Countdown firmly on for Olympic champion Lizzy Yarnold
When it comes to attention to detail and meticulous planning, you would be hard pushed to find someone more dedicated than Lizzy Yarnold.
Lizzy Yarnold of Great Britain celebrates winning the bronce medal at the medal ceremony for the IBSF World Championships Bob & Skeleton 2017 at Deutsche Post Eisarena Koenigssee on February 25, 2017 in Koenigssee, Germany.
Hours after her one-sided coronation as Olympic skeleton champion at Sochi 2014, the Brit took time away from her celebrations to write up her track notes from her gold medal-winning fourth run for future reference.
"I have a daily countdown which is very important to me," explained Yarnold, after the six months to go marker ticked by last week.
"I know that the Games are coming up but that countdown tells me exactly how close they are.
"It's quite a new thing although I did have a wall planner in the house for Sochi which had all my competitions written into it. It just puts it all into perspective.
"It certainly does inspire me. If there's a day where I don't feel like doing an exercise, or I'm not feeling quite at it, I just have to look and know that I have 183 days left for example, and that pushes me on.
"It pushes me to make sure that I am the best that I can be."
Lizzy Yarnold of Great Britain reacts after the final run of the IBSF World Championships Bob & Skeleton 2017 at Deutsche Post Eisarena Koenigssee on February 25, 2017 in Koenigssee, Germany.
Image credit: Getty Images
It has so far been a carefully mapped out journey for Yarnold since Sochi, opting to miss the 2015/2016 season after completing the career Grand Slam at the 2015 World Championships in order to recharge and refresh before returning to competition last season.
It was a steady, if not spectacular, reintroduction to the competitive scene for the 28-year-old with a ninth-place finish on the World Cup circuit and a bronze medal won at the World Championships.
But if her rivals think that was a sign the Brit had lost her competitive edge, they should take note – Yarnold believes she's shaping up to be in even better shape than she was on the way to winning Olympic gold in 2014.
"I do feel like I am a much better athlete that I was at Sochi, I'm a lot better equipped," said Yarnold, who spent part of her year off completing an Open University course in bookkeeping and accountancy.
"I know it's obvious but age does come into it, I'm four years older, I've got more experience. Mentally I feel a lot stronger.
"I'm also feeling good physically. I feel fit, I don't have any injuries or niggles.
"I'm looking forward to the new season, I can't wait for the team selections to come up, to see how the team are, to see what form I'm in."
If Yarnold need any more motivation, then the chance to become the first athlete – male or female – in Olympic skeleton history to successfully defend their title is another carrot.
There is much racing to be done before then though with the new World Cup season beginning in Whistler in the penultimate week of November.
Currently it's the dreaded pre-season, with Yarnold and the British team being put through their paces – although the Sevenoaks athlete knows more than most that it's a necessity that has to be endured.
"The hard training is all part of it," said Yarnold, who took part in a recent Fareham parkrun as part of UK Sport's initiative to allow elite athletes to say thank you to the public for their support.
"We're in the hard grind phase making sure that physically and mentally we are ready to go. It's about building the muscle and getting that strength there.
"We get back on the ice in six weeks time. It's going to be a long World Cup season so we need that resilience to be able to keep going through.
"That's why the summer training is so hard. Competitions are great fun but you need that foundation."