Get SMARTS

Applying some well-trodden ground rules to your aspirations vastly increases your chance of realising your potential.  This factsheet gives you the knowledge and understanding you need to build your own blueprint for a self-determined, structured, training program.  This factsheet and the information in it, if followed, is guaranteed to improve your performance.  A bold statement but a fact.

A structured training programme can give you a sense of well-being through knowing nothing in your race preparation has been left to chance.  It gives you the motivation to push on when the training gets tough, because if it isn't tough how is your body going to progress and over-compensate?  It provides a route-map to your stated goals and it works in pre-planned test sessions and benchmarks against which you can measure your progress.

Get SMARTS
SMARTS, is my variant of an acronym that has a long and distinguished history.  The generic process has been used by athletes, performance coaches and management of all disciplines to ensure that goals set in any context, not just cycling, stand a greater chance of reaching a successful outcome.  It sounds corny but it works, and as I've said a thousand times before if you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got.  So if you haven't tried it before give it a go.  What have you got to lose?

Specific
So, to the details.  Goals should always be specific Specific goals have far higher success rates than non-specific aims.  "I'd like to do well", is a laudable aim but not very specific.  "I'm going to achieve a personal best in a 10 mile time trial" is a little bit better.  At least it has an air of specificity about it!.

Measurable
Having a specific goal of achieving a personal best in a 10 mile time trial is okay.  But wouldn't it be better to make your goal a little more measurable?  Lets say your previous best was 25 minutes dead, that's two and a half minutes a mile.  If your stated goal was to do a 24 minute ride, well now we have something to measure.  You now need to ride a mile in two minutes twenty-four seconds.  That's something for which you can train and measure progress against.

Achievable
Making goals achievable is the only way to guarantee success.  Goals should be challenging but not out of reach.  Saying your going to do a 24 minute ten, then being happy with a 24:59 is not really challenging is it?  However trying to do a 19 when you've yet to break 27 minutes is probably not on for this year.  The chances of "achieving" this goal are slim; in my opinion.  So aim for an achievable goal that's within your potential but outside of your current ability.  Once you've achieved it you can always set another one.  Nothing breeds success like success.

Recorded
All goals, if they are to remain at the forefront of your mind and ultimately prove successful must be recorded.  Make sure you write it down, keep it where you can see it and tell everyone you can about what you intend to do.  Once a goal has been recorded the chances of success grow exponentially.  Write it down and stick it where you can see it every day or next to your bike so every time you go training you know what you're training for.

Timescale
Attach a timescale to  your goal otherwise it becomes little more than a wish.  I want to ride a 24 minute time trial is not a SMART goal.  Because if you don't do it this week, then it's okay because there's always next week, or next month, then next season!  If you write down and stick next to your bike, "I'm going to ride a 24 minute dead, time trial at this year's Island Championships", you're well on our way to fulfilling all of the requirements for a well defined goal.

Sub-goals
When setting a main goal sub-goals are a crucial consideration.  There is no use sitting down in January, deciding you're going to do a 24 dead ten at Easter, writing it on your garage wall, then going off to do a string of 50 mile club runs, throw in a few intervals mid-March, then ride the course the Thursday before the event on your time trial-bike to see how hard you need to ride during the event!  Two weeks before the race, which appears quicker than you realise, is too late to try and "get some speed in your legs".  But you'll be surprised how many people try!

Work backwards from your event, place your sub-goals at five and nine weeks before, plan where you need to be at these way-points and carry out tests to make sure you're on track.  Plan a progressive build up and make sure you allow for a proper taper before the event.  Doing a practice run on the Tuesday and Wednesday before the event isn't going to help you achieve your goal.

The Message
This is a subject I could write a book about, but I wont.  This factsheet is here as a taster to allow you to help yourself plan your season and your training.  Closer to the season further factsheets will follow describing what you can do to help yourself once your training is complete.  But for now, do some event-specific tests, prepare an event-specific plan and make sure everything you do is a step towards your event-specific SMARTS goal.

Remember, if your goal isn't:

Specific
Measurable
Achievable
Recorded
Time-scaled
Sub-goaled

you may greatly increase your capacity to be disappointed.  Which would be a shame just for the sake of doing something a little different.