The end of the year is a great time to reflect on what you’ve achieved over the past 12 months and set your sights on what comes next. While it’s only natural to set some lofty goals for the coming season, try spending a month this winter focused on small aspects of training you can fully control. You’ll lay the foundation for big things with manageable steps, and help establish habits to ensure success long into the future.
Outcome Vs. Process
Endurance athletes are driven by outcome goals. These big goals motivate us to spend hours training each week, but they can be derailed by things outside of your control, like illness, flat tires, or crashes. Focus only on outcome goals, and many months of successful hard work can be overshadowed by a split second of bad luck.
Outcome goals can also obscure the crucial small steps it takes to actually achieve them, which can become goals in and of themselves. These are called process goals, and achieving them is entirely within your control. Process goals can help you recognize success every day with a steady series of measurable and meaningful milestones.
This winter, keep your outcome goals in the back of your mind while you spend a month focused solely on process goals. Our 5 recommended process goals will help you develop productive habits that can lead to big things, especially with a little luck and hard work on your side.
5 Winter Process Goals
- Complete as many of your scheduled workouts as you can.
- Fuel and hydrate every workout.
- Follow a sleep routine.
- Strength train twice a week.
- Make one day a week truly restful.
Goal 1: Complete As Many of Your Scheduled Workouts As Possible
Consistent cyclists get faster. In fact, our data shows that consistency is the number one factor in FTP improvement. This winter, set a process goal of completing as many of your training plan’s scheduled workouts as possible.
But there’s an important caveat here. Consistent training needs to be sustainable and doesn’t require perfection—that’s why we say to complete “as many as possible” and not “all” workouts. Sometimes, you’re simply too tired, too busy, or too lacking in motivation to train, and that’s ok! This goal isn’t about stress or guilt, but keep it in the back of your mind when you’re on the fence about getting on the bike. If you can complete your workout, do it, and be proud of your hard work. If you can’t, accept it and get motivated to come back rested and ready next time.
Goal 2: Fuel and Hydrate Every Workout
Work requires energy. It’s basic physics, but too many of us overlook how important this concept is to training. Simply put, if you want a quality workout, your body needs fuel.
It’s easy to make this complicated with things like glucose-to-fructose ratios, carb cycling, and kilojoule counts, and these details are absolutely worth fine-tuning. But for this process goal, let’s keep things simple: fuel and hydrate every workout.
What does this mean? For short workouts of an hour or less, it means making sure you’ve eaten some quality carbohydrates within the last few hours. The same holds true for longer workouts, but take in some easily digestible sugars (like gels or fruit) every 30 minutes during these sessions, too. And no matter the workout length, hydrate throughout and ingest some carbs and protein afterward to jump-start your recovery.
There’s a time and place for getting into the fine details of nutrition. But setting the simple goal of fueling and hydrating every workout is an impactful and easy place to begin.
Goal 3: Follow a Sleep Routine
Along with fueling, sleep is probably the most overlooked and underappreciated component of getting faster. Just a single night of poor sleep can have a measurable impact on how difficult a workout feels, while chronic sleep deprivation can increase your risk of illness, blunt your recovery, and increase the chance of injury. Unfortunately, jobs, family, and other everyday stresses can make getting enough sleep easier said than done, but you can improve your chances for a good rest by implementing a sleep routine.
There are a few basic parts to a good sleep routine. Schedule a consistent 8-hour window that matches your natural rhythm, and do your best to make this non-negotiable. Avoid looking at your phone and other screens for about 90 minutes before bed. Avoid evening caffeine and alcohol, and don’t eat or work out too close to bedtime.
Almost no one gets a perfect sleep every night in the real world. But if you work on improving your routine for a month, you raise the odds of getting quality rest—and quality training.
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Goal 4: Strength Train Twice a Week
The term “strength training” sounds antithetical to cycling, but strength training for endurance sports isn’t bodybuilding; it’s about improving your functional strength for better performance on the bike and increased resistance to injury. Every athlete can benefit, and winter is the perfect time to begin adding some basic strength work to your cycling training. For this process goal, commit to at least two short workouts each week.
Start with simple bodyweight exercises that target your core, legs, and posterior chain. Planks, squats, and spiderman pushups are some of our favorites; next, try jump squats or box jumps. You can begin adding some additional weight as you gain proficiency over time, with the ultimate goal of incorporating some high weight/low repetition lifts. This type of strength training avoids the increase in mass associated with bodybuilding while improving your muscular capabilities to generate power.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Begin simple and light, twice a week. It only takes a few minutes and doesn’t even require equipment!
Goal 5: Make One Day Each Week Truly Restful
Rest days are as important to your training as hard workouts, giving your body the chance to recover and actually get faster. This is why training plans always schedule a few days off-bike each week and intersperse easier weeks into your plan once a month or so.
But many athletes are unwittingly hindering their own progress with poor recovery. Manual labor, work-related stress, and bad sleep don’t make you faster, but they do burden your body and wear you down. If you spend your rest days stressed out and on your feet, you won’t fully recover, and your training won’t be as effective as it should be.
This winter, focus on making one day a week truly and honestly restful. It can be logistically challenging with jobs, families, and the other demands we all face each day in our real lives. But avoid that yard work, schedule that stressful meeting for another day, and let yourself spend a little extra time on the couch. It’s amazing how hard it can be to take it easy, but the benefits of full recovery are worth the effort. Consider this permission to relax!