Maintaining motivation to train at this time of year can be a huge challenge. The glorious summer months of peak fitness and motivation levels are a thing of the past and dragging yourself out of bed and into the pool on these miserable mornings becomes a real battle.
As a former swimmer and Ironman athlete I am constantly asked how I maintained motivation over winter. To be honest, I always identified a set of objectives once the racing season was over but also gave myself a few weeks off where I did very little. I used this time to go on holiday, catch up with friends and enjoy myself with the odd drink or two! It's fine to have a few weeks of downtime; your body and mind will appreciate the rest.
The key is not to slip into a comfort zone; time away from the pool equals depleting fitness levels. It was planning for the following year that really motivated me to get back to structured training, there's nothing better than knowing you've set your targets and the wheels are in motion for a successful year. 2012 presents you with a great opportunity to finally complete that fitness challenge, particularly if it relates to swimming as British Gas are sponsoring British Swimming and providing plenty of opportunities for you to take part.
If you're struggling to find motivation, I've composed 10 tips to kick-start your 2012 training over the winter:
10 tips for Maintaining Motivation Through the Winter
1. Plan to compete in a series of races
Creating your own race schedule will provide you with a huge surge of motivation for training. Be sure to identify your “peak race” and use the others to help you work towards your goal. Race listings and information can be found at the following websites:
2. Set yourself specific goals
Set yourself personal goals no matter what your current fitness level is. That goal might be swimming 25m if you are new to swimming or completing a longer distance time trial if you're a more confident swimmer – neither goal is less important. Record your time trials in a diary to track your progress and be realistic – if you are not putting in the training hours then expect progress to be slow.
3. Set yourself a minimum training time target
It is essential to be consistent and set yourself a weekly minimum training time target. To see noticeable improvements in fitness, strength and overall health I would suggest a minimum of 3 hours a week.
4. Identify your strengths and weaknesses
Identify your strengths and weaknesses when planning your year and actively try to convert your weakness into strengths. All too often I see athletes working their strengths and ignoring their weaknesses.
5. Work with a coach
Working with a coach could be the key to unlocking some amazing performances in 2012. A coach can identify areas for improvement and help you to optimise your training time.
6. Join a local swimming club
If you struggle to self motivate then join a swimming club. Training with motivated individuals in a group situation could give you the extra push you need to get the best out of yourself. Contact your local pools and swim clubs to see what they have on offer.
7. Train with a friend
Training with a friend is great as you can motivate one another and have fun – also you will be more likely to train so as not to let your friend down.
8. Treat yourself to some new kit
Fancy new swim kit makes you feel good which motivates you to train. There are lots of swim toys that can keep your training interesting and also improve technique such as hand paddles, swim fins, and snorkels.
9. Reward yourself
But only if you've earned it! Once you've achieved a goal then reward yourself with anything from new kit to a summer holiday; the bigger the challenge, the greater the reward should be.
10. Don't be lazy!
Success comes to those that are prepared to put the hard work in - you can't get fitter by thinking about it!
My winter motivation tips are there for the taking - think big and remember the sky is the limit.
Julian Nagi, Official British Gas Swim Coach
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