Here's an interview I did with Olympic athlete Rebecca Adlington.
Driven to succeed
When I was a lad, I was bad at swimming. Still am. A complete lack of ability or skill, coupled with really bad eyesight is no recipe for success.
Me and my brother once went down to Romiley baths, the pool in the village where we lived. Me thick bottle-bottom glasses safely in the locker, we joined the other kids for a swim.
It was busy. I saw my brother; ah, I thought, that's him, can tell by his long brown hair.
I swam over. Like the SAS would. Or James Bond. In one, graceful, sweeping movement, I had got behind him, took his legs from under him. His arms went up, flailing, stunned by the majesty of my martial arts skills. A girly scream rang out, silenced only as he was enveloped by the foamy water that had been churned up in his desperate plight to stay upright.
Only, it was a girly scream because it was a girl. Not my brother. I swam away, quite quickly actually.
Anyway, when thinking about sports goals and how to achieve them, particularly as I am running the London Marathon next year, I thought about those days of swimming.
And it got me thinking, who could I ask for advice on fitness, and reaching goals? Rebecca Adlington OBE, that's who.
Rebecca, a multiple Olympic, World, Commonwealth and European medalist who won two gold and two bronze medals in Beijing and London respectively, very kindly offered her words of wisdom.
So, Rebecca, if you set yourself a challenge, what's the best way to focus on achieving it?
"For me," she says, "I like being organised and prepared. Having a routine/schedule I think helps. Giving yourself the right amount of time to achieve it makes a difference so planning it all out helps you see it clearer. I loved having a team around me or a friend so I wasn't doing it on my own is also helpful."
What drives you forward to succeed? How do you maintain that drive?
"Motivation and drive are things that I don't think you can teach or give someone," she said.
"You have to have that drive yourself and can't come from anyone but you. I'm driven person but that's because I'm passionate about what I do and I genuinely love it. Having that combination I think helps you succeed but the only way to maintain it is to find something you enjoy doing.
"You can be the most talented person in the world but if your heart nots in it and you aren't dedicated then you probably won't succeed."
So, do you zero in on the overall goal, or do you have mini goals along the way?
"For me I have mini goals along the way. I think it's very hard to stay motivated and focus if the end goal is going to take a long time. For me having little goals I can hit gives me confidence and keeps it fresh and interesting. It's good to mix up the goals too. Sometimes life and unseen things can happen like illness or a busy working week so I think it's important even if that happens to have a little goal you can still hit through those times."
Now, I have taken to sport at quite a late age, 44 (I know, I look younger). Although, I did came third in a 200m race at school once but I don't like to brag.
So what would Rebecca's top tip be for people who may never have done sport in their life (asking for a friend, ahem) but who know they perhaps ought?
Where to start
Rebecca advises: "I think the hardest part is where to start and what to do. I would recommend starting basic and small. Trying things like walking, swimming. Things that people probably already have the skills for and as you gain confidence you can try different new things.
"My parents are in that situation and they found a local bowls club and table tennis club and they love it. It's a great way for them to make friends and be active. There is always stuff going on in your local area, you just have to find out when or ask people you know."
As many people (like me) use the post-Christmas period to set goals, is there a top tip for getting fit?
"I think the best thing you can do is learn about your body and your limits. Athletes are very good at being able to switch off and relax and knowing when to switch it back on and focus. It's so important to have that balance in life. You need time to recover and recharge, not just push yourself every day if it's not beneficial. I think everything in moderation."
Now, dear reader, this is superb advice from an athlete who has achieved some very special things in her career. I know there's no way I can emulate what Rebecca has achieved, but if I can take on board her advice, I'll go a long way to achieving some of my own goals.
© Wayne Swiffin, December 2, 2016
Photo from Rebecca Adlington's website.