A few years ago a friend of mine completed her first Iron Man competition. When I called to congratulate her I asked, "What on earth was going through your mind as you spent hour after grueling hour out there?" Her answer was simple, "Keep moving forward." She went on to explain that she almost turned back because she felt overwhelmed at the start line but saw her family cheering for her and she knew that she could not let them down. As long as she was going in the right direction, the finish line was getting closer. "Keep moving forward" became her mantra that day.
What finish line awaits you? Is it a century ride? Perhaps it is a cross country riding goal or a particular event you wish to complete. A triathlon? State Championship Road Race? Whatever your finish line happens to be KEEP MOVING FORWARD until you attain it. Here's how:
Determine Your Strengths. Your first strength is your commitment to the cause. Is quitting really a viable option? No way. Not now! Not after you have put hours of your emotional energy into this. Not after you have paid the price through sweat, pain and sacrifice. Other helpful strengths are mental fortitude, physical strength, family support and specific skill sets for your particular goal.
Identify Your Limitations. What is it that could possibly get in the way of your completing the goal? Perhaps you did not train as you desired - but you did train. Capture that truth and move forward. Could it be that you do not believe in yourself? Then start believing now: list all of the reasons why you CAN get to your finish line. Ignore the voices that say you can not. Is your limitation physical? Then make the best of it, train that particular inadequacy and get on with the task at hand. Be honest but be positive. Is there a nay-sayer in your midst? Then determine to prove that you CAN.
Design a Plan. Now that you have put aside the notion that you might not succeed at this, recommit yourself to the fact that you will see the finish line. Either go online and find a training program or hire a trainer / coach to aid you in this endeavor. If your #1 goal is to complete the job then set up a training program that will gently lead you to the end. Incorporate mental training through positive self talk, visualization and pushing through the difficult portions of your training sessions. If your #1 goal is to compete, then you have to ante up your game. You should know yourself and know your competition. Study times on the course from past events. Come up with a strategy using your strengths that will assist you when the trying times come - and they will. Include the finish line in your plans: what will you do when you cross it? How do you think you might feel physically? Once you see your loved ones on the other side of the barrier how do you think you might feel emotionally? When you get that medal around your neck or see your time on the finish clock, what might be going through your head? Where will you go for a post-race meal? These are all good questions to include in your pre-race planning to help give you that edge to press on when your body is screaming out for you to quit.
One important lesson that I have learned in all of my hours and miles of training is this: the time to make decisions is NOT when you are in pain or distress. When your legs are screaming so loudly your cycling partners can hear them, do not say to yourself, "I'm not going to do one more interval" or "I can not keep this up" or "Never again will I climb this hill". No - your thought energies can best be utilized in another way. It is reminiscent of asking a Mother who just delivered a baby if she wants more kids. That is not the time to ask! When you feel as if you are dying that is not the time to make any sort of decision as to how hard to push, the next training session or if you're going to do another race. Instead focus on what you can do and do it until you have set out to finish what you started.
Keep it simple: determine your strengths, identify your limitations and design a plan for success. Put it into motion and above all else - keep moving forward. Your finish line is in sight. Now go cross it!