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About the Event
Hi all. I am Vicky Thornley, a friend of Mike and Meg. I am an Olympic rower from Henley-on-Thames in the UK, currently training for my third Olympic Games in Tokyo this summer. In London I finished 5thin the women’s eight and in Rio 2016, came away with a silver medal. Having rowed for 12 years, 10 years in the British team, I have had my fair share of ups and downs. The path to success is never straight forward, but how you deal with the challenges along the way is a key part of helping you achieve your dreams. Failure and making mistakes should not be shied away from. It means you are pushing your limits and as long as you learn from your mistakes and ideally don’t make them again, you will be moving in the right direction.
I wanted to share with you how I go about setting goals and maintaining my motivation, which of course ebbs and flows at times. I haven’t always got it right, but below is how I go about breaking down the 4-year long goal of the Olympics, into daily, sizable chunks. The process ensures I am always moving in the right direction, no matter how far off the Olympics may be. I hope this guide helps you set and achieve your own goals. Dream big!
· Set a goal – “You don’t have to be great to start, but you need to start to be great”. Setting the goal might sound like an obvious point, but for some setting the goal can be a challenge. You may see an ambitious goal as potentially unattainable, and are worried about failure. Let’s not forget failure and setbacks in life are inevitable, and sometimes actually essential to make progress. In rowing, I have failed countless times but my response to failure is to pick myself up, learn from it and keep moving forwards. Keep focussing on the reward at the end, that feeling of pride and satisfaction you will get when you achieve the goal you have set.
· Break it down – Break the goal down into sizeable chunks. If your goal is a long term one, having short and medium term goals is fundamental to keep you focussed every day. Think, “what can I achieve today, this week, this month to bring me closer to my end goal”. I started rowing just under five years before what turned out to be my first Olympic Games, at London 2012. On my first day of training on the World Class Start Programme, I literally couldn’t stay in a boat. I fell in three times. At this point, had I allowed the enormity of my end goal overwhelm me, I would have struggled to move forward. Instead, along with my coach, I broke things down and set small daily goals. The first being, completing a session without falling in; and I achieved this on day four of training. We continued in this manner and within five years, I found myself on the start of of the Olympic Games. Day by day, keep working towards your dream.
· Staying present – Keep coming back to your daily goals. It’s easy to get distracted by how far away from your goal you feel, but by coming back to the present acknowledging what is required today, helps to ensure we make each day count. This is where short term focuses are important. They will help you stay in the moment and do what needs to be done at that time. The small sense of achievement you get from executing your daily goals really helps maintain motivation and momentum. I always have a specific goal for each training session, it keeps me present and accountable as to whether I executed what was required.
· Deviation – Life never runs smoothly, things will get in the way of our goals, and there will be both ups and downs along the way. The important thing is to not let these distractions derail us. Tokyo has of course been my long term goal over the past three years, but there have been many situations that have taken me way of course, and down a path I didn’t want to be on; most notably suffering from overtraining in 2018. When situations like this occur, it is important to reassess and change your short term goals to account for the change in circumstance. It doesn’t mean that you can’t still achieve what you set out to do; it just means that you have to recalibrate, to get back on track. Overcoming these challenges only makes achieving our goals even more rewarding.
· Keep a diary of progress – This is a great way to see how far you have come, and can help maintain motivation. I keep a daily diary containing a brief summary of my training, and write a more detailed account every couple of weeks. It shows me the improvements I have made, but also any mistakes. When I read it back, it reinforces that I am making progress, shows me how far I have come and what I have learnt.
· Accountability – If your goal doesn’t involve others on a day-to-day basis, find someone you can hold yourself accountable to. When in crew boats, I often used my teammates. In the single, it is my coach Paul Reedy. Using a variety of people can help, depending on their expertise. Find the people that work for you. It could be your colleague, partner or friend. It really doesn’t matter. It just need to be someone who knows what your goal is, can ask about your progress and challenge you if they see you are distracted.
· Reward – Recognising your effort and rewarding yourself appropriately is really important! It drives motivation and tops up your energy stores. Often when I return from training camp, I book a treatment at the beauty salon to help me rejuvenate, or I go to my favourite restaurant. Having things to look forward to once you have completed something challenging is a great way to maintain momentum.
Check out my website for more blogs like this, as well as my favourite recipes www.victoriathornley.com.