If you’re a professional, and you’ve raced more than 40 days in the last 9 months, then yes, 3 weeks or so off the bike makes sense. Your body needs a chance to recover completely before beginning to prepare it for your new season.
If you’re like the rest of us, and you have to plan your training around a full time job and family commitments, then it’s unlikely you’ve raced so many days and trained so hard that you need sustained time off the bike. In fact, taking more than a few days off the bike will required extra effort to recover the fitness you lose.
You know you want to improve as a cyclist, but how do you go about it?
“If you don’t know know where you’re going, any road will get you there”. That’s hard to argue against, so the first step in any planning is to determine “point B”. If you want to improve, how do you measure progress, and how do you know if you’ve been successful?
This blog recommends an approach to goal setting that should help you train in a structured and measurable way. If you’re relatively new to cycling, you may not know what’s realistically achievable. If you’re an experienced cyclist, but you’ve not done structured training before, you may not know how much improvement you can make in a single season. It would be very, very disappointing to work for months only to fail to achieve your goal. So, goal setting deserves a bit of thought, and here are four simple steps to help you.
- Measurable. There is a vital difference between vague goals, such as “I want to be faster”, and measurable goals, such as “I want to ride a 10 mile time trial in under 25 minutes”. Working with vague goals is a bit like the opening quote. If you don’t know how much you want to improve, then any training will do as long as it’s more than you’ve done before. So, think about goals you can measure, and that can include fitness goals, such as weight loss or percentage body fat, as well as cycling performance goals.
- Specific. Goals can focus on an outcome, such as winning the club hill climb at the end of the season, a personal improvement, such as losing 10 pounds, or a process, such as training 4 days/week. What these have in common is they are all specific and measurable.
- Achievable. As mentioned above, you may not have enough experience to know up-front what is realistic. There is nothing wrong with setting an initial goal, starting down the path, and then adjusting the goal once you gain some experience. One benefit from working with a coach and doing an up-front fitness assessment is we can work with “Point A” data and with power/weight charts to more accurately determine what is possible given a duration of time and an amount of training. In any case, don’t become a slave to a goal. Injury, illness or matters outside your control may change your plan, so you should feel free to change your goal without guilt.
- Time-bound. How long do you have to achieve your goal? The slope of the lines in these two examples highlight the differences in the training plans required to get from A to B. The time needed to get from A to B needs to be part of your evaluation of what is achievable. Intermediate milestones along the journey are also important. These milestones may reinforce you are on-track and no changes are needed, or they may cause you to modify your goal. It would be very disappointing to training for months toward what is, ultimately, an unrealistic goal and only learning that on the big day. Intermediate milestones and an objective 3rd party view can help avoid such disappointment.
The final point is “a goal without a plan is just a wish”. This should be self-evident, and the next blog entry will focus on the steps to building a plan to achieve your goals.