A woman with her thumbs up in the air while watching the sky on a hill.
January 21, 2016 | by The Polyclinic
iron man

Dr. Dewayne Bradley completes the run segment of his Ironman race. Dr. Bradley used strategy and planning to reach a goal once deemed impossible.

If your January resolutions to eat better, sleep more, de-stress, and lose weight are already feeling a little distant, we have some inspiration to get you back on track.

Dr. Dewayne Bradley didn’t start off as an athlete with a goal to complete an Ironman – the prestigious triathlon event consisting of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and 26.2 mile run.

Although a long-time competitive runner, he took time off from the sport while in medical school but still wanted to stay in shape. “That’s when I started to commute to work on my bike and then got interested in triathlons as a way to satisfy my competitive instincts,” said Bradley.

Now, three Ironmans later, he is hooked on the opportunity to train, race, and pursue goals he once deemed impossible.

Reaching a goal takes discipline and effort, especially with our health. Dr. Bradley recommends these tips for reaching your goals in a race and in life.

Clearly state your ultimate goal.

Crystalize your focus with these questions:

  • What do I want to accomplish?
  • Why is it important to me?
  • What do I need to be successful?
  • How much time and effort are realistically available?

Use the answers to these questions to develop a plan. Next, break your main goal into smaller, multilevel goals. The intermediate goals help organize the approach and sustain passion and motivation. For Dr. Bradley, a main goal could be qualifying and completing the Ironman World Championships.

Intermediate goals describe the skills, equipment, and training are required to reach the goal. “These intermediate goals are perhaps the most important because benchmarks are incorporated that allow me to assess my progress and alter the approach if progress stalls.” Smaller goals also help you measure success differently. Things big or small can happen out of your control. "Even if you don’t reach your ultimate goal, you could be successful in other areas."

Be flexible.

After creating a detailed plan with multilevel goals, be ready to modify it. “If you are not responding to the training and meeting intermediate bench mark goals and improving, modify your approach,” said Bradley. Inflexibility in goals can lead to injury, fatigue, burn out, or failure.

As you pursue your goal, be open to changing the plan versus just pushing through. “There is no one-size-fits-all. Understanding your own mind and body over time allows you to make that call.”

If this is an area of struggle, ask an objective source. This could be reviewing your health goals with your doctor at an annual physical, taking a class for group accountability, or connecting with a friend for feedback.

Visualize success.

Dr. Bradley spends a lot of training visualizing his goal. "Being fully in the moment, locked into the vision of the goal keeps you motivated."

Visualization can also help problem solve unanticipated setbacks. “I play various scenarios or challenges that I might encounter in my head. How you handle the challenge makes or breaks your race.” Whether it’s a flat tire in a race or not resisting the extra piece of cake, mentally practicing your response builds confidence that you can adapt and persevere.

Maintain attitude and effort.

Hard work, effort and perseverance are essential to Dr. Bradley’s training. Before his Ironman world championship, he asked his son and daughter to write “attitude” and “effort” with a permanent pen on his forearm. He draws inspiration from Steve Prefontaine, a legendary runner, who said, “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”

Putting energy into maintaining a positive attitude and working hard can make up for deficiencies in talent, intellect, or ability. “Consistent hard work, with a refusal to yield in the face of adversity has defined my approach for life, be it medical school, residency, or racing Ironman.”

Create balance.

As a father, husband and physician, Dr. Bradley has a lot to balance when pursuing his athletic goals. “I realized very early that I had a finite amount of resources: time and energy.”

His solution? Design your training program for maximum efficiency to use resources for maximum effect. Dr. Bradley looks for ways to optimize windows of time to not let the goal be intrusive to his family or work. “I swim at lunch, run before getting home, catch up on paperwork while the kids are asleep, and bike long when they are at Sunday school.”

He also creates balance by including his family in his journey. Events are integrated into the family schedule – not completely set apart. “My son’s soccer, daughter’s rock climbing, and wife’s tennis are events we all participate in on some level be it fan, athlete, coach, or parent.”

So what’s next for Dr. Bradley?

He is focusing on half Ironman distances and shorter local races to build speed for a 2017 Ironman time goal. He hopes to continue to progress and improve as an athlete. The rewards and lessons from goal setting are the most important part. “The internal battle to find your personal limits and overcome them is what drives me.”


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