As a coach, I work with a wide range of athletic abilities—athletes who are learning their sport, as well as those who are vying for Olympic slots. I use the same training principles on both inexperienced and seasoned athletes. Although the training load and specific workouts are different, the training ideology is the same for everyone.
The first thing I do when I begin working with someone is identify things that might get in the way of his or her success, because these are things that affect success at all levels.
Here are 10 things that can hold you back or get in the way of your success as an athlete.
1. Negative thoughts. If you fill your head with negative thoughts about your ability as an athlete, it's impossible to succeed. Whether your goals include a podium spot or not, you're still an athlete. You can only be successful if you believe you are.
2. Support system failure. If your friends and family don't support your athletic goals, it's difficult to succeed. Let them know why being active is important to you and your long-term health. Try to include them in some way, so they're involved in your athletic endeavors—be creative.
3. No routine. If you fit exercise into your life when you can, without making it a priority, other things that may seem more important will take priority over your fitness. Consistency is the most important foundation for fitness—that means scheduling an appointment to exercise a certain number of days/hours each week. There will be occasions when you can't keep a fitness appointment, but those occasions should be rare.
4. Boredom. If your fitness routine has become boring and uninspiring, the death of your routine is close. Take a risk and do something that's different and gives you butterflies. Talk a few friends into taking a new challenge with you. Adventure loves company.
5. Monotony. An exercise routine is critical to establishing fitness, but the same routine over a long period of time can lead to burnout. Even if you don't plan to do a new activity, change your routine regularly to keep it interesting. Take a rest-and-recovery week every three or four weeks.
After building foundation fitness, change the intensity of your workouts. Include a few fast-paced intervals in a few of your workouts—something as simple as 30 seconds of accelerating speed, followed by 1.5 minutes of easy pace can make a difference.
6. Unwritten goals. If you don't write down your goals, they'll easily get lost in your thoughts about work, family and daily functions. The key is to keep your fitness goals fresh in your mind so you'll be more likely to stick to your workout plan and make it a priority. Write down three fitness goals you want to accomplish in the next three to six months and post them in a place, or places, where you'll see them every day.
7. Temptation. Don't rely on your willpower—if you find potato chips or cookies irresistible, don't keep them around. Don't waste mental energy trying to stay "strong"—remove temptation from your home and office.
8. Inconvenience/difficulty. If the best health club in town is a 60-minute drive, it won't do you much good if it's too inconvenient for you to go. Look for ways to make it easy. Pack your gear and healthy snacks the night before you go to the club, ride your bike or run. Make fitness appointment with friends or family members so you can have a network of workout pals to keep you motivated.
9. Obligation. If you view your fitness as something that's obligatory, it's difficult to move beyond a minimal level of success; you shouldn't view fitness as a chore.
Many athletes keep a certain level of fitness so that they're able have fun at any given moment. Think about all the things you're able to enjoy because you're fit, like going for a hike, playing tennis, participating in a fun run, etc.—things that inactive people aren't able to do at the drop of a hat. Being fit allows you to compete in the sport of your choice, but it also opens the door to more opportunities for fun.
10. Perfection. Athletes who see the world in terms of success or failure have a hard time dealing with inevitable fitness bumps in the road. We can all strive for excellence, but no one's perfect. When your fitness is derailed, it's merely a temporary set-back—look forward to your next workout and get back on track.
What's holding you back?