If adventure is everywhere - how do we find the right adventure and get from dream to goal? There are a few simple steps that work for me, so maybe they can help you too!
Step 1: Choose a BIG EXCITING goal
Living an adventurous life is all about the JOY. And this means you need to work out what brings you joy. What have you always wanted to do?
❓ Hike a particular trail
❓ Climb a lookout or mountain
❓ Dive under a wave
❓ Ride down a hill with the wind in your hair
❓ Complete an overnight event
In this first stage, it is all about the dream. Each time your mind goes to anything resembling: I can't do that/it costs too much/I need to get fit first etc etc - just stop. ⛔ We will choose later - right now it is about daring to think about what you really love. Give yourself permission to think big. And the best tool to help you do this is the one you are using now - the internet! Search, read, think, shortlist. And if trails are your thing - head here for my list of 30 favourite multiday trail events.
But my guess is, in your heart, you know what you really want....
Step 2: Narrow down that list
Next we need to pick one goal that is BIG and EXCITING and also POSSIBLE within the next 12-18mths. We must be realistic when we choose our goals, as we need to be REAL - there are some things that are actually not possible based on natural ability and stage of life eg I am not going to become a prima ballerina, or be an astronaut. There are also some things that place boundaries on us thinking about the 12-18mth timeframe. Things like parenting responsibilities, budget and vacation time.
But the great news is there are adventures EVERYWHERE. So if you focus on the "why" behind the big goal you chose, it is ABSOLUTELY going to be the case that you can get that feeling from something in your budget and time constraints. For example, I can't hike a week in the forest trails of Japan right now, but I can hike a weekend in the dense forests 3hrs drive from my house and get that same sense of being completely immersed in spectacular nature.
And finally - but most difficult - assessing our physical capability. I see this as the most difficult because so many of us are conditioned to believe that we cannot - when we absolutely can! We under-estimate ourselves and risk missing out on all the good stuff. As a guide, think about choosing something just a bit beyond what you think is possible eg if you can walk a flat 5km, choose 20-42kms on flat or a hilly 10-21km (don’t choose 10kms or 200kms). If you already have the base fitness to complete a half marathon, then any ultra/multiday is achievable. And the same idea for all other types of goals.
Step 3: Go out and measure your starting point
The next step can be a bit scary - to go out and actually record where you are starting from! This part is mainly scary if you have a tendency to over-estimate your ability 🙋 But it is REALLY important to get an accurate start point, so that your PLAN to get there is achievable. When I decided to swim from Europe to Asia for example, I needed to be able to swim 4km (2.5 miles) in 2 hours in open water. So I went to my local pool (where I had not set foot in years) and swam some laps. I thought I could probably swim about 1.5kms.
Well, not quite. I completed 800m, stopping after every 50m lap for a rest. And that was my start point. If the goal is to climb a mountain, then find a steep street, or the stairs of a parking lot and see how you go. If it is a run, then go for a jog from your house. The point of this step is not to be discouraging - the point is to be able to make a PLAN to achieve the goal. And the plan won't work if it is not tailored to you. So we need start from absolute honesty. Even if honesty is 800m of stop-start swimming....ouch!
Step 4: Make a Plan!
So you know where you are, and where you want to be - next you need a plan to get there! Here are my top tips for making your own plan:
💠Get out a calendar and actually write on it! Yes, I get that its 2020 and computers do everything - but honestly nothing beats a plan stuck on the wall/fridge for being seen.
💠Divide the time evenly - put your goal at the end, your starting point at the beginning and divide by the number of weeks you have. So, for example to go from 800m with stops to 4kms continuous swimming, I needed to increase by 200m each week.
💠Avoid injury – build steadily – do NOT go couch to 10km in a week! You might think you can go faster, but if you get injured you will have to start again - so go slow - it is worth it!
💠Be realistic – eg if you are not a morning person, plan for lunchtime or evening activity. If you hate it, you won't do it!
💠Try and do something at least every 2nd day – this develops a habit and avoids injury. 💠If the goal is a long way away – choose a “halfway goal” eg I found a 2km swim on the road to my 4kms, I chose a half marathon when working towards my multi-day event. 💠If the activity requires a skill – look for options to do a course - more on this in the next step
TIP: If you are struggling to put something together yourself, the internet is your friend. Find an event similar to what you want to do. Many of them supply free training plans and you can copy them.
Step 5: Consider some lessons
When we are working towards a goal, sometimes it becomes obvious that some extra skills would be helpful. In that case, it is a really good idea to take some lessons. Lessons make us more efficient, and importantly - by giving us correct technique - they help us to avoid injury. Right now I am training for a 7 day 300km trail event. While I am intending to hike most of it, I would like to run approximately 10km each day to get me into the finish earlier and give me more recovery time. So I am taking trail running lessons. I am learning better technique to run more efficiently, with less energy, and strengthening the right muscles and ligaments to get the job done.
There are a couple of things that put people off taking lessons:
1. Fear of being judged. This is REAL - especially for those of us who have had bad experiences due to our size or other prejudice. The good news is that you can check reviews from others online and choose someone who is totally supportive.
2. Cost. So a couple of thoughts here. If you are coming to the idea of cost in the sense of "is it worth it?" then absolutely yes. If I can avoid the cost of one injury or a lost entry fee, then the lessons have paid for themselves. If the issue with cost is lack of funds, then I really encourage you to seek out community groups. Although it depends on the country you are in, here in Australia community groups can and do get government funding to run outdoor initiatives - and this means discounted or free lessons. Contact your local community group and see what they offer - you may be surprised.
Step 6: Enrol others to help you achieve your goal
If there is anything in this world that I know for sure, it is that you are more likely to achieve your goal with the support of others. Here are my tips for ensuring you stick to your plan to achieve your goal:
✴️ Tell everyone your goal. A "public" announcement immediately makes it more likely you will achieve your goal, because human nature is that we want to be true to our word. And if you tell them WHY the goal is so important to you, it creates a community willing to support you.
✴️Training is MUCH easier to stick with if you do it with someone else. This does not have to be someone you know well right now - community groups and local online groups are fantastic for meeting new people who share your goal - and who may well become some of your best friends over time! In your local group, try posting "I'm going to XXXX on Saturday, would anyone like to come?" and see what happens.
✴️Your supporters are not just those who come with you to train. They are also those who help you create the time (eg mind the kids) and who check in on you. Asking for help can be one of the hardest things to do; especially for those of us who have grown up being told that doing things for ourselves is selfish. 🙋 If this is you, look at it instead as reciprocal assistance - they help you to give you time for your training, and you do something to help them with their goal.
✴️ Be really honest with yourself. What EXACTLY stopped you achieving goals in the past? Name it and decide how to stop that happening again. eg if you know that you self-sabotage (I'll just do it tomorrow/its too cold/wet) then identify someone who you don’t want to let down and ask them to support you by calling you every day and checking in on your training.
BIG goals can seem overwhelming at first - but if you think about it in smaller steps it is much more achievable. Before long you will be achieving those goals and headed for the next one. Good luck!