Top tips for achieving your goals

Pennie Varvarides shares the secrets to getting sh*t done

OMQ, Marathon Training, Pennie Varvarides, New Balance

Marathon training with Pennie; pic credit Polina Bakh. Wearing New Balance

So you’ve set yourself some bold new goals to get you moving in a certain direction. Now how do you reach them?

The specifics will obviously be different for different goals, but the bulk of it will always be the same. Firstly: you need a plan. This doesn’t need to be a to-the-letter sort of deal – just start with an end goal and work backwards to figure out a few goal posts along the way.

For example, I’m running the New York Marathon with New Balance in November. Goal one: be able to run a marathon without dying. Goal two is hitting a few distance benchmarks along the way. This lets me focus on the task at hand each week, instead of worrying about the big old scary challenge at the end. Bite-size portions. Anyone who knows me knows I like a list, particularly one filled with sublists. The main reason for this is because I like to take willpower out of the equation. Relying solely on willpower to do something is hard, and there’s only so long will power can carry you before you decide you’d rather just curl up on the sofa eating ice cream watching Buffy.

Pennie Varvarides, Marathon Training, New Balance

Marathon training in Finsbury Park; pic credit Polina Bakh. Wearing New Balance

Planning vs willpower

So you’ve got your goal, you’ve marked it in your calendar and you’ve worked out a few goal-posts along the way for you to focus on. The next step is making sure you actually follow through.

You have to make a commitment. You need to really want to achieve the thing and it has to be for a solid reason. This can be anything that works for you specifically. Personally, I find my commitment to fitness goals are more likely to succeed if they’re focussed on being able to do something. So when I was fighting and had to cut weight, it was easier to lose those two kilos when I focussed on the fight and being able to actually compete. Losing weight was tonnes easier when I was losing specific amounts of kilos for a specific fight compared to when I was trying to lose weight because I wanted to lose weight.

It’s the same for the marathon. I need to have a reason to run, because for the most part, I’d rather not. That’s why I run with other people. Having company makes it infinitely more enjoyable for me and also gives me somebody to be accountable to. That accountability is key. So tell everyone what your goal is and how committed to it you are. You’ll find it easier to stick to if you feel you can’t back out when things get hard. (That’s how I ended up setting up Oh My Quad in the first place!)

You need to keep track of your progress along the way. Being able to look back at how far you’ve come will be really motivating on those days you feel like you’re not getting anywhere. In terms of running, Strava is a great resource. If you don’t like taking your phone with you on runs, there are dozens of smart-watches on the market that track your runs (or rides/swims etc) and plug the data straight into Strava for you. This will let you see how much you’ve improved over time.

Many of these watches also come with built in heart-rate monitors. I’ve written about the benefits of HR training in the past – find out more.

Getting help

Don’t be scared to ask for help – going to experts will make the journey tonnes easier. If you need help with your books, you find an accountant; if you need help with your fitness, find a coach.

If you’re training for an event, it’s worth speaking to a running coach or a strength and conditioning coach. Different people will have different skill sets, so it’s worth doing your research and finding the right person for you. Getting a coach or a personal trainer can be a bit daunting, especially if you just focus on the price tag. But don’t be swayed by bargain prices – decent coaches cost money and if you’re paying way below average for your area the chances are that person doesn’t know what they’re doing.

Loads of my clients are people who’ve trained with other trainers in the past and ended up with various injuries from being poorly coached. You want someone who can teach you how to do things properly, not just make you a sweaty mess.

Marathon training, Pennie Varvarides, New Balance

Pennie is mixing up her training with lots of sitting down in between all the running, she calls it balance; pic credit Polina Bakh. Wearing New Balance

Celebrate every success

When it comes to long-term goals, it can be a challenge to stay positive along the way. Negative thinking makes everything a 100 times harder, because you have to talk yourself into a workout or a task. At the end of every workout, congratulate yourself for being a badass. Be that person taking gym selfies if you have to. Have a little dance party every time you hit a new benchmark. The more you celebrate your successes, the less it will feel like a task. Your confidence and commitment to the goal will increase, making it ever easier to get out there and do your thing.

You want this commitment to increase as you get closer and the work gets harder. You have to keep your eye on the prize and keep telling yourself you are incredible. Say it every day. After every workout. Self-love is the secret to success.


Author: Pennie Varvarides

Pennie is the editor-in-chief at Oh My Quad. She is also a personal trainer based in North London and a full-contact kickboxer, competing at national level. She believes fitness should be something we enjoy.

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