Spring Goal Setting with Alayna Sonnesyn
Every year, spring brings the opportunity for rebirth and new beginnings. As a cross-country skier, this is the perfect time to pause and reflect on the winter that has passed.
I love Minnesota, but I love getting out west and in the mountains to do some spring reflecting.
During my reflecting time, I like to ask myself the following questions:
What was the highlight of my season? What made it the highlight? Was it a race result? If so, what about the race made it the highlight? My mental approach? My physical preparation? Did all of the cards fall into place on that day? Or maybe the highlight wasn’t a race but instead an adventure ski through the Alps? If so, why was this the highlight? Was I surrounded by friends or family? Why wasn’t a race the highlight?
After asking myself these questions, I can usually pinpoint one accomplishment that I am the most proud of. This past season, it was a World Cup stage in the Tour de Ski, a 20k freestyle pursuit start where I finished with the fifth fastest time of the day.
I approached this race with positivity and an open mind, despite having had a lackluster start to the tour. I also walked to the start line with confidence knowing that I am a strong distance skate skier and typically thrive in a mass start scenario. Most of all, I made sure I enjoyed this race. Due to the underwhelming first few stages of the tour for me, I was in a skeptical state of mind. This actually allowed me to forget about expectations and instead remember that if I approached the race with 100% commitment and 0% attachment to the outcome, then I had to be happy with it. So in the last 40 seconds before my start when skiers were starting left and right in the pursuit format, I looked around, realized how silly the pressure and stress was, smiled to myself, and then raced my heart out on that course.
I hope this next year to approach more races, workouts and the entire process with this same mentality. 100/0 - commitment/attachment. And also with a smile on my face. The last few years have been full of stress, attempting to reach Olympic goals, live up to expectations, and keep up with my peers. This year, I hope to follow the path that I believe is right for me, toward goals that I believe I am capable of achieving.
So I return to more self-reflecting questions:
What goals do I want to set for this new season? Where can I improve? What didn’t feel good last season? When did I not succeed the way I wanted to? What can I do about that? I have found two main points here for myself:
- Although my classic skiing has come a long way in the past five years from when I was in college, there’s still some work to be done.
- Even though I always say I’m going to prioritize recovery, I need to actually do this. I came into the season hot and had some great races during Period 1 and 2 but got very tired by mid-January. I over-raced, under-recovered, and kept trying to push my limit past the breaking point. I took mini recovery blocks, but it was not enough. I ended up needing to skip a race I had been looking forward to and dropping out of the last race of the season because I didn’t have the physical or mental energy to attack them. I was at a point of being tired where a nap wasn’t going to fix it. I had dug myself deep into a hole and was not happy to be there.
These two main goals help me structure my training and lifestyle. This year, I’m changing a few things. I’m putting an emphasis on classic skiing with extra bounding intervals, double poling and core workouts. I’ve also recently moved into my condo in Stratton, VT and don’t have any flights in queue for the first time in many years. The past few summers I have traveled for summer races, family vacations, and training camps, but this year I don’t have any of those planned (yet), and I'm trying my hardest to keep it that way. By staying put, I can sleep in the same bed for more than a week at a time, keep my nutrition consistent, train with some of the best athletes in the world, and prioritize time with my feet up on the couch between sessions.
As we approach summer, I am looking forward to growth and potential in the work I have set out to do. I hope you can join me in doing the same!