This is an excerpt from Fitness Cycling by Shannon Sovndal.
If you want to train more seriously, you need to have a plan. Every time you get on your bike, you are essentially training. The question is whether you're training effectively or just gaining some conditioning through random episodes of exercise. If you are brand new to the sport, you will see great gains in your riding fitness, skill, and comfort simply by getting out on rides. Your body will respond to the stress of riding and will adapt accordingly. But, you can achieve much more progression if you take the time to establish a plan of action.
Effective training is what this book is all about. Most of us have other commitments—family, work, friends, and so on. That's why cyclists need to make the most of the time they spend on the bike.
As a performance cyclist, you should always be striving to improve, and you should focus your attention on your cycling goals. If you want to hit the target, you first have to define that target.
What are your goals? Why are you riding your bike? Are you riding in order to stay healthy, to beat a friend up a local climb, or to complete your first century? Every person has a different goal, and that's the point. You own your goals and all the training that you complete—every pedal stroke, every climb, every Saturday you drag yourself out of bed and onto the road.
Goals can be intimidating because they come with an inherent chance of failure. A goal that is easy to achieve and includes no chance of failure would be ineffective because it goes against the very premise of this book—getting the most out of your riding. The possibility of success or failure is the crux of a good goal. You need to struggle to improve, and the only way to truly struggle is to know that there is a risk of failure. It is the risk, the chance of failure, that drives you toward success.
To help ensure that you establish attainable goals, you should apply the Four Ps of goal setting: personalized, positive, perceivable, and possible.
Personalized means that the goals are your own. Only you can determine what is important, what will motivate you to keep your commitment, and what will give you a sense of accomplishment.
All your goals should be positive. Negative energy sucks! At Disneyland, they live by this philosophy. If you ask the workers when the park closes, they will respond, “The park stays open until 8 o'clock.” You should set a goal to accomplish a desired result rather than to avoid failure. Word your goals so that the outcome is positive.
You need to set goals that have a tangible outcome. Your goals must be perceivable to yourself or to others. This aspect of goal setting is all about accountability.
Finally, your goals need to be realistic but challenging. When you think about your goal, you should have a strong sense that the desired outcome is possible, but by no means assured. You need to believe even with the possibility of failure. This will help you suffer a little longer, struggle just a bit more, and get the most out of your training plan.
Don't think that goals are only for professionals or racers. EVERY RIDER NEEDS GOALS. Think of goals the same way you think of the rest of the training program. Training is all about progression, and goals should follow suit. They start with more obtainable outcomes. But with each accomplishment, the task becomes more difficult. Each goal builds on the last in a stepwise fashion (figure 1.1), until you find yourself faced with your ultimate accomplishment.
Be sure to write down your goals. For each time frame—short, medium, and long—fill in your primary and secondary goals (figure 1.1). Again, these goals can be anything. They should be whatever motivates you to train when you might feel like flicking on the TV instead. There is something about actually writing down your goals. This brings them outside your brain and into the real world—an accountable world.
Training is all about commitment, discipline, and perseverance. It is a slow grind, and sometimes you feel as though you're going backward instead of forward. But if you stick to your program, you WILL get better. Writing down your goals is the first barrier to overcome.
Goals will perpetually be included in your training program. Every time you reach a goal, you can have a little celebration, even if it is internal. Treat yourself to a double half-caf, mocha chai latte if that's your thing. As soon as you are finished basking in the glory of the accomplishment, write down a new set of goals. Stay on target!
Read more in Fitness Cycling by Shannon Sovndal.