We learn the value of hard work very early in life. One of my favorite books to read to my son Anders is called Pancakes Pancakes. The little boy in the book wakes up one morning and asks his mom for pancakes for breakfast. The mom agrees to make them, but first she sends the boy to the field to cut some oats and bring the oats to the mill to make flour. Then she has the boy milk a cow and he churns the milk into butter. Then the boy gathers an egg from the chicken coup and finally some firewood to make a fire in the cook stove. The mother mixes all of the ingredients together to make the best pancake the boy has ever had. The little boy certainly enjoyed eating his pancake and probably enjoyed it even more because he had to work for it. It doesn’t take much interpretation to realize the book isn’t about eating a pancake, it’s about the work and preparation necessary to make the pancake. I don’t know if Anders picks up on this yet, but since we’re all grown-ups here I’ll ask the question: What’s your Pancake?
Now is the time of the year when you are most in touch with how the season went. Don’t let the weeks go by before you start to forget just how painful it was to bonk at this race, or get beat by your buddy at that race, or how your arms, back, or legs, gave out at that other race. While these memories are still fresh in your mind, use them. Take the good, the bad, and the ugly and set your goals for next winter. Ahvo Taipale and I used to have a system where we would plan, execute, and analyze and then repeat this on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. This is the time of the year to analyze how things went while looking at the bigger picture of the training year. Figure out what you did well and why, what you didn’t do well and why, what your strengths are, and what your weaknesses are. Then figure out what you want to do next season by setting your goals. The goals you set become your direction for the training year. There are few things more satisfying than knowing every day you are doing what you can to get closer to your goals. Your goals will be the driving force that gets you out the door on the hot and muggy July days, the cold and rainy October mornings, or maybe even in the car for a road trip to West Yellowstone for Thanksgiving.
Make your goal as specific as making the Olympic Team or as basic as just getting in better shape. For the athlete with the goal to make the Olympic team, the plan will not be compromised. For most of us, it is hard enough to put a plan together around a full-time job, a family, or other things life has to offer, but the goal will get us out the door. Use it as motivation and track your progress throughout the year. This can be a sophisticated process or a simple one but find some way to know that each day you are moving yourself in the right direction.
So, what is your Pancake going to be for next winter?
I know it sounds too good to be true, but give it a shot and write something down. You might just reach your goals.