The basics of goal setting for cyclists
I’m a huge fan of goal setting for cyclists. I always focus more on my riding if I’m working towards a goal like participating in an organised ride, or riding a particular course. I still enjoy riding without a specific goal, but I tend to get a bit lazy. There’s nothing like having an event coming up to make you get out of bed in the early morning when you feel like turning off your alarm clock, rolling over and going back to sleep.
But there is more to goal setting for cyclists so here are a few tips to help you set your goals.
Why are you setting this goal?
The ‘why’ is the motivation behind the goal. For example, if you’ve signed up to a mass participation ride, your ‘why’ could simply be to complete the long-distance ride within the cut-off times, or it could be you want to complete it in a particular time.
To make it an effective goal you need to find the reason behind it for you, not anyone else. It’s the thing that will keep you going when the weather is ordinary, or you want to enjoy a sleep-in rather than ride your bike.
Make the goal specific and set a realistic plan
If you make your goal too wishy-washy you won’t know when you’ve achieved it. It’s a bit like setting New Year’s resolutions, if you make them too broad like ‘get fit’ then you’re setting yourself up for failure, because what does ‘get fit’ mean to you.
Make your goal specific and measurable, like the one mentioned above. “I will complete the XXX Ride in four hours.”
You can then make some realistic plans to reach your goal. For example, to prepare for a major event you might set a specific training goal that is time or distance-based, like ‘I will complete three rides of 100 km in the month leading up to the event’.
It doesn’t have to be based on time, distance or speed, it can also be a skills-based goal. It could be that you’re going to practice a particular bike skill like descending or climbing (after reading my previous blog posts) and include the skill in a session once per week.
You’ll need to find a balance between your training program and other parts of your life like work, family and friends. You might be able to make some sacrifices in your non-riding life, but you can’t drop everything else. That’s just not realistic.
Training for your goal without a plan of how you will reach it will enviably lead to failure.
Track of your progress
Modern technology allows us to track many metrics in bike riding like speed, heart rate, power, and more.
Using a bike computer like those made by Garmin and Wahoo, make it really easy to track your progress. Both bike computer companies have software and apps to track your rides, and Strava is also extremely popular with cyclists to measure progress.
You’ll be able to track any improvements in your regular rides by comparing data and checking your progress against your goal. Without data, you’ll just be guessing.
By tracking your progress, you’ll build confidence that you can reach your goal within the time frame you’ve set.
Remember you’re doing it for you
It’s tempting to compare yourself with other riders but if you’ve set your own goals, you should only be measuring yourself against your goals, not those of others.
It can be very demotivating to focus on the progress of your friends and other riders. Every person is different and has a different ‘why’ so focus on your own.
I really hate how so many reality TV contestants say, “I’m doing this for my family”, but most are not doing it for anyone but themselves, and that’s okay. You can focus on yourself and not on others. You can want to do something to make your family proud and make them realise how great you are, but ultimately, it’s still for you, not for anyone else.
When you’re struggling up that hill or feel like giving up, remind yourself how much you want it, and why you want it, and how it will make you feel when you achieve it. The power of visualisation is very strong. Picture yourself crossing the finish line and you’ll get there. In the meantime, enjoy the ride.