By Marty Gaal
You’ve finished your big race for the season. You rested, tapered and then went all out. A few days later, you start asking yourself, “What’s next?”
If you’re like most endurance athletes, it is difficult to stay well-motivated without a training/racing goal on the horizon. You may be able to muddle through a handful of months by mixing up your training and keeping things interesting, but at some point you’ll want to pick a target and start aiming directly at it.
Pick an event that fits your life. If you’re chasing a toddler or two around it may not be the best time of life to attempt an ultra-endurance event like an Ironman. If your money situation is tight, picking a less costly event closer to home will cause less financial stress. If you’re coming back from a serious running injury, a marathon is a high-risk choice.
Pick something you want to do, not someone else. We can hang off of someone else’s goals for a while, but ultimately real motivation and passion will come from preparing for a feat that you want to accomplish.
Pick an event that suits your strengths. I have this talk with a few of my athletes every season — if you really dislike the hills then don’t make your main goal of the season a race with lots of hills (unless you are prepared to change your mentality about hills). That is called setting yourself up for failure. If you suffer badly in the heat, pick a race with a high probability of cooler temps. Set yourself up for success.
Give yourself enough time to prepare. Dithering around for four months and then training ‘hard’ for three is a great way to fall short of your original goals. Pick your goal and start today — not tomorrow, not next week.
Pick a couple interim goals. We advise some less-important races along the way to your main race, but you can also do solo time trialing and/or metabolic testing to really quantify your fitness progression.
Give yourself a plan. Whether you do your own thing or work with a coach, get yourself a written plan that provides a comprehensive overview of the approach you will use. There are many good approaches and many right ways to prepare — so pick one and get going.
Marty Gaal, CSCS, is lead coach and co-founder of One Step Beyond. Marty and the One Step Beyond coaches work with endurance athletes around the globe.