Creating SMARTER Goals for cyclists

So as we speed into 2011 instead of setting New Year’s cycling resolutions why not set some SMARTER cycling goals? In this article, I am going to share with you tools and end the end a bunch of secrets to successfully fulfill your new year’s goals.

The new Year’s Holiday is one of the oldest holidays celebrated throughout the world, dating back to 2000 BC in ancient Sumeria. Here are some facts from Psychology Today’s web site about New Year’s resolutions:

  • 50% of adults in North America will make a New Year’s resolution (Norcross & Vangarelli, 1988, as cited by Koestner 2008, p. 60).
  • The top two resolutions are behavioral commitments related to improving one’s health namely to cease smoking and decrease one’s consumption of alcohol (Norcross & Vangarelli, 1988, as cited by Koestner 2008, p. 60).
  • Some discouraging information: Most people fail in adhering to their stated New Year’s resolutions. Specifically, 22% fail after one week, 40% after one month, 50% after three months, 60% after six months, and 81% after twenty-four months (Norcross & Vangarelli, 1988, as cited by Koestner 2008, p. 60).
  • Three reasons for failing to achieve one’s stated goals (Baumeister and Heatherton 1996, as cited by Koestner, 2008, p. 61):
  1. Unclear and vague goals. It is better to state “I plan on losing 20 lbs by June 1st” rather than “I plan on being more healthy.”
  2. Failure to gauge one’s progress toward the stated goals. It is better to weigh yourself every Friday morning as a means of gauging your weight loss rather than leaving it to how “well you feel in your pants.”
  3. Weak self-control and self-regulation when facing challenges that impede one’s ability to achieve the stated goals. It is better to state that once you go on vacation, you will only have a single plate at any meal at the all-you can eat buffet (irrespective of the offerings) rather than having to respond to the temptations at each meal void of a self-regulatory action plan.

I see the above happen every year and have fallen victim to them myself from time to time. Every New Year I step into the gym, I happen to be a member of at the time and find it SWAMPED with new members. Unfortunately, this only last for 2-3 weeks then in the next 2-3 months I am back to seeing the same dedicated athletes training away. Also at the beginning of each spring road racing season, we will find that cyclists have quadrupled within the Citizen and Cat 5 fields from the previous summer. After a few spring races, the field sizes shrink in size again. Why is this? Is it because of the above “Three reasons for failing to achieve one’s stated goals”? I would say yes and no.

The problem I have with articles about why people fail at this or that is that the writer rarely gives working examples of what went right for some in their studies. I am going to try and give you the cyclists, racer and multi-sport athlete’s the tools you need to make SMARTER goals.

In my day job, I am an Information Technology Consultant and a certified Project Manager (PM). I have found that being a PM has really benefited in the development of my coaching methodologies. While I am not a rigid PM I do know that projects succeed and fail because of poor planning and goal setting. The same holds true for athletes.

I learned a mnemonic when I became a PM 7 years ago that has proven very helpful in coaching cyclists. It is the cornerstone of my coaching philosophies.

The SMART criteria listed below have been adapted from this Wikipedia article.

SMART / SMARTER is a mnemonic used in project management as a way of evaluating the objectives or goals for an individual project.

Letter Major Term Minor Terms
S Specific Significant, Stretching, Simple
M Measurable Meaningful, Motivational, Manageable,
A Attainable Appropriate, Achievable, Action-oriented, Ambitious
R Relevant Realistic, Results-oriented, Rewarding
T Time-bound Time-oriented, Trackable
E Evaluate Excitable, Enjoyable, Engaging
R Reevaluate Reassess, Revisit, Recordable, Reachable

Even applying the SMART criteria to your goals may not be enough. I also have newer athletes who provide me not only race/ride goals but training objectives.

Training Objectives could be as simple as:

  • I want to be able to lift XXX LBS by the end of the offseason
  • I want to raise my avg. cadence to XXX by the end of the offseason
  • I want to increase my power by XX% by the end of a race season.

When I have other athletes that still struggle with training objectives or seeing progress through all of the work I will have them give me daily and even weekly training goals.

Daily and Weekly training goals could include:

  • I will do all of my scheduled workouts this week
  • I will try to add X lbs. to my leg press this week
  • I will try and hold XX MPH for 5 minutes longer
  • I will stay off the front of the paceline in the week’s group ride

So the secret to setting successful goals is as follows:

  • Make more smaller specific goals and write them down and share them with others
  • Are the goals measurable? Make it easy I did X or I didn’t do X
  • Can you actually reach your goal?
  • Set a reward system for your self for reaching your goals no matter how small
  • Do not make your goals open-ended, give your self a date and mark it on a calendar you see every day.
  • Review and re-review your goals at the end of the week and month. Be flexible and be ready to make changes. Life is not a static event.
  • If you meet a goal early great! Do not try to up it! Move on to the next goal.
  • If you didn’t meet a goal by a certain time you need to evaluate why and write it down and reschedule it.

While the SMART mnemonic is very simple to understand it can be daunting to apply to your new year’s goals. If you need some help learning how to apply the SMART criteria to your training objectives, rides and race goals give me a call or email me to learn even more about services and plans. I will also be hosting camps, webinars and clinics in 2011 so check back often for a schedule of events. I will also be introducing even more services for avid cyclists, event riders, corporate teams, and new cycling professionals partnerships in 2011!

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