8 Ways to Get a Jump Start on Next Season

It's December and you're racing around like a caged hamster with ADD. For many of you, shopping, holiday parties, time with family and friends, and cold, short days are contributing to your health and fitness program death-spiraling directly toward ground zero.

Don't wait until January 1 to begin working on next year's goals, get a jump start now. Here are eight tips to get you on the right course toward a positive new season:

1. Set a fitness goal that is six months into the future. This can be a racing goal or an event goal—such as completing your first century ride or besting a particular time from last year. You can also design your own event. Write that goal down using positive language. For example, "Complete the Best Ever Century Ride on June 15th." Characteristics of good, challenging goals can be found here.

2. Set at least one, but no more than three, sub-goals for each month that supports your ultimate goal. For most people, it is easy to scheme up a grand goal or two on January 1 to be accomplished later in the year. The journey to reach that goal begins with high energy and enthusiasm the first two or three weeks of the year. As the challenges of day-to-day life squeeze us, goals can begin taking a back seat to other issues. Before we realize it, our goal is slipping away.

At the beginning of each month, sit down and evaluate what successes you achieved in the previous month. Find ways to celebrate those accomplishments. Celebrations take any form, but must be meaningful to you.

The beginning of each month is also a good time to look forward to the next month. Are your sub-goals still appropriate? If not, make some modifications. It's OK to make course corrections as you move through the year.

3. Address tight muscles and any lingering injuries now. If you have been tolerating discomfort that is ever-present, do something about it early in the season. Depending on what your issue is, it may be as easy as scheduling a regular massage.

More serious issues may require a trip to the doctor, athletic trainer or physical therapist. You will never reach your full potential as an athlete if you are constantly in pain.

4. Work on balancing your leg coordination. Most of us have one leg that is more coordinated than the other leg. One way to work on better coordination for both legs is to do one-leg drills or isolated-leg drills.

To do one-leg drills, put two chairs next to your indoor trainer. After a good warmup, alternate putting one leg on the chair and while the other does all the pedaling for 30 seconds. Make the pedal stroke perfect by imagining that you are scraping mud off the bottom of your shoe at the bottom of the stroke. Pull up on the back side of the stroke and then drive your knee and toes forward to complete the circle. Try to remove any dead spots where your foot stalls out. These typically occur on the top quarter of the pedal stroke.

5. Work on balancing leg strength. In addition to having one leg that seems smarter than the other, most all of us have one leg that is stronger than the other one. In some cases the strong leg is also the most coordinated, but not always.

You can work on single-leg strength balance by doing one-legged strength training. You can do step-ups, leg press, knee extensions and hamstring curls single-legged. When you begin one-legged work, use a light weight until your form is perfect.

For example, when doing a one-legged leg press, keep your toes, ankle, knee and hip in line for the entire movement of the platform—up and down. Do not allow your knee to buckle in or out, away from that line. Keep the line drawn between your pelvic bones parallel with the leg press platform. In other words, do not dip or skew your pelvis to lift heavy weight.

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