New Year’s resolutions are cliche and not generally productive. But we keep making them, perhaps because we have a desire to improve our lives and there’s so much momentum around resolutions this time of year.
As a cyclist, you have an advantage with resolutions because you have a lot of past experiences that provide data, results, strengths and weaknesses for you to make SMART goals to drive success in the year to come. So let’s resolve to call them goals — not resolutions — this year and see what happens.
WHO ARE YOU?
Knowing where you are now — the 5th place age-group finisher, the 10th on the local time-trial, the national champion, or simply the person who knows they can get stronger — gives you a starting point. Because you have some cycling experience, it is much easier to know where you are and start planning what comes next.
Some data to consider is: How many hours per week you rode on average? What your biggest training week was? How many rides you did per week and some peak power numbers (or best times up local hills).
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO STRIVE FOR?
Given this past season, what do you think you can do, or want to do, this coming year? Perhaps you want to ride a certain mileage goal? Or upgrade to a new racing category? Or set a new personal best time or get an age-group podium finish? These are great targets, especially if you have an idea of where you are in relation to this goal. If the discipline or category is new to you then you can set goals around training for, participating in and finishing an event this year. This lets you build on that time/result with a resolution the following year.
WHY THIS GOAL?
Too often resolutions lack a reason and fail. Since few of us get paid to ride bikes, we want to be sure our cycling resolution makes sense in our lives and it has a positive benefit like helping us learn new skills, socialize and, overall, be positive about ourselves.
Extreme focus on weight loss, ultra-distance events and elite-level performances (or huge stretch goals) are very time consuming and likely will require a lot of sacrifices. Be sure your goal aligns with other important aspects and people in your life. It’s OK to give yourself multiple seasons to accumulate fitness, skills and experience before going all-in.
ESTABLISH A MANAGEABLE START
Breaking a big goal into a habit or micro-goal for the week or month can make it more doable — and at the end of January, when most people are giving up on their resolutions, you can be preparing for the next block of training. If you want to ride a certain number of miles in a year, what does that mean for a typical week or weekend? Will you build in some buffer for vacations and other unforeseen occurrences?
Now you can start planning your season and also consider what elements of your fitness you need to improve. January might be the time to log some bigger hours on the bike, address that sore-back with some strength training or improve your skills limitations by going to a bike park and getting coaching. Athletes wanting to address body composition may seek a nutritionist and a strength coach to focus on that aspect for several months before focusing on their specific cycling goal.
WHAT MIGHT DERAIL YOU?
Before you set off chasing that resolution make sure you put together some plans to head off distractions or reasons for failure. Doing more hours each week sounds good on paper but what happens when you have to work late? You are tired? The weather is bad?
Make a list of excuses, possible reasons for failure and ways to mitigate your risk of failure. Some effective strategies include: pantry cleanouts to keep your food supply aligned with your goals, making big meals that leave you with leftovers for lunches and snacks in the days after, having a gear bag with extra snacks in the car to help squeeze in a workout if you get stuck at work (or if you forget something for your group ride), joining a weekly club ride and training in the morning to make sure that your workout gets done before distractions happen and to allow for an earlier bedtime.