Apparently the 12th January is now officially "Quitters Day" and by now most people have given up on their New Year's Resolutions. I don’t do resolutions because they have always felt to me to be expressions of hope, rather than plans of action. 'I want to get fitter' is not the same as, 'I am going to get fitter’. The latter is immediately followed by the question ‘how?’ and that forces you to have a plan. Unless you happen to be one of those people who thinks you can dream and hope for something or just believe in it hard enough and it will come true. That only works in Disney and for some Brexiteers (sorry I just can’t help myself).
I find that setting goals and targets is the only way to put my desires into action. Having a specific number you want to hit for weight loss or specific events you want to train for, means you will have to work out how to make them happen. Having already documented my struggles with motivation, I thought I would share how I stick to my plans.
I have always been a big fan of booking events far in advance. It gives me longer terms goals, helps me focus on an end prize and frankly helps keep me motivated during the hardest days, weeks and months. Why am I out here in the cold and rain? Because I want to be in shape for the Club tour in April in the sun in Mallorca. That sort of thing.
Note that 'because I already paid to enter this bloody thing' is also a perfectly valid motivator, unless you are rich enough that you can just forget about the money.
To get my planning right I start with one big goal and then find other smaller goals to support it. This fits in with the idea of having process goals and outcome goals. Most people focus on the outcome goals like, 'I want to ride a 100 kilometres in under 4 hours' or 'I want to finish Top 10 in a race'. The problem with outcome goals is that they are very binary; you either achieve them or you don’t. Would dropping from 5 hours to 4 1/2 hours for 100 kilometres be a failure? I don’t think so.
Process goals on the other hand are all about hitting milestones both big and small and celebrating those. This could be something like setting a goal to ride three times a week. Or setting a goal to extend the longest distance you ride from 75km to 80km to 85km and so on. Process goals are all the steps you have to take along the way to get to the end outcome.
This by the way is why you often hear athletes taking about wanting to 'execute their race’ well regardless of the end outcome. Get every part of your 100m right and run as fast as you possibly could and that is success. You can’t control the outcome goal of getting a gold medal if you are running against Usain Bolt right?
If you set process goals along the way to a big outcome goal, you can celebrate achieving them first and see if they add up to the end outcome you really want. Hitting all your process goals along the way can give you a real sense of achievement. Taking this approach can also let you set your outcome goal to be something big, ambitious and perhaps a little scary, because even if you don’t get there this time, you have a ton of smaller wins along the route and some learning for next time.
My goals for 2019
I had one big goal in mind for this year; complete the Coast to Coast in a day challenge in June. That's 240km in 14 hours. Frankly I still think that this is right at the edge of my ability. That’s not false modesty, I am not sure I can ride that far. Even though I will train for it, there are some huge climbs in the Lake District to get over and I am not built for going uphill. But riding it surrounded by friends and club mates will definitely make it easier. So the current plan is:
February - The Rawlinson Bracket, a local 100km sportive that takes in every big climb in Warwickshire they can fit in.
March - Cape Town Cycle Tour - the biggest mass timed event in the world with 38,000 people completing the 109km race on closed roads
April - Club Tour To Mallorca - I'm aiming for 500km and 5000m of climbing in a week
May - my first 200km Audax
June - C2C in a day
July - L’Etape du Tour (stage 21 of the Tour de France)
August - I don’t know yet, but a multi-day European tour with Mrs B is favourite
L'Etape is a big bonus because I got my place through a lottery with Rapha Cycle Club. More on that on another day.
Putting it out there
Finally I will add, that making my goals public also works for me as the pain of training is always less than the embarrassment of admitting I have dropped out. Admittedly I kept my big ride last year a secret until the week before I left, but that was very driven by work commitments and several stars and planets lining up. Sharing your goals publicly can increase your own commitment and can help you find you people to support you in your process goals. It works for me on weight loss also - more on that next time.
I now need to break down my event goals into smaller process goals to see what I need to plan to make them a reality. The first one will be simple, get to the gym tonight and complete a one hour hill training session on a Wattbike. It’s bloody freezing outside.
Postscript: it was pointed out to me by Mrs B that my plans require spending lots of money and that not everyone can do that. This is true and I am not attempting to show off how much I am spending, just that you can find events that help you build up to a bigger goal. I don’t feel guilty for spending so much money on cycling - I could have a bigger house or own a car or go on bigger and better non-cycling holidays.
PPS: On the other hand perhaps Mrs B was just pointing out that we are spending a lot of money on me cycling... that can't be it surely?