Now the Christmas cobwebs have started to accumulate and you’re all looking at your bathroom scales with regret, maybe it’s a good time to plan your season.
If you have shown consistency throughout the holidays but have no goals, then one thing I have learned over the years after base training is to understand where you are at in physiological terms. After all, to get somewhere, you have to understand where you are setting off from. Some of you may have a target race you fancy competing in, some of you may want to return to try to set a new personal best, basically this is called goal setting.
Goal setting is a psychological motivational tool that coaches use to help athletes improve their areas of weaknesses while maintaining their strengths. Goals provide a destination for athletes so they can maintain focus throughout their training. Now a good way to set a goal is to book a race, there is nothing worse than trying to motivate yourself with no destination or objectives to aim for.
Personally I like to plan my season ahead the year before. Fortunately I have qualified for the European championships, so I will be using this as one of my A races, then building B and C races around it. However, if you don’t want to book a bunch of races in advance, you can also micromanage your goal setting by setting yourself individual targets to fit in with your periodised plans. For instance, a training plan may need to include specific goals for muscular and cardiovascular fitness, techniques or a psychological mindset.
My training regimes are designed around a macro-cycle (a whole year), which are broke up into meso-cycles (four-week blocks), then finally into micro-cycles. Micro-cycles are basically little goals I set myself to reach a new technique in swimming, an extra set on the turbo, or even a few seconds knocked off my pace. These micro-cycles all give me micro improvements each week, for three weeks, then all the magic happens in my fourth week. Or as I call it rest week. Rest week is my best friend – not only does it enable me to have a break from the hard training, it also enables me to have some fun outside of the sport. However, what a lot of people fail to realise is that during rest week is when all the magic happens. This is the time when all the adaptations take place and my muscles have repaired, all my motor skills have now adapted to the breakdown of muscle memory that I have manipulated during technique drills on the track and in the pool. It is also the time I have my monthly visit to my trusty physiotherapist.
This is my little treat for all the hard work I have put in, my physio helps me understand my body, he lets me know what has taken its toll and what I need to do to prevent it from injury. It also gives me a little time to think. So what I want you to do is have a little think – think about what you want to achieve, think about your season ahead.