Let's talk about setting some goals for your upcoming cycling season. Setting goals is a very important step in not only setting up a training plan, but helping you keep the fire and motivation as the season progresses. I wrote a bit about goal setting this time last year, and it can be read here. I would like to expand on that a bit this year, maybe help a bit more as you try and determine your season goals, as well as give some additional info on what to do, or how to help achieve those goals.
So, first things first. What do you hope to accomplish this season? Are you new to racing and just want to improve some skills, get comfortable in the peloton, and maybe finish a stage race for the first time? Or, perhaps you've been doing this racing thing a while, and it's time to step it up and battle with the big boys, upgrade to CAT 2 and have a realistic shot at placing high some races. No matter what the goal, first and foremost it MUST be important to YOU. It doesn't really matter what other people want or expect from you, when the going gets tough, the training gets hard, and the distractions are everywhere, what you're going after MUST be important to you. Bike racing is hard. It doesn't matter if you're a CAT 5 just starting out, or CAT 2 capable of winning state or regional races, it's just plain hard. If you want to be successful, you have to be willing to work. If you don't really know why you're doing this or what you hope to accomplish, it is way to easy to just throw in the towel and go back to playing golf or whatever else you can do that doesn't require as much physical and mental preparation (and pain!) to be successful. So, the goal has got to be important, and YOU gotta want it, and want it BAD.
Another thing to consider is that the season goals have to be realistic. I used the Tour as an example of a dream in my other goal setting post. It's great to dream and think that someday you could be riding in the Tour de France, but for the vast majority of people, that is a dream, not really a goal. It's great to dream, and I think it is even good to have a dream goal. A dream goal is something that is most likely out of your reach, but something you really, really want and if everything happened just perfectly and you got really lucky, who knows, it could happen. Example might be to someday get noticed and signed by a pro team, or win a national championship. For some people, those are realistic season goals, for others, they are dream goals. A dream goal is something you can use to help motivate you when times get tough. You gotta keep working, you don't want to give up on your dream, right? So, it's great to dream, but your season goals are most important. They must stretch you, make you work hard and maintain focus, but they must be something that could realistically happen for you THIS season.
OK, the season goal(s) must be important and realistic. To me, these are the most significant qualities to have in a goal. If you have something that is important to you, and realistically possible, you will be willing to do what it takes to accomplish them. They also have to be something you can control. A goal of "winning the Tour de Bozeman" might be something that is realistic and important to you, but if Alberto Contador and his tainted beef show up, you're probably not going to reach your goal. I'd rather see the goal worded as "have the ride of my life at Tour de Bozeman". That way, it's possible to accomplish your goal and feel like you had a successful season, even if you don't get the win. It's ok, and even good to have more than one season goal, but try and keep it down to three or four, otherwise you are giving yourself to many different things to focus on as you move through the season.
Once you come up with some goals, you have to think of what it will take to accomplish them. These will be the things you need to focus your training on as you move through the season. Back to the Tour de Bozeman example, if that is your goal event you will probably need to improve your climbing ability, considering the nature of the course. You may need to work on training consistency, improving the structure of your training, improve TT position, drop a few pounds to reach a desired racing weight, or hire a coach to guide you on your journey. You will also want to come up with some short term goals to help you along the way. Some example of short term goals might be to cut one minute of your best climbing time up your local hill, achieve racing weight by April 1st, improve functional threshold power to xxx watts by a certain date, attend a week long training camp early in the spring, etc.
Once you have put some thought into this process, the next thing you NEED to do is write down your goals and tell people about them. I have a goal setting worksheet that I have my clients fill out. They have to write down there dream goal, season goals, what it will take to achieve them, and some short term goals that will help them reach the season goals. I not only have them fill out the worksheet, but ask them to write there goals down in other places, as well, For example, one of my goals this season is to drop a few pounds to get back to a leaner racing weight, so my goals are posted on the refrigerator. Every time I reach for a snack, I see my goals and it helps me decide whether I really need to eat now, or not. In the film "A Ride with George Hincapie" George talks about how he has his goals written down and hung in his closet, so every day when he dresses for his training rides he looks at them and it helps him focus his training. Write these things down everywhere you can, and tell as many people as will listen what your trying to accomplish. Once the people around you know how important your goals are, not only will they possibly be more understanding and do what they can to help, but it helps hold you accountable. All these people now know your trying to accomplish a certain goal, you don't want to let them down, so maybe you'll get that ride in today instead of skipping, even though you really feel like going to bed. See what I mean? It may seem like a bunch of mental mumbo jumbo, but trust me, it all helps.
As an example, and to help hold myself accountable, I will post my season goals here. I know Jason and Tomas will see them, not sure if (or why?) anyone else still reads this....
Dream Goal- Master National Cyclocross Champ
- Have the ride of my life at Masters CX Nats, leading to a top 10 finish
- I have a specific MT road season goal here, the people around me will know
it, I just don't want Herzig to know, so I'll not post it here
- Be strong enough to be a factor and help the team at Elkhorn
What will it take to achieve these goals?
- focused and consistent training
- improved climbing ability
- improved bike handling for CX
- improved power to weight ratio
Short term goals to focus on throughout the season:
- Be fit and in the mix for a personal or team win at Roubaix
- Achieve racing weight by mid April
- Improve functional threshold power to 350+ watts by June
- Stay with the lead group on the climb heavy Cow Country course
- Consistently finish on the podium at Montana CX races
There's all the goals, etc for my upcoming season. I can now use this as a blueprint for where to focus my energy during training. The training will all be geared towards accomplishing these goals. Posting them here really will help hold me accountable, and strive even harder to accomplish them. Doing something similar could help you, as well.
Pick important goals, tell people about them, write them down everywhere you can, and work your tail off to make sure they happen. Time is wasting, now is the time to decide what your going to do this season. Better get to it.....