Prokit Women in Sport: 2020 Goals
Some of the most respected female athletes, entrepreneurs and adventurers reflect on their season and share tips on goal setting for 2020
Many of us won’t have our seasons cut short by getting charged by a bull like trail runner Katie Arnold, and most won’t win the overall world championship like mountain biker Kate Courtney, but the shared experience of setting a goal and the triumphs and struggles that can come with reaching it are universal.
Whether they’re at the start of their pro careers, navigating the learning curve of parenthood and entrepreneurship, or launching the next big running or cycling events, these women have pushed themselves forward and lifted up their sport. Here’s how they stay motivated in the off-season and tips on goal setting for 2020.
Katie Arnold, Author of Running Home, former Managing Editor of Outside & creator of Raising Rippers Column, Leadville Trail 100 winner
2019 was all about moving fast in lots of different directions: I raced and trained at higher volume while on a book tour to promote my memoir Running Home—juggling both was energizing and exhausting! The year ended early with a freak injury when I was charged by a bull on a mountain trail and developed tendinitis in my knee from the fall.
Off-season and motivation: My off-season this year was a little different than usual—it was involuntary! I took the past two months off running to heal from tendinitis. I swam and biked to maintain physical strength and fitness and returned to tai chi after a 12 year hiatus to develop internal power. Trying something new during the off-season or injury rehab is the best way I’ve found to stay motivated. It also helps to cultivate the Zen idea of “beginner’s mind,” which is so important in life and sport, including those sports—maybe especially those sports, like running—that we do often and well. In the darker, colder winter months, I love to go to the climbing gym with my daughters to work on upper body strength, and skin up our local ski mountain for altitude and vert training.
Goal setting: For me, goal setting is an art, not a science. It starts with checking in with what I want to do—races or adventures that inspire and move me on a personal level—and tuning out what others are doing. This is an organic process; I have to feel it. This means getting quiet and visualizing where I want to be and what I want to be doing. If I can see it in my mind, I know it’s possible. You can’t rush this, which may explain why I don’t build out my year’s race calendar in an afternoon! Sometimes I wish I could, but I’ve learned to trust my process. The next step is talking about my goal—once I say it out loud, it becomes real. Conversely, I know I’m ambivalent about something when I don’t talk about it. That’s always a bad sign!
2020: I’ll be returning to the 100-mile distance at Leadville in August. I’d also love to run and race in Europe and race Javelina in October, as I was scheduled to run it this year but couldn’t toe the line due to my tendinitis. Leading up to summer, I’ll be racing and training in Moab at the Arches Ultra, Lake Sonoma 50, and hopefully some great adventure runs along the way, maybe the Zion traverse if I can find partners, or a training block in the Grand Canyon. I love big, wild objectives in the wilderness—my favorite kind of ultra running!
Ingrid Backstrom, pro skier, new mom, and chaser of big mountain adventures
In 2019 I mostly stuck close to home in Washington and surprised myself by skiing quite a lot while enjoying the happy chaos of raising two small kids!
Off-season and motivation: My off-season approach is to have fun and get outside every day. Mountain biking and trail running are what keep me sane and happy so it’s pretty easy to stay motivated to get out and enjoy the mountains near where I live in Leavenworth, Washington. I also like to do some strength training; it’s something I can squeeze in at home to get a good sweat and a challenge and help me feel like I’m getting stronger for winter.
Goal setting: I try to keep my goals reasonable. If there’s something big out there I’m dreaming about I first try to think about why I truly might want that. Understanding the motivation behind the goals helps me break it down into steps and then I can start to work my way up. I also try to let go of any expectations tied to outcomes. I know now that if a goal doesn’t happen, it’s still just fine. I’m okay with that! There will be more.
2020: I want to prioritize my family and sticking close to home, skiing in Washington and BC while working on some projects with other shredding women, making a film and doing more learning, writing, creating, and coaching.
Lucy Bartholomew, Australian ultra runner and trail, mountain and sun lover
2019: A big learning experience.
Off-season and motivation: It’s summer season in Australia so just keep consistency and observe your motivation.
Goal setting: Goals are good but they shouldn’t dictate an outcome emotions.
2020: To get some rhythm again and meet more people!
Kate Courtney, world champion mountain biker with eyes on 2020 Olympics
2019: There are many roads to Rome – and while at times my season oscillated between looking too good to be true and completely off course – the patience, persistent and trust in the process ultimately got me to Rome (well Snowshoe, West Virginia) where it ended with an Overall World Cup Victory.
Off-season and motivation: This year my philosophy is “excellence only” – not necessarily trying to make huge changes but to recommit to pursuing complete efforts and chasing excellent results in each aspect of my training.
Goal setting: Define your vision and go for it!
2020: The Olympic Games will take center stage for 2020 and are very motivating, but I have plenty of process and outcome goals along the way to keep me hungry and on track.
Laura King, elite cyclist, event organizer, and ambassador of all things cycling
2019 was the year of learning how to be adaptable: we went through a miscarriage earlier in the year which along with its own emotional hardship definitely threw off any specific training schedule and race plans–and then shortly after that, I became pregnant again which again shifted my life and endurance sport goals.
Off-season and motivation: The only way I survive winter in Vermont is by moving my body. That can look like many activities but I do my best to get outside as I find that significantly lifts my mood and well being when it’s gloomy and cold. They say if you don’t like the weather in New England to wait a minute—so I try to keep my days flexible and make plans around a window of nicer weather, if possible. I also enjoy group workouts or scheduled plans with friends. The social aspect of sport is very fulfilling to me and also keeps me accountable when it’s harder to get motivated in the winter.
Goal setting: I feel as though pregnancy has actually improved my goal setting as I’ve been excited to “see what’s possible” with an ever changing body. My next goal has been returning to my endurance sport background sport of swimming and getting in shape for the holiday 100×100’s set (a swimmer’s version of a “marathon set”) of 10k yards or meters at 26 weeks. Sometimes my goal is just heading out and seeing if I can still manage a tough climb or long ride. I’m very driven by goals, so no matter how small they are they keep me moving forward and motivated even on the days when I am struggling to keep momentum.
2020: My strength and weakness is that I’m incredibly impatient. So while I’ll likely be just getting used to motherhood in early 2020, I anticipate I’ll also be itching to quickly get back to an event schedule and participation. The reality is I have no idea how things will actually play out mind/body wise so while I can hope to be back at it quickly, I am going to have to take a deep breath and try and relax and go with the flow. I hear this “loss of control” can be a good thing for letting go in general, something I can definitely benefit from!
Rose Grant, pro mountain biker, mother, and winner of 2019 Leadville Trail 100 MTB
2019: The year I experienced the power of perseverance, many lessons in being humbled, and that my identity lies so much deeper than any race result.
Off-season and motivation: Off season is a time to take a step back and reset, and it’s so important to honor this time in order to find our best in the season to come. I listen to my body closely, and stay aware of my rest, nutrition, and off-season activities. I also re-establish a strength routine for body balance and injury prevention. Living in NW Montana requires me to be disciplined and creative to accomplish my training during the winter. This year my goal is to get outside as much as possible and incorporate skate skiing and ski touring when I’m able. In addition, riding the trainer is inevitable for my specific work on the bike and I’ve learned to embrace it over the years. I’ll be the first to admit that I can struggle with motivation some days; however, what motivates me is knowing that my training is just as important for my mental health as it is for my physical health, and that the dedication in the darkness of my basement will be worth the effort, even if it just means knowing that I put in the work and did my very best.
Goal setting: With age, maturity, and experience, my approach to goal setting has changed from setting outcome-based goals to process-based goals. My goals include more than race performances because I have learned that racing is a process of navigating the ups and downs that life brings. For example, I know that in order for me to be my best athlete, I have to be my best mom and wife. I have created goals that create family balance (process-based) so that home life is smooth which then yields to smoother training. Setting a couple performance-based goals is important for motivation and finding the “why?” I have also learned that although goal setting is a very good tool to help find our bests, they can change and evolve as the season progresses. Therefore, I work to be adaptable so that if a goal doesn’t come to fruition the way I had originally envisioned, that doesn’t mean that I have failed. Instead, those open or closed doors are what will help to guide me through the process.
2020: I’m still establishing this for myself, and don’t have enough clarity to share in full; but I know that I have a couple of titles that I want to defend including Marathon National Champ and Leadville MTB 100 Champ.
Stephanie Howe, pro mountain runner, nutrition and exercise science PhD
2019: I love running in the Alps!
Off-season and motivation: Settle into the cozy and don’t worry about staying fit. It’s important to have some down time!
Goal setting: I like to use more qualitative goals, such as “Run a smart race and focus on fueling well” or “Smile when I can and stay present when it gets tough.” I find those types of goals work best with ultra races because there are so many variables. It can be unrealistic to set goals based on time when running for longer than 20 hours.
2020: Finally nail UTMB. Which, for me, means having a race where nothing goes epically wrong. I’d like to finish with a smile on my face and be able to say I executed well. Oh, and also get healthy! I’m taking the first half of 2020 to heal. So lots of cozy time 🙂
Sonya Looney, pro mountain biker, podcast host, entrepreneur, and mom-to-be
2019: Less is more, and by doing less, I achieved more and felt more inspired and happy.
Off-season and motivation: I’ll be in my third trimester of pregnancy during this winter. I’m usually extremely focused with cycling-specific training. Because my race season typically starts in January and I can’t ride outside in the winter, I typically train for stage races like Cape Epic on the trainer. Now I feel more free to cross-train and am going to take swimming lessons (I do not like swimming, but maybe I can start liking it if I can focus on technique). I’m excited about how healthy it will be for mobility, strength, and ROM. I’m also excited to go snowshoeing and spend more time exercising outdoors with friends without the worry of structured training. And I’ll still be riding the trainer indoors, but with less pressure to perform! Over the holidays, I’ll also have a little bit more time to spend with extended family since training will not be my #1 priority like it usually is!
Goal setting: I used to set highly specific outcome-based goals. While I think it’s good to have an overarching direction and theme, I now focus on process-based goals. Instead of saying, “My goal is to win x-race” or “get x-1000 podcast downloads,” I set goals based on doing my best and doing something I’m proud of. I have expectations of what I want to achieve, but I don’t let that number be the validation of success. You do the best you can, push yourself a reasonable amount, and the cards will fall where they are meant to. I frequently re-assess my processes and what I’m doing to be the fastest or most prepared that I can be. I find that when a race day comes, I feel less pressure because my vision of success is not entirely tied up in the podium position, but in the work I did and the person I became to get there.
2020: Enjoy the challenge of being a new mom and learn to balance it with being a professional athlete and running my business. Be present with my new baby. Be consistent with my training as I get back into it but have patience and self-compassion. Get back into racing by end of June. Continue working on my book and writing meaningful articles and recording impactful podcasts. Work on my online course. Spend more time in person with friends and family.
Ellen Noble, cyclocross and mountain bike pro, U23 Cyclocross National Champion
2019 was the year I buckled down and found my “why.”
My approach to off-season is taking advantage of the down time to allow for a full reset. My motivation is that the harder I rest and recover…the harder I can hit training on the other end!
Goal setting: I try to focus on process focused goals rather than results focused goals. If I am aiming to set a results-focused goal, I want to ensure it’s a logical goal set as a result of many process focused goals. Regardless of my goals, though, at the end of an event, I really have to ask myself if I did the best with what I had and if the answer is yes – then I am happy!
2020 goals: 2019 has been the hardest year of my career, with a nearly endless string of health problems. My 2020 goals are about hitting a hard reset after the CX season is over, and being able to consistently train, without any of the complications I faced in 2020. I have a lot of boxes I can check, to achieve that goal, and from there I think the rest of my goals will fall into place.
Kikkan Randall, 5-Time Olympian, World Champion Cross Country Skier, Cancer Fighter, “Get-Activist”
Off-season and motivation: Do something different to help you refresh and stoke the fire, but make sure you rest. Better to come back a little too rested than not rested enough!
Approach to goal setting: Take some time to visualize and conceptualize your goals without limitation. Then build back with strategies and processes of how you will reach your goal step-by-step, and measure progress along the way. Now you have a roadmap!
2020: Do at least one off-road triathlon, go camping with my family at least twice, alpine ski at least 10 times to pay for my season pass, set a new pull-up PR and run a mile under five minutes.
Sarah Sturm, pro cyclist and podium crusher at CX Nationals, Belgian Waffle Ride, SBT GRVL, Downieville, Leadville…
2019 was unexpectedly the best season I’ve had results-wise, the most I’ve ever raced, and also one of the hardest years emotionally — a mixed bag one might say.
Off-season and motivation: I’ll let you know when I’m in my off season…haha! I pretty much don’t ride my bike when it’s snowing outside…or if I feel like I’m forcing myself to. I’ll go for runs with my dog. I cross country ski a lot with hot cocoa and audio books as my motivator. I also have been getting into bouldering/climbing too, anything that seems interesting and motivating!
Approach to goal setting: I don’t know if I’ve ever set myself up to have concrete goals. I approach most things I do with drive to do my best at a given time. I’ve noticed if I say something like, “My goal is to win X race,” that creates a lot of pressure and stress. So I like to keep my goals pretty vague and overarching. A goal that I have is to take more time to recognize how far I’ve come in the last year. I think reflecting is a positive catalyst for growth more than goals for me.
2020: Looking back on this last year and season of racing, what I’d like to improve on is managing my stress before races and coming into the season with a strong mental game! I know everyone likes to say their goal is to win X race…but for me that’s not how my brain works. I like to set goals that are 100% on me, and controllable. For next season that is tackling my mental prep, balance, and over all mental health.
Alison Tetrick, pro cyclist, queen of gravel and two wheel adventures
2019: A rolling stone that gathered no moss but traveled, explored, and continued to learn the art of juggling work, life, and love while exploring gravel roads around the world.
Off-season and motivation: Find a buddy or training partner to hold you accountable when you need to, and also, give yourself grace to take days off because of weather and motivation. The season is long, and you need to be fresh and ready to go when it is time.
Goal setting: Find goals that inspire YOU. Make sure you pick a goal that lights your fire and gets you excited to prepare. Too many times we don’t discern between other people’s goals and what truly motivates us.
2020 goals: Push my limits. Have fun. Adventure more.
Leah Thorvilson, elite runner turned pro cyclist, Zwift Academy winner
2019 was a year of transition, and a whole lot of travel.
Off-season and motivation: I love training, so motivation typically isn’t a challenge for me, but I did find myself burnt out this year due to a lot of uncertainty about what is next and where to channel my focus. I did my best to balance it by focusing on what was making me feel best, which was a bit more running and a bit less time on the bike.
My approach to goal setting has morphed a lot through the different stages of my competitive running and cycling life. Currently, I make a list of all the things I want to do – races where I want to try and achieve a specific target, and races I want to do just for fun. Then do my best to decide how many are at least marginally realistic and financially feasible.
2020 goals: Run a marathon, race a triathlon, put myself or a teammate on the podium at a bike race. Stay happy, stay healthy. Find a job that is stable and emotionally fulfilling.
YiOu Wang, pro ultra runner, educator, winner of the 2019 Northface Endurance Challenge 50 miler
2019: Things don’t always go according to plan, but keep showing up!
Off-season and motivation: Make training a social event with friends! It’s a great way to catch up with people over the holidays.
Goal setting: I always start planning out next year’s racing schedule by deciding on the A races first and then filling in smaller, shorter events. Don’t be afraid to commit to something you really want to do.
2020: I want to run a PR in the marathon as well as put together a solid long race in the Alps.
For more inspiration from these women and others on Prokit, head to the original features with MTB world champ Kate Courtney, pro ultrarunner YiOu Wang, gravel cyclist and Dirty Kanza champ Alison Tetrick, 2x Olympian triathlete Sarah True and sports nutritionist Anne Guzman. And don’t forget the guys: cyclist Ted King, runner & coach Mario Fraioli, and triathlon great Mark Allen.
Have a goal or target event, race or adventure for 2020? Add it to your Prokit profile to have a community of athletes, coaches, experts, and friends cheer you on!