The Importance of Setting Goals

What is your reason for getting up each day and feeling driven, inspired and motivated to set about completing your training for that day?

Without a doubt, I think it’s fair to say that we can all have days were we end up battling the ‘desire’ & ‘require’ of a day’s training, versus the ‘want’, or lack thereof sometimes.

Motivation comes in many different forms but when it comes to the requirement of doing training either self-planned or as prescribed from your coach, then the ability to self-motivate and achieve the training as set for the day, can more often than not, become a psychological battle ground.

Contrary, if lack of motivation is a factor due to physically feeling unwell and showing symptoms of sickness then you must always listen to your body and if working directly with a coach, then communicate fully with them in order that they ensure the following days are paved with sufficient rest and recuperation to ensure a faster recovery. Failure to do so only prolongs and escalates sickness.

Perhaps a bad night’s sleep has left you feeling flat, or even a highly stressful work week has accumulated a lot of physical and psychological fatigue, and then the thought of carrying out a tough training session can for some feel like something they can very much do without. As already mentioned, of course if you are feeling completely drained and especially if you are showing symptoms of sickness, then do listen to your body and communicate with your coach. Often taking a day to reset, or to have your coach amend your training plan to reflect an easier day replacing a harder session, can actually keep you on track by having the rest and recuperation, which in turn boosts your positive mindset and motivation to get back to those harder sessions.

Often when everything feels misaligned, ie. motivation, stress, mental exhaustion, then carrying on with a tough session can often create an even greater increase in demotivation if you just can’t hit the numbers or perhaps cannot even finish the session. Whereas, for others they may gain a determination to unleash and offload their burdens, stress, exhaustion on a tough workout, and even feel the relief and huge sense of achievement at the end. But then, it can be a fine line for the second example because achieving the set workout might have been great, but now what are the repercussions for the following days?

So far, the motivation examples have been focused on impact due to sickness, fatigue, stress factors etc. But now what about more general factors of motivation where there is no other intrinsic negative getting in the way, other than your brain saying, ”Let’s sack this off and do it tomorrow” or ” I rode to work, that will do” or ”I will leave that gym strength session – will catch up in next session”.

This is were having set goals can be the huge influencing factor to overriding that inner voice which is dragging you down and trying to convince you to leave it today and pick it up tomorrow, or to skip a certain session all together.

Set goals are a great stimulus for providing the drive and motivation to stay focused and remain dedicated, even when there may be a day where your mind is trying to convince you that it is fine to skip a session.

Perhaps your main goal is a tough mountainous Gran Fondo in the summer, then this should be your go to goal when your mind is working negatively. Visualisation of the event and it’s demands on the body is another useful tool to providing motivation too.

Fundamental to all goals and the success of maintaining the drive and motivation in training, is to make your goals S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-oriented). All elements of S.M.A.R.T. are important, but I personally find that ‘Measurable‘ is a particularly important aspect to draw upon for generating the motivation on days when we can feel somewhat ‘flat’. Some examples of measurable goals can be:

You have completed an event before and you wish to improve on a previous overall time. Or perhaps improve a time on one of the climbs within the event.

– You are participating or racing in an event that has lots of climbing and you want to improve your power-to-weight ratio. Therefore, watts per kilo becomes a measureable goal.

– You have started racing and find you are always losing time and places when coming out of corners on the road or on a criterium circuit. In which case improving your 20 – 40 second power above lactate threshold to replicate the efforts of exiting corners to hold onto a group, becomes a measureable goal.

– You may have just started cycling and wish to complete your first 50km under 2.5hrs.

Goals which are measurable, such as the above mentioned, also allow you to track your progress by setting intermediate targets towards the end result, and this can be a very valuable tool to maintaining enthusiasm and motivation at the times where your mind is perhaps trying to convince you otherwise.

None of us like failure, so goal setting is great – and in my opinion – an imperative way to remaining motivated for the training that lies ahead as you build towards your overall goal.

To learn more about general mind management including the topics of motivation and reward, then ‘The Chimp Paradox‘ by Dr. Steve Peters is a great insight into why we think the way we do.