Building a Strong Foundation Starts with Reflection...

This time of year, when athletes finish their major events and take time off from training, has traditionally been called the "off-season." Often, that time off goes a little too far and we end up unwinding all that we worked for during the season. At VQ we are trying to shift this mindset by putting a premium on exercise at this time of year. I consider the off-season to be an opportunity for us to do fun events and reduce structure. So let’s stop calling it the off-season. The “on-season” starts in October/November and we really, really need to use this time to build the foundation for next season and focus on our overall health.

To begin, we reflect on how this year went. More on that later…

After that, we can move to setting goals, picking events and focusing on areas to improve. As endurance athletes, we tend to neglect some very important things that keep us healthy and happy. We need to make sure we stay connected with athleticism and coordination--something endurance sports often neglect.

Next, we need to build more strength and stability to handle the heightened torque built through increases in fitness, power and speed. This increased fitness leads to faster running, swimming and cycling which often results in higher torque outputs, faster turnovers and generally more muscular stress across all aspects of gait, pedal and swim stroke. The bottom line is this: the faster we go, the more stable we have to be. As we age, strength and stability become tougher to maintain without a dedicated strength and stability program. This all makes perfect sense, but the real challenge is time. How do we fit it in and what do we give up to address this need? Well, thanks to our weather changes at this time of year, we often do not have the time or opportunity to ride and run as much as we do in the spring and summer. Therefore most of us reduce our cycling and running this time of year. This is actually a perfect opportunity to replace some of that time with stability and strength work in the gym and the chance to try a coordination-type sport to help eye-hand development and general athleticism. Squash, hockey, cross-country skiing, basketball, soccer, tennis, paddle (this one scares me a little), etc. just a couple times a week will help keep the neurons in the brain talking to all the different proprioceptors, muscles to help improve motor patterns and skills thereby helping us become better athletes overall. And by the way, getting better at something besides an endurance sport feels really good!

So, my pledge this year is to get back to playing hockey and doing some long overdue strength work and I hope many of you make an effort to do the same (well, your version).

The other take-away here is to reflect on this year's journey, considering all its successes. Don’t look at it from a power numbers standpoint, but from an overall, “30,000-foot” viewpoint. Ask the important questions!

Tackle the easy ones first:

  • Did I achieve my goal(s)?
  • Did I improve?
  • Did I develop some new positive habits?
  • Did I become healthier?

Then some tougher ones:

  • Did I make those around me better?
  • Did I help someone else have a better journey?
  • Did I grow as a person?
  • Did I enhance my life balance?

And why stop there?

  • What endurance goals look fun and challenging for next year?
  • What sort of impact will these goals have on my life?
  • What sort of challenges do I see in achieving these goals?
  • What sort of community can I engage in and support to help make my journey more meaningful?
  • Am I surrounding myself with people who inspire me to grow?

We should all be asking these questions of ourselves. Consider including significant others and/or coaches. From there, we can begin the work of picking some events that will encourage growth toward the love of healthy, challenging, balanced journeys that will push our limits, enhance our moods, make us healthier and bring about feelings of progress and development in our lives.

This is how we develop fitness routines at Vision Quest Coaching. We believe strongly that giving meaning and structure to goals while enhancing the balance of life is crucial. Without one, we cannot have the other.

Now, let’s get going!!!