The most famous thing about New Year’s Resolutions is that everyone fails at them. So why are they still a thing? They’re the product of introspection to identify things about yourself that you would like to change or improve. For many of us in obstacle racing, one of the functions of the offseason is to do just that: identify weaknesses and create plans for how to address them! That sounds a lot like a resolution.

Here are a few qualities that are in a good resolution, and how you can use this off-season to build a better you.

Get Specific and Objective

As a data scientist and mathematician, I heart numbers. It makes things real and keeps you honest. Throughout the year, you can remember what your goal was and either feel good about yourself or think about what you still need to do to achieve what you wanted at the start of the year.

For someone starting out in obstacle courses, I believe in choosing a single event as your resolution, then signing up right then and there. By putting your money down and committing to an event, your chance of success is high. Now you can focus on preparing!

For someone more experienced, this is where monthly or yearly mileage goals can be helpful. In my opinion, the number of miles you run is less important than the quality of miles you run. Some more useful goals are to improve personal records. If you struggle through the running portion, try focusing on something like improving your 5km by 30 seconds. If you struggle through platinum rigs and other grip obstacles, try focusing on lengthening your maximum farmer’s carry by 50%. If you struggle with heavy lifts, try focusing on your three-rep deadlift maximum. Notice that all of these are focused, specific and target particular weaknesses you may or may not have. They also can be tracked and retested throughout the year.

 

Be Ambitious

It is amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it. One of the joys of obstacle course racing is looking at something big and ambitious, then tackling it head on and succeeding. A year is a long time, and with consistent effort, you can make significant improvements on your previous performance.

 

Be Realistic

Making overly ambitious goals like aiming for a 16 minute 5km when you currently run a 20 minute 5km won’t get you far because it seems so out of reach that psychologically it’s easy to give up. If you set an ambitious and realistic goal early in the year, you’ll find that what you previously thought was out of your reach becomes routine, and you’ll be able to re-set another ambitious goal later in the year.

 

Accept that Repeated Failure Makes You a Better Human

Something I love about obstacle courses is that it’s not perfect completion that’s valued highest. We appreciate people that fail but keep going, amidst setbacks. Setbacks will come in this world, and the best thing we can do is recognize them and work through them.

I firmly believe in the adage: “Aim for the moon. If you miss, you’ll still land in the stars.” If you set an ambitious goal, try your honest best to achieve it. Even failing you will accomplish your original goal to improve your weakness. You’ll still have the experience of thinking about what you want to improve and making that happen. Outside obstacle courses that skill translates to making you a better boss, employee, parent, significant other, and any other role you hold.

 

Dr. Red Tights Subtip:

Sometimes we can achieve our goals alone and sometimes we need a little help from our friends. About 18 months ago, I noticed that I could only go so far by training myself. Having an external person that I respect giving me workouts has taught me a lot and given me the day to day accountability that has propelled me into a much better athlete. (Thanks, Dennis Wayne Welch.) So set those ambitious goals, then think if you have confidence that you can do it with the skills and people you have around you.

If you need a little help, find it!

There are a lot of great amateur athletes (myself included) that will assist you for free or low cost. Also, more and more professional or semi-professional athletes specialize in training people just like you. Something unique about this sport is that the by enlarge, the elites are more than happy to help their fellow competitors, and they do it with a big smile on their face.