Crossing the English Channel with purpose: Swim on for Soldier On.

Andrew May, Senior Consultant, KPMG

Everybody, even elite athletes and highly disciplined people, struggle at times to stay motivated.

So, if you have a goal or an event to aim for you are much more likely to engage in exercise or regular fitness training

My most recent goal, along with two KPMG partners, Tim Sanders, Natasha Moore, and an Warrant Officer Class 1 in the Australian Army, Megan Webber, was to swim the English Channel. Our aim was to raise money for the charity, Soldier On.

So why did we set a goal of swimming the Channel? Why would anyone want to dodge tankers and swim in semi darkness in icy cold water?

First of all Natasha thought it would be a good idea and took control filling out the application forms (including mine who, at the time, wasn’t a very strong swimmer).

Secondly, we had a clear purpose; establishing Swim On, for Soldier On, a community (physical and virtual) where those who have served Australia in active service can meaningfully connect around swimming.

Taking the plunge in the dark

In his book, Psychological Foundations of Success, Stephen Kraus explores the reasons why goal setting (like any physical activity goal) increases performance. He advocates that goals give direction, are empowering and help you make right decisions. In addition, they are motivating, stretching and pushing you out of your comfort zone.

They also help you refine your strategy. After setting a challenging goal you think longer and more creatively about how to accomplish it and how to measure your progress along the way.

Try locking in a Physical Activity Goal to add variety and purpose to your training program. It is amazing how much more disciplined and focused you’ll be when you have a goal to train towards. The exhilaration and achievement you’ll feel by accomplishing a goal is particularly rewarding, especially if it’s really challenging.

So rather than just turning up to the gym and stumbling on the treadmill like a zombie on autopilot, try the following seven steps to invigorate your fitness plan.

  1. Do some research and target the event you are training for
  2. Lock it in the diary. Don’t talk about it, commit.
  3. Tell other people – making yourself accountable to others is one of the best ways to keep you focused and on track (a bit of friendly sledging from your mates when you slacken off always helps)
  4. Reverse engineer – work backwards and calculate exactly what you need to be able to achieve your goal. Do you need to be able to swim, run, cycle, paddle at a set distance? Do you need a coach to work out a training plan?
  5. Join a squad – training with a group of like-minded people will help you train specifically, keep you motivated and engaged along the way and provide some healthy competition
  6. Lock training sessions in your diary – treat them like any other important meeting you commit to throughout the week
  7. Taper – a week or two before your challenge wind back the training. You want to turn up the starting line fresh and ready to go.
L to R. Natasha, Megan, Tim, Andrew

Perhaps, rather than ask “what sort of fitness program do you follow”, we should instead ask, “so, what are you training for?”

On your marks, get set, go! Follow steps 1 to 7 and the rest will take care of itself.

As a team we raised more than $60,000 and very grateful for the support of several hundred people and businesses (much more if you include everyone who brought a Bunnings sausage in Albury and Canberra). Their words of encouragement and support were much appreciated.


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