I crest the hill, and suddenly everything feels light. I feel like I'm flying, down through the trees as the path twists & winds its way downhill... Snow carpets the route but my feet find their placement without conscious thought. Yes! This is why I love running...
In my last blog post, I asked if you'd ever thought about why you paddle. What is it that you love about your watery pastime? Why do you get on the water? What really makes you get excited about that next outing?
This time, I wanted to focus on what you're aiming for. Goal setting; although that's not a term that gets many people excited...
And therein lies the rub. If your goals and your motivation aren't the same, will you be excited and motivated to work towards those goals? When it gets tough, will you keep reminding yourself to use what you've learned? To keep up with that great forward paddling technique when you get tired, so you can go further or faster? To paddle out again for just one more wave, when you're flagging but the surf is still good? To remind yourself not to put in that negative stroke?
That brings me to the first paragraph of this post: I'm not a particularly good runner, but I love it. For years though, I focused on entering road-running events. I'm not really sure why, if I'm honest: perhaps I thought 'that's just what you do'. I thought I should be faster, and worked hard to get my 5k, 10k or half marathon times down. I entered a couple of marathons, but the training felt hard and I always got injured before I hit the start line.
Then this winter, something changed. I decided just to run for fun, not to enter any events unless they really appealed, and purely for the beauty of the place. Instead, I altered my goal-focus towards running a route I've wanted to do for ages, not for anyone but me. It's a trail run, in a beautiful place, and just challenging enough that I need to get out and train for it. As a result, I'm thoroughly enjoying running and exploring trails, with no pressure to get faster or compete with anyone else but myself. That goal is still to be met, but I know I'll get there.
So what really motivates you? Do you just love spending time on the water with friends? Or the physical challenge of paddling in tough conditions? Or something else? What are you working towards, and why? Do the two things match?
If they don't, the chances are your goal will be a tough one to master. Just like my old running goals, of bringing my half marathon time down, if meeting your goal demands that you work hard at something you don't enjoy, the chance of you doing that, and not finding an excuse to avoid it, is very much reduced.
When I first began lifting weights, my trainer at the time laid it on the line to me: "The best form of exercise is the one you'll actually do". Wise words!
If your motivation is beautiful scenery, wildlife and enjoying wild places, will you really be motivated to get out in rough water in order to pass your Advanced Sea Kayak Leader award? If what you really love is the buzz of surfing a wave, should you really enter that Sea Kayak race? If you can't get enough of the smile on people's faces when they achieve success: perhaps your goal should be coaching-related?
So, should those goals be SMART? Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound, right? Well, not necessarily. If it suits you to set a SMART goal, well, go ahead. It's a great way to work. But that doesn't work for everyone, and at the end of the day, we're all different. If it works for you to just have something you'd like to achieve which, well, you'll get to one day... Do you know what? That's absolutely fine!
Personally, I have a paddling-related goal I've been working towards for around two years now. I can see it perhaps taking another couple of years, or maybe more, before I achieve it. What I do know, though, is that it motivates the living daylights out of me. Come hell or high water, wind or rain, I'll get there one day. I've visualised it so many times, I can virtually touch the water and feel the spray on my face. There'll be knock-backs and disappointments on the way, and I'll have to work hard to get there. But I will.