Maintaining Momentum: Find Your Own Goal

Josie Penfold is back to share her experience about how she regained her match strength and fitness.

A question I am often asked is where do I get the motivation to continue to go to the gym? How do I still manage to train for up to two hours after completing an eight, sometimes a nine, hour shift which involved my being on my feet all day? My answer is simple; I have a goal. And I become so fixated on this goal, that missing a session when I’m too tired or can’t be bothered becomes more painful than the session itself. However, recently this goal has altered. What once was a goal that required a competition date to work towards, and the fear of failure at the said competition, has transformed into a goal that is driven by the visualisation of success.

Now, the reason for this transformation came after my most recent competition in November, 2017. After working so hard for three months and pushing myself to every session no matter what, the competition was quickly over and suddenly there was no goal; there was no motivation. With the near future holding, what I then believed to be no actual event to train and prepare for, I found myself giving up and thereby throwing away everything I’d so far achieved. It quickly became easy to miss a session, or two…choosing instead to relax on the sofa in front of the television. Before I knew it I was stuck in a cycle, and not the good kind – the kind of cycle where doing nothing becomes habit, and exercise seems like a huge task, too great for my capability.

Something that I should really add now, is that in this competition, I achieved a total lifted weight of 305kg at a body weight of 61.2kg – which for me is really good. Not only was I impressed with this score, but also this particular total meant that I had qualified to compete at the British Women’s Championships – I would be competing against some of the best, some of the strongest women in Britain. For those of you who don’t know, powerlifting consists of three lifts: squat, bench and deadlift. Contestants are split into a group based on gender and weight, then are granted three attempts at each lift, and the heaviest weights at each lift are added together to give an individual’s competition total.

Photograph by Fatboy Strong Photography

Now previously, the Nationals has been held in July, so I was expecting to still be training for the competition right now. However, I remained oblivious to any changes in the British Powerlifting calendar, and decided that July was a long way off, and after working so hard, I deserved a week off from training altogether. A week quickly became two weeks, and then three…and then enough was enough and I forced myself to get back to the gym. So I did a session in the beginning of December and it was hard. Really hard. Stupidly, I expected my body to be able to maintain the strength it had once held and didn’t give it any opportunity to warm up and tap into my muscle memory. Additionally, the training session I did had no direction or purpose as I was still in the process of deciding which programme to use. With Nationals seeming so far away, my motivation was severely lacking. And, of course, with it being December, Christmas was soon upon us. I was so far gone into my inactive cycle that waiting until the New Year to start afresh seemed like a sensible idea

Well, it was over the Christmas period when I was leisurely scrolling through Instagram that I came across a fellow lifters post about her preparation for Nationals and a countdown of just over two months. Confused, I quickly went onto the British Powerlifting calendar to look up all of the 2018 competitions and to my devastation, I saw that the British Women’s Championships had been moved to February because it was too close to other competitions if it was held in July. I now had less than two months to train for what would have been my biggest competition to date. As luck would have it, I fell ill with the flu for two painful weeks in the beginning of January. By the time I was better and back at the gym, my time was running out and my strength had drastically decreased. I felt defeated.

A part of me told myself to train and just go and do my best, but another, louder part questioned what would be the point of attending when I knew it wouldn’t be my best. I wanted Nationals to be an opportunity to showcase my ability. That’s not to say I wanted to go there and win, but I wanted to give it my best shot and I wasn’t at my best; I was far from it. It was now the end of January, and my hopes for the competition quickly dissolved.

I now had no goal. All the upcoming competitions in my area clashed with pre-made plans, but I had a choice: I could just give up and wait until there was a competition that I could attend and then create a training plan for that specific competition – or I could just go to the gym and let strength and fitness be my goal. I chose the latter. I tested my one rep maxes to see my current strength. I then worked off these numbers (which were significantly weaker than the total I had achieved in November) with a new programme. The first few weeks were difficult and it took time to regain the momentum and drive to keep turning up, session after session, despite having no physical goal of a competition to work towards. I slowly began to feel comfortable in the gym again, and noticed my strength gradually increasing.

Photograph by Fatboy Strong Photography

And then I realised, I don’t need a competition to push me to go to the gym and train; I just need a goal, and that goal doesn’t have to be to win, or to beat anyone, but simply it’s a goal to better myself. I knew that I had a long way to go before I reached my previous strength. I also knew that once I reached that strength, it wouldn’t stop there. I could continue to grow; to become stronger, fitter, better. And that’s now my new motivation, my new goal; to be the best me possible. I currently don’t have any upcoming competitions as I’ve been away for a while, and just enjoying training for me. My squat and deadlift are near enough back to where they were, and my bench press and increased by an amazing 5kgs!

The motivation to train was once the fear of failing, the fear of being the weakest person in a competition that I had signed up for. Now, it’s the visualisation of becoming something even greater than I could ever have imagined previously.

Set yourself a goal, and when you achieve it, which you will, set an even greater one. Never stop bettering yourself. And once you taste success, the motivation won’t leave. It’s addictive. Create your own goal and let that be your motivation.

Josie is a contributor for Leeds Living, covering a wide variety of subjects, from health and fitness and the arts and culture, to music, food and drink.

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