WHEN I woke up paralysed in 2016, I knew that if I was going to make the most of my new life I had to set goals for the future.

It started off with just being able to brush my teeth and grew to being able to compete for Great Britain again, as well as completing a 740km bike ride across the Alps.

The burning desire was to win a place on the podium at a World Championship again but unfortunately the re-growth of the tumour, two further surgeries in 2018 and radiation in 2019 has made this impossible. Well, for now.

When I came round in ICU in 2018, something that caught my attention was Ironman. I thought it was possible for me to go from paralysis to Ironman.

I even jokingly mentioned this a few months back in this column when I got my Turbomed walking device and jogged for the first time in years.

This week, as I was looking at my training and the goals I had written down, I pondered a bit more about this idea of doing an Ironman.

Next year is all about the Tokyo Games for most but having been hit by the car in August and not really having the opportunity to get back into race shape, I decided to focus my attention away from UCI cycling and on to something else that will definitely challenge me on many levels.

I looked through the Ironman website and decided to email the organiser of the Hamburg Ironman which is on June 6. After such a tough 2020, all the spots are gone, but I am hoping they see my email and open up a slot for me.

It feels like a crazy goal, but I know deep down I can do this, and more than anything I want to do.

I have spoken before about the importance of how when we set goals we have to align these with our philosophy in life. By doing this we give real purpose and meaning to our goals and are less likely to give up on pursuing them.

Grit is not enough, we have to tune into our dopamine reward pathway to keep going through the tough times. By doing this we are more likely to show up each day focused on our goal and not give up.

Dopamine is often misunderstood as a “feel-good” molecule. In reality, it is a motivator. It motivates us to take action that has a reward at the end. Therefore, dopamine is released in anticipation of a reward. This anticipation is what motivates us to do something and helps us to keep going when it gets hard.

This is worth thinking about as 2021 approaches and you start to think of things you want to achieve. It will be a key tool, especially in January.

When we feel like we are struggling, a neurochemical known as norepinephrine is released from a part of the brain. This is an essential part of our bodies’ system but too much of it can cause issues. It is one of the chemicals that leads to us stopping things when they get too hard.

But by tuning into the dopamine reward pathway, we can succeed in lowering the build-up of norepinephrine.

Why is this important to know? Because simply being aware of this chemical process can help your resilience level.

As you start to think of stopping, you can think of why you are doing something and its link to your purpose. By attaching your goal to meaning, you will have a release of dopamine and in turn you will find something to keep you going.

I have trained my mind in this way to keep me going over the last 11 years of living from surgery to surgery and I know it works. It will be a key tool for me over the next six months to get into Ironman shape.

Completing an ironman is no easy task and with strict cut- off times I am going to have some hard sessions ahead.

I wanted to test my swimming as if I can’t do that, then I won’t even get the chance to get on the bike. The swim is 3.8km and you have two hours 20 minutes to complete it.

So yesterday I was on my way to the pool for a session, and just as I got there I had a really bad fall. That is just part of life with a spinal injury. But after picking myself off the ground, I jumped into the pool and kicked off. Some 4km later I noticed I had swam the ironman distance and under the cut-off time too.

During the swim I would occasionally tell myself why I was doing this, and I could feel the surges of dopamine.

Afterwards, I felt very fresh, just a bit sore from my fall.

The only question was did I still have it in me to get on a bike, ride 180km, then walk a marathon?