The Proper Way to Plan and Set Goals for the New Year
As an athlete and coach, I love the New Year’s season. It is a good time to reflect upon things past and make plans for the future. Even if those plans become thwarted by events outside your control, a plan means you are intending to go somewhere or do something. As Mark Twain said, “Plan for the future because that's where you are going to spend the rest of your life.”
Assessing Your Ability and Creating a Training Plan
I like to put some structure into my planning. So, the first thing I do is look back over the last year or two to reflect upon aspects of training that went well and things that didn’t go so well. I also think on the reasons for this. From these thoughts I create a list to rank cycling-related skills (as that is what I am writing this article in relation to, but it could be any sport or activity). I then score them on a scale of one to ten, where a ten means that skill went fantastically well and a one means it was dreadful. I also write down how important that skill or activity was for me.
Your list might look something like this:
The next step is to arrange each item into a grid like this one, which charts importance versus ability:
All the items that end up in the top right are important, but your ability at them might benefit from some improvement. These top two or three items are good ones to go into your training plan.
Then I repeat this same exercise, but this time looking forward to next year’s goals. Some of the top topics might be repeated, or there be some new ones. You may also like to ask a coach or a cycling friend to help with this as an outside view may add useful perspective.
The next activity is to think of some specific training activities that would help develop those top two or three items in the grid.
Also write down some ideas for how these items could be tested and measured. Regular testing on a four- or five-week cycle will help evaluate the effect of the training and if any adjustments are needed.
These tables give you a framework around which to prioritize and develop some training actions. These actions should be as specific as possible and should fit in with all the other daily activities, work, and family commitments that you need to do.
Putting Your Plan Into Practice
In my own experience, turning theory into practice can be the hardest part. Putting every training session into a diary can really help. Many people use a separate training diary, but I prefer to use my normal daily diary that has my full schedule in it. That way my training session is always visible as a fixed appointment and marked as reserved time.
I also make sure that everything I need for training for the week ahead is ready, such as checking if my kit is washed. I also check my schedule for the week to see if maybe Tuesday’s session needs to be moved to Wednesday due to traveling. I also check the weather forecast to see if I would be better moving the sessions around so that the outside session avoids bad weather. That being said, I do try to keep to a routine of specific days and times whenever possible as that helps maintain my training tempo.
Inevitably, circumstances and events mean that plans need to be flexible to accommodate work and family life, illness or injury. The main thing is to keep working towards those goals. In the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
Best wishes for your training plans and successes in 2014.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.