Women who get fit by setting ‘extraordinary goals’, and how you can too
It's about now when many of us start to lose the motivation for those grand health and fitness resolutions we made over the New Year.
By now the motivation to get up before the sun rises and bound your way to the gym every morning before work has probably waned a little because, well, it gets a bit boring. So if you've resorted to sleeping in your workout gear just to get yourself out of bed, it's probably time to look elsewhere for inspiration to get fit.
Setting extraordinary goals such as a marathon or 100km fundraising walk can provide external motivation beyond simply getting fit, and can deliver a sense of achievement for those looking for something more.
"Some people love to push themselves to the limit in every way possible, including work and sport," says psychologist and director of Suzie Plush Consulting, Suzie Plush.
"Research indicates that their motivation stems from goal achievement, competition, respect, adrenaline and wanting to reach the next level."
On 1 March Healthquarters personal trainer and nutritionist Katherine Rothwell will be participating in the Wild Women on Top Sydney Coastrek, which is a 50 or 100km team coastline walk from Palm Beach to Coogee raising money for the Fred Hollows Foundation.
According to Rothwell, while most people exercise to get fitter, stronger or lose weight, this tends to be a never-ending goal, which fails to keep people motivated. Instead, by setting an extraordinary goal like Coastrek, the focus becomes achieving that challenging goal, while the physical fitness gained becomes a secondary benefit.
Rothwell and her team have been training since last October in the lead up to the 50km challenge, and most of them are busy, working mums.
"Our weekly training involves about 2.5 hours of walking plus two or three times a week we do cross training sessions. We also do a longer walk every two to three weeks, increasing the distance each time," says Rothwell, who completed her first Coastrek last year.
"We either do our training on a evening at 7pm or early morning at 6am. Our longer walks generally take place on a Sunday morning. If you're committed to something like this you'll find the time."
For Rothwell, it's the sense of achievement and greater goal of raising money that has kept her and her team motivated to keep training for Coastrek over the last five months.
"There is a great sense of achievement in not only attempting and hopefully finishing the event, but also the sense of achievement from committing to training for something like this," she says.
"There is also the social element of being in a team and motivating each other."
By committing to an extraordinary goal, many people also find that the training provides a much-needed release from the day-to-day stresses of everyday life.
Baker & McKenzie lawyer and ultra marathon runner Samantha Gash says training for her sport is as much about physical fitness as it is mental.
"It's my release time. I've always really craved that connection with nature and being outside," says Gash, who manages to fit in her training for ultra marathon races around a demanding work schedule.
"I have to be capable of training in the morning. I train at lunchtimes and I've roped a few of my work colleagues into running with me at lunchtime. I try and do that at least two or three times a week and I'll always run home as well and do extended runs."
While Gash's ultra-marathon running is at the extreme end of extreme, she shares the same goal of trying to balance health and fitness with a career.
"People who work really hard need an escape every now and then, to rebalance, and to get that perspective which I think you can sometimes lose when you're constantly working," she says.
Some reading inspiration:
A Life Without Limits: Read how Chrissie Wellington became an elite sportswoman and Ironman champion at the age of 30.
Born to Run: The book by Christopher McDougall that will get you off the couch and out pounding the pavement – or even pursuing a running dream in an exotic destination.
Wild (From lost to fund on the Pacific Crest Trail): All about an eleven-hundred-mile solo hike, and the woman who completed it.
Briana Everett is a freelance writer and regular Women’s Agenda contributor.