Steven Jonas has completed 217 multisport events. He’s written five books ontriathlon training. He’s a professor of preventive medicine at Stony Brook University in New York who has written extensively on “mobilizing motivation.” So he knows a few things about setting training goals for a new year and harnessing the motivation to bring those goals to reality. At 74, Jonas also recognizes that athletic goals must be adjusted with age. Jonas’ “Ordinary Mortals” program-a five-step pathway to mobilizing motivation-is especially applicable this time of year.
1. Assess Your Motivation
Take a moment and assess where you are as an athlete (and, yes, we’re all athletes). “What do you like about what you’re doing?” Jonas asks. “What would I like to change?” This is a simple exercise, but many people don’t take a moment to examine their motivations.
2. Define Success
Jonas has completed three Ironman triathlons, the last coming in 1996. He no longer defines success by finishing one of the most grueling endurance challenges in sports, focusing on shorter distance triathlons. “Let’s say you’ve reached a plateau,” Jonas says. “It could be that you’re bored or stuck or need to change your training. But it could be that your definition of success is unrealistic. I’m 74 and I want to stay in this sport as long as I can. So I’ve had to redefine success.” Success, Jonas says, has to be something that’s “reasonable, realistic and conceivably achievable for you given who you are as a person and what else is going on in your life.”
3. Set Goals
Once you’ve defined success, you can set goals for yourself that are related to the self assessment. It’s important to aim high, but they also should be rational and reasonable goals. Ask yourself questions. Why do I want to get there? What do I expect to get out of the change, should I achieve it? What do I think I can reasonably expect to do? What are the sacrifices and can I commit to them? (Do I really want to?) “Answering those questions provide the focus and concentration you must have in order to have the best chance of success,” Jonas says.
4. Establish Priorities
If you have set more than one goal, where do they rank? What’s the most important to achieve? Which is the least? What about priorities between your new goal(s) and other aspects of your life such as family and career? If juggling needs to be done, it will be very helpful to do some thinking about that. “Some people train 30 hours a week and their family life suffers,” Jonas says. “Keeping everything in balance is key.”
5. Take Control
This means putting yourself in charge of the whole process, adopting a can-do attitude and perspective, given that the first four steps have been followed, of not depending on anyone else but also not taking anyone else’s direction. Advice on both process and content (from coaches, trainers, mentors) is important, but avoid direction in the sense of “you must do this.” You’re solely responsible for success or failure. “Think of this as a five-step, continual feedback loop,” Jonas says. “The key is to be ready to explore your limits while recognizing limitations.”
More on Steven Jonas’ Triathlon Training
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