It isn’t a challenge unless it is challenging


My journey to my challenge

The term ‘challenge’ has different meanings to different people. A challenge may be to run 5 kilometres, walk to the top of Mt Maunganui without stopping or take on a something out of the comfort zone like a triathlon or multisport event.

 
Setting a challenge or goal can depend on several things; time restraints, fitness level and outright desire can play a huge factors in whether the challenge is achievable. It is tackling these individual hurdles with a positive outlook rather than seeing them as blockers.

 
There is no doubt about it, New Zealand is an adventurous and active country (one of the main reason I moved here from the UK), therefore the opportunity to take part in amazing activities is right on our doorstep and shouldn’t be taken for granted. I, and the Beyond Fitness team have embraced what NZ has to offer and we believe in taking on an adventure in the outdoors is a great way to challenge yourself whilst ticking off some of those other goals such as getting fitter, faster or stronger. Not only will your health and fitness improve, your overall wellbeing will be transformed.

 
Let’s look at the ins and outs of ‘a challenge’. A challenge can be a great motivator for someone who is looking to improve their health and fitness. However, so many people are scared to commit to a challenge because they see the overall picture as unattainable and too big to comprehend – many people put in the ‘too hard basket’.
The truth is, the challenges which are hard to grasp are the challenges you need to tackle. No matter what the challenge there are several simple steps that will ensure you can give it your best effort. I like to use these steps when I am tackling a new challenge or adventure.

  • No 1. Is It a Challenge?
  • No 2. Verbalise
  • No 3. Plan
  • No. 4 Review
  • No. 5 Delivery

 

No 1. Is It a Challenge?
Is your challenge truly a challenge? There is a difference between a challenge and something you just want to do. Identifying the difference is important as it effects your motivation and dedication. When you are choosing a challenge ask yourself this simple question:

 
‘If it was a life and death situation could I complete the challenge tomorrow?’

 
Did you answer no? then go for gold, this is a perfect challenge to go for. If you answered Yes, then dream bigger! or make the challenge more specific. The danger of not creating specifics around a challenge means never taking the challenge seriously because deep down you know you can do it, this may lead to never actually completing it as there is no urgency to begin training.

Here is an example of specifics for you. Recently I challenged myself to do the Coast to Coast Multisport Race in the South Island, you have to bike, run and kayak from one side of the country to the other. Deep down I knew I could complete it, so to make it a challenge and to provide extra motivation I needed more specifics to turn it into a true challenge that would ensure I gave it my all. These were my specifics:

1. To beat all of the professional females – The professional females are fast, they beat 90% of the men’s field, and this is a goal which is easy to measure.
2. To complete the race in under 14hrs, this will be effected by weather but should be an achievable goal if I race well.
3. Beat my training buddies Bevan and James, very stereotypical but I am a male and I am competitive, so of course I want to earn bragging rights, and I know they would be doing the same.

 
No 2. Verbalise.
This is probably the easiest thing to achieve, but the hardest to do. Everybody is scared of failing in the public eye, by telling everyone your goal you are creating a possibility for that to happen. However when you look at the positives of verbalising your challenge, you are being held accountable. For me (and this won’t be the same for everyone) I told as many people around me as I could. The more people that know the better, peer accountability is a powerful tool. To ingrain the specifics, tell people about it:

  1. When will it happen.
  2. Where will it happen.
  3. What your challenge includes.

My first verbalising step was to tell my wife, she needs to buy in to the challenge for me to stand a chance of completing it. Your spouse, partner, kids and wider family are your primary support when things get tough, they need to be backing you all the way.
Secondly I tell my peers and clients, I want them to know what I am up to, in turn they ask me on my progress throughout my training which helps to hold me accountable throughout the process.

 
No 3. Plan.
This is the hard bit, however the devil is in the detail. I like to work backwards from the event or challenge. I ask myself these simple questions:

  1. Where are my current strengths?
  2. Where do my strengths need to be for this challenge? Are they the same or different?
  3. What do I need to do to gain or improve these strengths?

Once you have highlighted your current strengths, and the strengths needed for the challenge, I encourage you to ask for advice from someone with experience on how you can improve or gain the strengths required. Experience and knowledge can be extremely beneficial. To gain the skills required you will need:

  1. Weekly Plan – What do you need to do on a weekly basis to get to your goal
  2. Monthly Plan – What do you need to do on a monthly basis to get to your goal
  3. Minor Goals – Minor goals to keep you focused at improving on the areas required.

From previous experience I knew I had two main areas of weaknesses that would prevent me from achieving my challenge, my running ability and excessive cramping. The trick is now to create some minor goals around these that will help overcome these weaknesses.

I consider myself to be an ok runner, but some of the guys and girls who run over Goat Pass are incredible, it is actually inconceivable how they can run that fast up a mountain and over a rocky river bed, they make me feel like I am stood still. To improve this skill I knew I had to replicate race like conditions and find more speed. Here is how I planned to overcome this weakness:

  1. Weekly – I ran up, I ran around, I ran tracks you never knew existed on The Mount each week, to improve my hill running ability.
  2. Monthly – I found a river out towards Katikati which was great practice river bed running, this really helped with the skills required and confidence of running on wet rocks. I ran here once a month up to race day.
  3. Minor Goal – I choose a technical running only event in Rotorua in order to put my skills to the test.

Cramping is my nemesis, I hate it, and it seems to love me. Unfortunately, there are inconclusive reasons as to what causes cramp, and for this reason I knew I would need to spend time simulating race situations so I can practice my nutrition, hydration and intensities as I suspected these were the causes.

  1. Weekly – At least once a week I used Tailwind and Clif bars during training to ensure my body was happy digesting food whilst training.
  2. Monthly – On the long weekend training sessions I would simulate race conditions; wake up early, eat my pre race meal and replicate race day (as much as I could).
  3. Minor Goal – I planned a weekend adventure cycling up, and running around Mt Ruapehu. I knew it was going to be hot and intense which required perfect nutrition.
    With time and practice I worked out a combination of Tailwind and Clif bars that kept me fueled, hydrated and ready to role.

 

No. 4 Review
Prior to a race or challenge the sense of over whelming can hit home. It is important to look back at what you have done. This will remind you of all the hours of training, planning and preparation you have put in. It also reminds you just how much you have improved and learnt throughout the process.
Tracking and recording what you have done is essential when it comes reviewing your progress. There are many awesome apps and programmes you can try. I personally use Strava and Training Peaks. They are very user friendly and allow people to follow your progress. Be warned, they can become very obsessive… in a good way though.

 

No. 5 Delivery
Probably the most nerve racking part but should be the most fun. You need to stay focused on what you need to do, and remember the journey you have taken to get here. It’s taken me a while to work out my top three tips but I have nailed it down to these:

  1. Stick to the plan
  2. Stay on top of your nutrition
  3. Enjoy yourself, smile, and remember we do these things because we will never regret doing them.