

Get advice for getting back on track with Alex's Fitness Makeover column

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