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March 20, 2016

Dylan Williamson is a guide runner for Dustin Walsh - a blind athlete, and together they have run in the London Paralympics and the Pan Am Games.  We all know killing your goals take time, effort and persistence. Dylan knows exactly what it takes to compete at his personal best, while supporting others dreams and goals.
Spring is coming and it is the time to make new fitness goals and work towards making a better you, right? Maybe. Many people who make resolutions are well intentioned, but sometimes unable to stick with their goals. It is easy to go to the gym for a couple weeks and then gradually see your gym time sacrificed for something else, such as household errands or some other leisure activity. It isn’t always a bad thing to miss the gym when you planned to go, but it is all too easy to realize you haven’t been keeping up with your fitness goals for an extended period of time. This is a challenge that we all must deal with. In order to work against this seemingly never-ending process, I use a couple methods to maintain my training within the confines of my life.

When training, it is easy to think about what you want the end result to be. One of the biggest challenges in getting started is being ready to go, and to prepare yourself and your environment for success. This allows for progress to be made towards your goals. The things that are done before the workout commences will make it significantly more effective. I have seen this principle put into practice many times, through my training done as a guide runner. I do track and field, however I do it with a visually impaired Paralympic athlete while going to school for my bachelor’s degree in Human Kinetics. This has allowed me to approach training from a different perspective. The amount of effort that I put into my preparation directly effects how my performance is on that day. It starts for me in the morning, where I bring two bags to school. I have my school stuff, and my training gear in separate bags, which I put together the night before. Making sure I have enough layers, the right shoes, and some food to get me through the day is key for me. I don’t like to drink coffee or tea in the morning, but if that’s your thing then make the pot the night before (if possible) and have it start before you get out of bed. Being prepared and taking 10min before you call it a night to think about what you have to do for tomorrow will allow you to be more organized with your time, and maintain a schedule where training fits in.
Running at Pam Am Games

Having the right goals for yourself is another key that makes training effective, and can also help you keep some of the fitness goals that you might have.

I have been lucky enough to make my goals off of the goals of another person. I have to stay at the same fitness level, and be able to run a bit faster than the athlete that I guide while communicating with him. There was very little work that I had to do in making my goals. We have been on the Paralympic national track team for the past four years, and so our long-term goals have been clearly set. Make the Paralympic games in 2012, and hopefully for 2016. In order to achieve these goals, we had to make smaller goals that got us to that point. In order to have an effective goal setting session, I like to break it up into sections. I start by writing down what I want to get out of my training, and then write down the ways that I can achieve that, and in what sort of time frame. For instance, “I want to increase the amount of my clean lift” followed by “focusing on having proper technique and building up the weight slowly” and then “I will lift three times a week in order to gradually build the muscle healthily”. The most important part of setting goals is to know what you are capable of, and knowing what you want to achieve. If you are unsure about how to do a particular lift in the gym, or whether you should be running four times a week, or how far to go then find somebody to talk to. Avoid just looking things up on the Internet because many times those forums and websites are one person’s perspective. Even this blog post might not be right for you. It takes a bit of time but once you know what you can do (working out in the morning, appropriate lifting, the amount of times you can work out) it becomes a lot easier to make the right decisions. Also, once you lay out your goals and how you can achieve them, staying motivated will become much easier.

Lastly, the things that I pay attention to are what I eat, and where training fits in my life. These two are very general categories that will likely not be the same for you as for other people. Having a good diet is something that has been blown up in the media, and can seem very daunting to organize when looking at what other people do. I have found that a majority of the people that I train with do not strictly follow a diet, or have every meal planned out. Like me, they follow guidelines and don’t put themselves down, or get angry if and when they slip up on their food. It is important that you never make yourself feel bad about the things you have or have not done. Making sure that you make easy changes to your diet will help you to realize your fitness goals alongside the benefits to your general well being.
Things that can be easily changed in one’s diet include:
  • Drinking more water, in place of juices, carbonated drinks, or coffee
  • Following a rule of thumb I call the “colour rule” – having a variety of colours on your plate each meal
  • Focusing on eating lean proteins.
  • Prepare extra food at dinner, and use the left overs for lunch the following day. (This can be part of the preparation idea
There are plenty of other ways that one can improve their diet, however before making a bunch of changes, take time to sit down and figure one or two things that are the highest priority for you personally, and try to work towards improving these so they become habitual before moving onto the next change. If you try to change too many things too quickly, you may find yourself becoming overwhelmed easily.
Dylan and Dustin Running
It is important to know where your boundaries are. We all have the things that absolutely have to get taken care of before addressing the fitness goals that we have. I have had multiple practices that I have had to sacrifice in order to accommodate other things in my life such as school assignments or work shifts. I have been lucky enough to be immersed in an environment that allows for fitness to take a large role in my life, with support from my school and support from the national team. I have recently been forced to change the things that I have to prioritize, but I know that with the appropriate motivation that no issues are too big. When I am faced with decisions like this, I have to take an inventory of what I’m doing with my time each day.
If I am not enjoying the things that I am doing, then I try to make changes so that I am doing the things that I like, but are also healthy. I know exactly how it feels to get home and not want to do anything at all, but I find that when I get out of the house to take my dog for a walk, or go for a short run, or pick up a basketball and shoot around, all of a sudden I realize that I am having a lot more fun than I thought I would be. I realize that these sport examples do not apply to everyone, but this only means that its up to you to identify the things that bring you joy, and find a way to incorporate fitness. If the only thing you can change is to bike somewhere instead of driving, that is a significant improvement. It is important as well that you show the people around you that this is important to you. Before you know it, you may find yourself with a support group that can help motivate you when you feel like you can’t accomplish your goals.
Ultimately the most important thing that you can do to improve your fitness is to reflect upon what you are already doing and make small changes that work for your lifestyle, as these small changes will lead you to your goal.

Written by Dylan Williamson
Photos Curtesy of Dylan Williamson

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