January 1st is a magical day where everybody decides they are going to overhaul their life and be a new person in the new year. Maybe you eat junk food for lunch every day and now you are going to eat no junk food ever again. You rode 1,200 miles last year, but 10,000 miles is a given this year. This is why Strava dubs January 19th “Quitter’s Day.” They see a huge drop-off in activities by just 19 days into the year and 80% of people will abandon their resolution by the second week of February.
People generally set these resolutions because they are things they want to do, but they set lofty, immeasurable, and restrictive goals. We are going to walk through how to set goals that are easy to follow and help you not be one of those 80%.
Results Aren’t Everything
If you are in the Northern Hemisphere like we are here at SILCA, chances are your race season won’t be starting for at least a couple months. If we only set goals based around racing, that is a long time to continue behaviors with no results to provide feedback. The first resolution tip I would offer is to set some short term goals that you can reap the benefits from quickly. Maybe you spent a lot of time waiting on repairs on the shop this year, so wiping your chain down after each ride can be a great way to keep things running longer. Using a Gear Wipe is a great way to just give your bike a quick clean without taking too much time. Another great option here is to set aside 10 minutes for stretching or core after each ride, or three days a week as an example. This can help you simply feel better and make riding more enjoyable by the time your race season rolls around.
One thing I have struggled with in the past is not eating enough on my rides. I had a block in my mind that I didn’t need to eat on a 90 minute ride, but I could see if I did eat on those rides, I almost always recovered better and rode better then the next day. This can be another easy win for New Year’s Resolutions to eat something on every ride. This can be a pb&j you bring along, a bar, gel, café stop, etc. Just eating something in the middle of your rides will certainly pay off over the long haul. If you are trying to lose a few pounds this is an underestimated necessity. If you don’t eat during the ride, you tend to overeat when you get home.
Outcome vs Process Goals
In my opinion this is the biggest reason why people give up on goals. We tend to set one or two big outcome goals and no process goals. This looks like, I want to lose 15 pounds and win a specific race late in the year. In practice you haven’t achieved your goal every single day until possibly that race day. The weight will take a while and constantly is a reminder that you haven’t lost it yet. This can lead you into behaviors that satisfy the scale but likely harm other parts of your life or riding. Waiting until August to see if your goal is met is also not something that is easy to do with no feedback.
Outcome goals aren’t necessarily bad, but they are typically not all in your control as well. Maybe on race day the break sticks and you were boxed in, maybe there was a wreck that took you out in a sprint, or any number of wild things that can happen in a bike race. How many terms have you heard or said “hey that’s bike racing.” So rather than base your entire season around the result, I would recommend focusing on process goals.
Process goals are completely in your control to achieve. Weight loss is a common goal that most of us have had at some point, so lets use that as an example. Instead (or in addition to) setting a goal of losing 10 pounds by June 1st, we look at the actions that are going to be required to make that happen.
Some great examples here are:
- Eat on every ride to avoid overeating when back home
- Drink a glass of water before every meal
- This speeds up the “full” response to your brain
- Eat one meal of low calorie density foods (a large salad with some grilled chicken or salmon is a great one)
- Eat a small snack rich in healthy fat and protein at night to not wake up hungry
These are just a few process goals of things you can control every day or week that will ultimately lead to losing 10 pounds by a certain date. Focusing on these behaviors rather than the more daunting outcome goal can really impact your ability to stick with the goal and ultimately achieve it.
If we are talking about winning or being on the podium at a specific race, there are a million things that could happen on race day to stop that from happening. Focusing on the day in and day out of training is going to be much easier to check off your progress. Maybe you think your FTP needs to be 10w higher to win on that day. What workouts do you need to do to raise FTP? Maybe sweet spot works well for you so you really focus on making sure two days a week you get a really high quality sweet spot or threshold workout completed. Sacrificing a bit of volume the day before might be something that helps you accomplish those, but at the end of the week you can check the box of accomplishing those two workouts. Your FTP likely didn’t go up 10w that week, but the things you need to do to make that happen did get accomplished.
On race day, win or bust is a difficult goal to have. We all want to win, but again we can take a look at what it is going to take to win. If you are typically strong in the sprint and that is your best option to win, you can set a few process goals for the day of taking every opportunity to move up without effort, not following early moves that are unlikely to stick, always be in a good position, be in the top 10 wheels for the final kilometer, etc. All of those will put you in a great position to have an opportunity to sprint with the most energy possible left.
If the sprint isn’t your weapon of choice and getting away from the group is your best option, your process goals would likely look much different. Riding in the back for the first half of the race isn’t an option, so never falling more than 15 wheels back would be a great example. Only going with moves that have major teams represented is another goal to conserve energy and only use it when the likelihood of success is higher. Here in the US we have a lot of criterium racing, so if you are trying to win the race from a break, looking for a counter opportunity after a prime lap is a fantastic goal.
The whole reason I am such a big believer in process goals is because it keeps you focusing on the controllable factors and gives you the satisfaction of achieving a small goal on a regular basis. This makes it much more likely you are going to achieve the larger outcome goal.
Another easy way to make sure you don’t abandon your New Year’s Resolutions is to set achievable goals. If you rode 1,200 miles last year, you simply aren’t going to ride 10,000 this year without some extenuating circumstances. If you look forward to your fast food lunch 5 days a week, cutting out junk food entirely is just setting you up to be the 80%. Instead focus on replacing the fast food cheeseburger twice a week with a healthy alternative. You still get the satisfaction of your fast food cheeseburger, but started a habit off also getting a healthy alternative. This can also force you to try some foods you might not normally eat and you will likely find something you really enjoy. Starting a healthy eating habit and finding new foods you enjoy makes it much easier to then add a third and fourth day to your routine. Now you are only eating junk food once a week!
It often feels like January 1st really is that magical date when we all acquire the discipline and restraint to eat kale salads for every meal and ride 100 miles every day, but the reality is very different. Keep your goals achievable, write them down and look at them regularly, and fall in love with the process. If you can do those things you can avoid “Quitters Day” or the 80% of people who will abandon the New Years Resolution by early February.