Ahh, it’s a New Year!!! And, of course, with it comes all kinds of resolutions, promises…and new (or old) GOALS! Keeping in the spirit of this New-Year-Thing, I’m going to address a great strategy for achieving your mtb goals with some examples of how riders of any ability can use this strategy and benefit from it.
Most of us, as mountain bike riders, probably have some goals that we’d like to achieve: some things we’d like to do better on the bike in the coming year and beyond. But when it comes to achieving goals, like most things, there are good ways and not so good ways to go about them. Put together a solid plan, put some work into it, go into action…and there’s a real good chance that you’re going to achieve what you set out to do. Go about it haphazardly, be lazy about it…and you’ll be sitting in the same spot next year with that same list of unmet goals in your head.
I’m going to introduce the S.M.A.R.T. acronym. I first heard this applied in fitness training but it could be applied effectively in pretty much any goal-achieving scenario and definitely applies in mountain biking.
You’ve probably heard, Write Your Goals Down, etc… This takes things a bit further and deals with the steps you need to take to achieve your goals in a much more thorough manner.
So we’ll get right into it, starting with ”S”
“S” stands for Specific
In other words, WHAT is your goal? Perhaps you want to ride more? Perhaps you want to race? Maybe you want to do well in you age division at the races? All of these can work as specific goals at this point, and this is kind of your Big Picture goal or “Macro” goal.
But, What Are Your Goals?
“M” is for Measurable
Next, we have “M”… “M” is for Measurable.
This is where we put to a number on things. You want to ride more? Well, how much more? For instance, if you really only get out on the weekends and you’d like to get two rides in during the week in addition to your weekend ride, there you go! Three rides per week… That’s a measurable goal.
If doing some racing is your goal, then how many races do you want to do? Trying out racing at one local race is much different then competing in the whole series. And for the rider that wants to do well in their racing class, what is your Measurable Goal? Are you aiming for one podium? Do you want to be top five overall in points at the end of the year? Or do you want to win the whole thing? Maybe, you know that you’re not going to race, but you have plenty of things you’d like to make happen in your riding in the future. What are these and how can you measure them?
Obviously, identifying the Measurable part starts to get pretty important because different goals will require different preparation.
“A” is for Achievable
Goals need to be achievable.
They definitely can be slightly out of reach from where you’re currently at; they definitely may require some hard work and planning to achieve; but they still have to be REALISTICALLY achievable.
Let’s say you just had twins…not a good time to try and fit two more rides per week into your schedule (my guess is riding will probably be on the back burner for a bit…). But, if you do have enough flex in your schedule, you can move things around to make the time, your family gets it and supports you…then riding three times per week is definitely an achievable goal.
For the rider wanting to do some racing, it’s not too difficult for most people to find one day and go sign up for one race (logistically, at least). However, if you plan on doing the whole series, that’s probably going to take some time, some traveling, some expenses… Is that possible for you to do considering all other things in your life? Are you willing to commit to something like that? Is it realistically an achievable goal? Likewise, for the racer that wants to “do well”, a goal of winning the Pro-Open Class Overall is probably a bit out of reach if you just started riding, are still forty pounds overweight, and still smoke a pack a day. But for a serious and committed racer that is willing to put in the work with training and make the sacrifices…that next level (or more) is achievable.
“R” stands for Relevant
Now, we’re down to our “Micro” goals.
These are pretty much our daily goals that we need to accomplish in order to get us to that Macro goal. These have to be relevant to the Macro goal to keep us on course.
For example, the rider that wants to ride three days per week instead of one: you have a real job, and you’ll be riding early in the mornings and possibly at night during the week. Do you have proper gear for the cold mornings and decent lights for night riding? (If not, one of your goals is to get these things). How’s your diet? Three rides per week instead of one will definitely be an adjustment on your system and require some decent fuel, and your time will now be crunched a bit; consistently grabbing fast food on the way to work because you didn’t have enough time to get some decent recovery food into your system is bad news for your plan. Getting dehydrated, getting sick…all things to be avoided with simply education and planning.
These are things that need to be done off of the bike, but they’re still very relevant to achieving your goal. At this point, it’s probably more about adjusting your lifestyle so you can spend time on the bike. But, these are still micro-goals that need to be achieved in order to move forward.
For the more serious rider or racer, “R” will probably start to be about training properly, maybe getting some formal instruction or a riding coach (shameless plug); but, ultimately, doing things that will make you better at what you need to do to achieve your mtb goals. I often see serious racers putting hard work into areas that just aren’t relevant to what they’re trying to achieve. Too often I see racers just adopt some training plan because that’s what X-Top-Pro Dude does. You should ask yourself what are YOUR weaknesses and how can YOU improve in these areas? If you don’t know, can you hire someone to help you out? These are relevant goals…
“T” is for time
And, finally, we have “T” for time … As in, “When you gonna start?”
Set a date. “After the Holidays” doesn’t really cut it. Next Week? How about What Day next week? For the rider that needs the cold weather gear before they can start their morning rides, plan on WHEN you’re going to buy that stuff. For the racer that needs some help with technique, WHEN will you start with a coach. For the racer that needs a trainer, WHEN will you start looking for a trainer and WHEN will you start your training? This needs to be down to the day, in my opinion.
I really like the S.M.A.R.T. acronym. Obviously, the examples I used are pretty simple; we could go way more into detail in all areas, there will always be a bit of overlap and adjustment in goal setting… But, overall, I like this system because it makes the person actually think about what they want to do and how they need to do it. And, perhaps most important, when they are going to start…