Each year, gyms around the United States are bombarded with the optimistic spirits of students, ready to conquer the goals that have yet to be met from previous years. Unfortunately, as their schedules fill up, one by one these students drop out of the “gains gang” to focus on other commitments, inevitably terminating their complicated relationship with the demands of working out regularly. Even athletes who are already committed to the demands of physical fitness for their sport might find it hard to set realistic standards for themselves and carry through on their plans to improve. Luckily, there are in fact ways to combat this issue, which may be more helpful and appealing than the stereotyped SMART goals that many students have come to know and hate.
One of our own staff members, Copy Editor Grace Alex (’21), has a major goal in mind for 2020: running another marathon. The sense of accomplishment she felt after running the Detroit Marathon this past October has motivated her to keep pushing herself. “I want to be able to keep doing things that ignite passion and hard work in me, and a lot of that has to do with dedication in the training process,” she said. Many students’ resolutions aren’t quite as athletically ambitious, but Alex’s words hit on an idea that’s important for anyone who wants to improve their strength and stamina in the New Year: dedication is key.
So how can you set yourself up for success when you’re pursuing a new goal? In an article that was published in Psychology Today, Jim Taylor Ph. D. stated that “When you approach sports with the right attitude, you win.” He then went on to share six New Year’s resolutions to help athletes better themselves in the new year. Essentially, each of these resolutions relates back to taking care of your body and mind in a balanced way that will likely go against the years of intense training that have been conditioned into athletes. These tips can help all students who want to better themselves and become more active in the new year, not only the sports fanatics.
First, accepting the unavoidable ups and downs of athletics will enable faster rebounds from unexpected time off. Often, students will get sick or have a lot of homework and skip out on leg day, only to find that the next leg day is twice as hard and leave the gym early. This is okay. Have grace and understand that time off is not your enemy, and can actually have incredible benefits if scheduled correctly. Bad weather, illness, and schedule conflicts are just a few of the things that slow down determined athletes. However, if you’re truly determined, then nothing will slow you down, especially not a few days off to care for yourself.
Along with acceptance comes patience with yourself as well as others. There is no plan that guarantees success for any athlete. There is no diet, no workout, no follow-along video that will guarantee all wellness goals are overcome. What does come close to this is understanding how each body reacts to exercise differently and adjusting as you learn more about yourself. Each definition of success will be different for every athlete, and each measure of victory will hold a different significance for each athlete. Understand that this is what makes exercise and wellness so fun, and adapt to your own journey. For Alex, this means sticking to good habits of nutrition and exercise while she prepares for the rigorous path ahead. “I plan on implementing a training plan within the next few months, and right now I’m focusing on having a balanced diet and maintaining fitness,” she said.
When is comes time to buckle down and really work hard, preparedness will be a friend to all. Showing up to workout unprepared means that your goals are going to be that much harder to attain. Do everything you can to work smart, and then do a little more. Being prepared is just one of the small things that makes a huge difference in the long run. For more committed athletes this could mean coming into your season full of off-season training so that you can hit the ground running. For new athletes it could be as simple as staying hydrated throughout the day so that your workout is more effective. Along with working out, being prepared also spills into the student lifestyle. Staying on top of school work will provide a strong foundation for mentally and spiritually healthy lifestyle.
Another big part of achieving goals is focusing on the baby steps that will lead to the ultimate goal. To think of it in sports terms, a body builder wouldn’t start off lifting ridiculously heavy weights because that is their end goal; rather, they start off small and increase slowly, giving their bodies time to recover. This is just an example of the smaller goals that athletes can strive to hit along the way. If athletes focus on the smaller achievements, then the ups and downs will come a little easier, and the small successes will spur them on to keep working towards the bigger goal. If the big goal is the only goal, then every achievement made under that is actually a failure. Don’t set yourself up for failure.
Each time an athlete trains, they should be giving one hundred percent. Working out half way will just end up hurting them in the long run and train their bodies incorrectly. Prepare to mentally “give it your all” before training, and understand that it is okay to be uncomfortable and tired for a short amount of time. This goes back to being prepared and takes a lot of mental focus to push your body. All of this being said, it will definitely pay off in the end. For some athletes this looks like a routine before every practice, for others it could be listening to a specific song or eating a certain type of food. Find what works for you and do it, invest in yourself.
Finally, try to have no regrets. Following all of these tips should help with this one, and as Alex discovered, the payoff can be incredible. She explained how “the accomplishment I felt in finishing the marathon after months of physical and mental training really motivated and inspired me to keep doing things that dare me.” There might be days when the process of meeting your goals feels tedious, pointless, or exhausting. But when all else fails, train in such a way that you won’t regret how you performed due to lack of preparation. Nurture your body. Take care of your mind. Be prepared. Train hard. Let yourself succeed.