Through this series of On the Rivet columns you’ve been learning mental skills: how to focus, to relax so that you don’t choke, build confidence and deal with performance anxiety. These columns have primarily addressed how to manage your emotions so that you perform better.
Mental skills also include an important cognitive side, especially planning. Spring arrives on Monday, the 20th, and many roadies are thinking and dreaming about the 2017 season: what events to ride, what aspects of fitness to improve, what skills to develop, etc. From this thinking and dreaming, you’re probably setting some goals for the season ahead.
“A goal without a plan is just a wish,” wrote Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the author of the Little Prince and a pioneering aviator. Plans are critical for flying, after all.
Do you need a plan to reach your goal(s)?
You’ve probably seen plans like these: 8 weeks to more power or 10 weeks to ride a century. Each plan tells you week by week what to do Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and so on.
Those aren’t really plans — they’re workout regimens, and because they’re so detailed they are hard to follow and often not useful.
A real plan is broader and more general. It can be as simple as a list of events you’ll ride this spring and summer leading up to a key ride in 2017. Or a plan could be benchmarks of how many miles you’ll ride each month to reach your goal of riding X thousand miles this year. Or the progressively harder hills that you’ll climb to improve your climbing.
Simple written plans like these have several benefits:
1. More likely to achieve goal. If you have a series of steps to follow, and you follow them, you’re much more likely to reach your goal. This is what Antoine de Saint-Exupéry means: you won’t get lost, or side-tracked, on your journey.
2. Buy-in. When you develop a plan to do certain rides building up to a key event, discuss it with your family. Then when you announce that you’re doing the Hills and Dales club ride on Saturday, they’re less likely to say, “You’re doing what? We want to … and expected you to join us ….”
3. Self-accountability. You can look at your written plan and ask yourself whether you’re following it. This is particularly effective if you keep a written journal (or track your activities with an app or something similar), listing both your goals and what you actually did.
With more thought and preparation your simple written plan can also:
4. Make training more effective. What are the most important things you need to do to reach your goal? For example, you’re training for a key ride later this summer. Which are the high-priority training events to ride? You can then skip the less important ones.
5. Make good use of your time. After John Marsh broke his collarbone last April he only had 12 weeks until the start of the Tour of Wyoming. The first seven weeks, after the crash and after surgery, he couldn’t ride on the road (but he did get a month of trainer time in), and then had a long-planned family vacation — family always comes first! That left only three weeks on the road to ramp up to the week-long Tour. I created a plan to make optimal use of his limited time available, both on the trainer and on the road.
6. Reduce the risk of injury. When you construct your plan, only increase the volume and events by a realistic amount based on your last several years of riding. If you did the “A group” club ride once a month last year, then plan to do it once or twice a month this year, but not every week. If you rode 250 miles last April, then you could safely ride 300 miles this April, a 20% increase. But trying to ride 500 miles is unwise.
Do these six reasons mean you should write a simple plan?
Dwight D. Eisenhower, commander of the Allied forces in World War II and the 34th President of the United States said, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
A plan works as long as nothing changes about your assumptions. But just like in battle, expect the unexpected. If your season is like mine, then many unexpected things will happen, many of which could derail my plan … if I had one … but I don’t. I use a planning process.
Whether you create a written plan or not, you can use this process for a more successful 2017. The process should include:
A. An honest self-assessment. What are your strengths? Your weaknesses? You don’t need a written plan to focus your training on your weaknesses.
B. A realistic review of what’s possible. How much more can you do this year than last year. How much time will you really have to ride?
C. A thoughtful consideration of priorities. How important is achieving a personal best in annual miles? How important is helping your daughter prepare for college?
D. Developing reasonable, personal goals. Based on the first three, what are reasonable goals for you?
I Don’t Have a 2017 Plan
I haven’t had a written plan since I stopped racing ultra events. However, each year I set goals using A, B, C and D. I keep a simple training journal and each week log my progress toward my goals.
Should you have a plan? Ask yourself if you:
- Have ambitious goals. The more ambitious your goals, the more a written plan will help you to reach those goals. The more modest your goals, the less you need a plan provided you use A, B, C and D.
- Really like structure. Some roadies like the structure of a month-by-month or even week-by-week plan. Some roadies’ eyes glaze over at even the suggestion of a plan.
- Need help to manage complexity. If you are juggling a demanding job, a full family life and many social obligations, then a plan will help. Why? It provides a structure that takes into account and balances all of the competing demands on your time. It provides a framework that you can modify as necessary rather than trying to make effective ad hoc decisions as your world inevitably changes.
If a pre-made Spring plan would be good for you:
Check out my 26-page eArticle Spring Training: 10 Weeks to Summer Fitness. Spring officially arrives on the 20th. The article contains four different 10-week programs based on how active you were this winter and your 2017 goals. Each plan is flexible so you can adjust it to your available training time. Just $4.99; $4.24 for Premium Members!
If you’d rather create your own plan for the full 2017 season:
Get my two-article bundle: Your Best Season Ever
1. Plan your Training. The 32-page eArticle walks you through all the steps to create your own personal multi-month plan for your specific goals, rather than trying to modify an existing plan. Your plan will be similar to what I charge clients hundreds of dollars to create.
2. Peak for Your Event. The 37-page eArticle helps you to use your personal plan to create more detailed peaking plan for a key event and a personal strategy for success.
Just $8.98; $7.64 for Premium Members!
Coach John Hughes earned coaching certifications from USA Cycling and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. John’s cycling career includes course records in the Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200-km randonnée and the Furnace Creek 508, a Race Across AMerica (RAAM) qualifier. He has ridden solo RAAM twice and is a 5-time finisher of the 1200-km Paris-Brest-Paris. He has written nearly 30 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training and nutrition, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach John Hughes. Click to read John's full bio.