Friday, December 29, 2006

What worked for you?

We're very close to the start of a new year, and it's time to look back and reassess where we would like to go in the next year, and reinstate the programs that worked last year.

Lots of us have challenges around the holidays to stay on track and tend to stray away from our healthy exercise and nutrition programs, but that's normal, and usually we get re-focused around the first of the year.

Here's my question for my esteemed readers:

Looking back over the year, what WORKED to keep you focused and committed on your fitness program, while still keeping your life in balance with your other priorities and responsibilities?

I have a tendency to skip workouts. At heart, I'm a slacker, through and through. It's so much more comfortable and familiar to me to sit on the couch and eat something yummy than get my rear in gear and go do that workout.

So for 2006 I tried something new. I set minimum distances that I wanted to make every week, and tallied up how many weeks I met that goal. (Separate numbers for running, cycling, swimming and my nutrition goals). I set the bar very low - about the amount that I thought I could do "easily" - so that it was readily achievable every week even when I didn't really feel like it. Every week I kept good records (in the sidebar) and kept track of whether I had made it that week or not.

Everyone says that consistency is important, but I've never seen anyone provide a workable method of tracking exactly how consistent someone is - or isn't. This approach worked great for me, and helped improve my consistency ENORMOUSLY this year.

I did a lot of workouts on the last day of my week to meet my minimums that I normally wouldn't have done. Even if I felt tired and lazy, I could usually still get out for a couple running miles to put toward my weekly total. And every week I started out with a fresh slate - that seems to be important for me psychologically. Every single week I didn't have to make up for past slackness, but instead I was able to start over from scratch towards a new tally.

It also helped me to make a weekly plan and keep my daily numbers updated nearly every day and publicly viewable in my sidebar. I only missed updating it for a very few days out of the year, usually when I was traveling or sick, but I didn't use vacations, nor an "off season" as an excuse to slack off entirely this year. Even if no one but me really checked that sidebar, and I rarely (if ever) adhered precisely to the plan, posting the numbers there daily made me feel some accountability and reminded me of what I wanted to accomplish every day. It kept my attention correctly on the daily process that's needed for fitness, without getting too overwhelmed in the magnitude of the long-term performance goals.

For the first time in 2006, I don't think there were any weeks this year that I did *no* workouts - that's a new one for me! Normally after a big event like a marathon I would take off entirely for a week or sometimes even two or three.

It also helped keep my attention balanced on all four disciplines - so that I hardly ever completely neglected running, swimming, cycling, or nutrition - as I have a strong tendency to do while I focus on "other things". (Like sitting on the couch and eating, or sitting at my computer for far too long).

It added up! We're not quite finished with the year, but this is what I have accumulated so far:

2006 swim goal (1500 meters/week or more) met: 43/51 weeks
2006 bike goal (20 miles/week or more) met: 43/51 weeks
2006 run goal (10 miles/week or more) met: 40/51 weeks
2006 food log goal (5 days per week or more) met: 37/51 weeks

2006 swim total: 90 miles
2006 bike total: 2734 miles
2006 run total: 707 miles

I also lost about 20 pounds during 2006, and while my body weight has leveled off for a while, at least I didn't re-gain it.

I'm not burned out - I'm in a good frame of mind and fairly motivated to get started on a new year of challenges. I'll review my numbers and re-set my goals and keep rolling.

What worked well for YOU this last year??


From Here to There said...

Well I can tell you what didn't work for me... just winging it. Ya, heavier (not getting on the scale till New Year's Eve), much less fit, bummed out.

I'm going to try your approach. Thanks for putting it down for us.

bunnygirl said...

The main thing that works for me is just staying flexible. I used to do evening workouts, but found that it was getting easier and easier for me to blow them off. So I switched to working out as soon a I got home from work, even if I was hungry and tired.

Don't be afraid to change your schedule around, if it will help you stay on track. That was what worked for me this year!

That, and tape. ;-)

mishele k said...

Wow, what a great improvement! Congratulations on having such a successful 2006; may your next year be even more so!

WADDLER26.2 said...

I had more didn't works. No training schedule,no big goal, and overeating. But I did discover duathlons and biking.

Mojo said...

Very impressive mileage year end totals, Nancy! Especially on the bike. I'm proud of you.

I am the opposite of you. I had a plan and followed it but thought if I added "more" it was better. When I was supposed to take a day off, I didn't. My coach/friend warned me about burn out but I have a harder head than the goats.

After my triathlon season was over, I learned to listen to those that are more experienced than I am. Pushing myself harder isn't always better. I now follow my lifting plans. I am okay with two rest days a week because I now understand it makes me stronger.

21st Century Mom said...

What does it for me is getting it done first, before anything else imposes itself on my. What just about never works is saying "I'll go for a run at lunch".

I need a training plan and an event to be really successful. I also need to remeber how much self loathing I suffer when I just stay in bed and don't do my planned workout.

My goal this year is to be driven from a more positive place than avoiding self loathing. It won't be easy.

I like your methodology, too. I am so impressed that you can manage twins and get in your workouts AND do events. Very impressed. Goooooooooooooooooo Nancy!

triathlonmom said...

I'm so impressed with your results this year....If it ain't broke don't fix it, you are doing great and loosing 20 lbs is a huge accomplishment.
What works for me is a team environment (TRIgirl Training). Training with a team makes me accountable the same way you make yourself accountable by posting your distance/workout logs. I know that is not really an option for you, living where you i just have to say, be ever so thankful for your riding buddy which is the next best thing.

nancytoby said...

Thanks! I do appreciate him - he kicked my butt to get in a lot more riding than I would have otherwise!!

Yeah, we've been working toward getting some more cycling partners in the area, but it's slow to recruit people!! But maybe we can bring a few more timid souls over to the Dark Side.... there's a good tri-group about 45 minutes away but that's a little far for everyday training, unfortunately.

A Wild Celtic Rose said...

I changed my work schedule to 6:00 AM to 2:30 PM, in the Pacfic Northwest, that gives about 1 hour and 15 minutes of daylight running time.

Working a regular schedule up here, means that at midwinter, you will NEVER seen daylight on a work day.

That's depressing.

I find that if I take my running stuff to work and go STRAIGHT out to run, not passing "go", not collecting $200, and not getting distracted by anything else, I'm more likely to do it.

Ellie said...

Paying a coach helped. Also, already having shelled out the $450 or IMFL!!

And having a dog is always an incentive... if I don't run, the dog doesn't get to run, and if I don't run, I don't have an excuse to keep a dog....

Fe-lady said...

Getting my butt out the door most mornings before work to get in my run and swimming or cyclling after work no matter how tired I was (I biked on a bike path out of traffic when really tired!)
Consistency sure helped me! this year!

Mister P. said...

Wow, you rocked this year!

For me, I don't believe exercise is its own reward. I need to be working towards something, and it has to be a relatively short-term goal. (say, 2 months or less.) I scheduled a lot of races this year, and that really kept me motivated: Two half marathons, two marathons, 2 Olympic Tris and a sprint. So even though my first marathon was a long-term goal, I had shorter races along to way to act as stepping stones.

Paying a race registration fee: Huge motivation.