It’s THAT TIME OF YEAR again!
Time to set some extraordinary women’s cycling GOALS!
It’s also the time of year where I like to do a little bit of what I like to call goal evaluation.
I look at the women’s cycling goals I set for myself last year, I measure my progress, and look ahead to the next year!
It’s right about now that I ask myself what I would REALLY like to accomplish this year on the bike, or just in my life in general, and then I get to work on being focused on that goal!
The idea is to make this goal a little bit of a reach for you. It isn’t really supposed to be something you are doing already, or something that would be super easy for you to accomplish.
It’s supposed to be something a little EXTRAORDINARY!
In this article I am going to give you my tips on how to choose a goal, make it meaningful, and MAKE PROGRESS towards that goal THIS YEAR! I am also going to chat a little bit about the goals I set for myself last year, and where I am at with those goals.
We can absolutely DO THIS together.
Now, you may be having a little inner monologue right now about New Year’s Resolutions, always setting them, never following through, blah blah blah.
Silence that voice. Right now. You hear me? It is not serving you. If you didn’t meet your goals in the past it wasn’t because there was something wrong with you.
Let me say that again. One more time. With feeling.
If you didn’t meet your goals in the past, it wasn’t because there was something wrong with you.
More likely than not, there was something WRONG WITH YOUR GOAL.
When you truly go through the process of setting meaningful goals, and setting yourself up with the right process to achieve that goal, you are so much more likely to be met with success.
I am going to let you in on a little secret. The main goal that I outlined last year? I did not achieve it. I didn’t even come close.
And it isn’t because there was something wrong with me AT ALL. It was because it was, quite simply, the wrong goal for me.
What I did accomplish, though, was nothing short of extraordinary, and I am so proud of myself for doing it!
So what did I do? And how did I do it? And how can YOU do the same for yourself?
Read on and check out the process that worked for me!
STEP #1: CHOOSE YOUR EXTRAORDINARY CYCLING GOAL
You need to choose your goal AND write it down.
I know what you’re thinking. Well…of course I need to pick one! That’s the easy part! I want to ride my bike more! I want to set a SMART goal that is easy to measure! I know how to do this goal setting thing!
In my article on Impossible Goals here, I explain in depth the difference between a SMART goal and an Impossible (think Extraordinary) goal. Smart goals are supposed to be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.
While that sounds perfectly…I dunno…reasonable??? It also sounds perfectly…BORING.
Where is the DREAMING?!
My friend, I want you to DREAM BIG.
Think along the lines of “this is the person, the cyclist, I want to BE in THREE TO FIVE YEARS” big. How do you envision your life in three to five years?
I want you to set aside some time with pen and paper (or a blank Google/Word doc for you tech savvy folks) and just let yourself dream of what you as a cyclist is like in 3-5 years. Let it go beyond cycling even! What are you like AS A HUMAN in 3-5 years? What is your life like? How does cycling fit into your life? How does your LIFE fit into cycling?
Then and only then should you start thinking about what you can do over the course of the next year or so to bring yourself closer to being that person, that cyclist.
Ask yourself, what is the goal that is truly meaningful to you? Really take the time to figure this out, and then after you brainstorm your thoughts, spend some time choosing the ONE YOU CARE ABOUT THE MOST.
Choose one goal and focus on that. You can add others down the road, but really focus on just one for this year.
I mean, it would be awesome if we could ride 30k miles, lose 75 lbs, and make a million dollars all at once, but that’s just not really totally realistic!
We are so much more likely to succeed when we set a goal that we actually care about. That actually means something to us.
And here is where I have a confession. I set an extraordinary cycling goal for 2020. It was to do my first century at a certain speed, with a certain amount of elevation.
And you know what? I didn’t achieve it.
I didn’t even come close.
In fact, I might have been closer to achieving it in 2019 than in 2020!
I could say it was because of COVID and having more time with my son so I couldn’t do those longer rides. I was doing a bunch of short rides around the neighborhood (I mean, he’s five, so I am lucky I was riding at all!). That is all likely very much a part of why I didn’t achieve that goal.
But really? The problem wasn’t a circumstance, like COVID. The problem was truly that it wasn’t the right goal for me.
What was it that I really wanted?
I wanted to ride my bike a lot. Almost every day. CHECK!
I wanted to be active, almost every day. CHECK!
I wanted to be healthier, almost every day. CHECK!
And my secret extraordinary goal? The one I was almost too scared to even really say to myself, and certainly way too scared to post on the internet for the whole world to see? The one that would prove to me that I did all of these things?
My extraordinary goal was really that I wanted to lose 50 lbs.
Not because I cared about the number, not because there was anything wrong with me or my body or what I looked like. I wanted to lose 50 lbs because I wanted to be healthier, I wanted to be able to keep up with my son, and, quite frankly, I WANTED IT TO BE EASIER TO GET UP THOSE DARN HILLS!
That, my friends, is what really meant something to me. And THAT is the goal that I was able to make progress with. It wasn’t specific to cycling (though riding my bike certainly helped), but it ABSOLUTELY has improved my speed on the bike! To the point where my husband, Chris, even noticed on STRAVA that I was faster, and even MENTIONED IT TO ME!
Did I lose 50 lbs? Nope! And that’s OK! I made progress, I lost over 40 lbs, and I probably will hit that 50 lb mark eventually.
And if I don’t, that’s OK too!
I did this all from a place of love for my body and what my body can do, not what it looks like. There was nothing “wrong” with me before that I had to “fix.”
It was all about loving me just as I was, and loving myself enough to know that, and focus on what I would like to change.
It wasn’t about the number, it was really about using the number as one measure towards a healthier me. It was about finding that one, single thing that resonated with ME that I truly wanted for an honest reason.
So, to sum up, step 1 (I know, it was a long one!) is to brainstorm the cyclist (or the person!) you want to be in 3-5 years, and then choose a goal that you can start working towards this year that will bring you closer to becoming that cyclist.
Then, write down your goal (on a post-it, even!) and put it somewhere you will see it each and every day.
STEP #2: BRAINSTORM THE PROCESSES AND HABITS YOU NEED TO CHANGE TO REACH YOUR GOAL
So, the reality is that if you were already achieving your goal right now, it wouldn’t be a goal, and you wouldn’t really need to change your process or habits. You would already be there, or making significant progress towards your goal!
In order to achieve our cycling goals, we are likely going to have to get a little uncomfortable.
We likely want to be stronger in some metric, or ride more often than we currently ride…or it could even be the reverse! Maybe you are an intense cyclist who really needs to be sure to make room for strength training and rest days so that you give your body the ability to truly recover and get stronger.
Whatever your goal, you are going to need to spend some time being uncomfortable, and probably doing things you don’t want to do or aren’t used to doing, in order to achieve that goal.
Really, you need to change your processes, or your habits.
And I am NOT saying…hey! Let’s go from not cycling at all to cycling 20 miles a day! Or, let’s ride our bikes constantly and eat carrots!
That is, quite simply, not sustainable. Or realistic, or at the end of the day even healthy, necessarily…at least definitely not riding bikes all the time and only eating carrots!
There are small habits we need to build, small processes that we need to change that add up to BIG TIME results.
I have been reading the book Atomic Habits by James Clear, and let me tell you, it’s a GAME CHANGER.
I mean…you can tell by all of the post-its (I am a bit of a post-it lover) that this book is SERIOUS BUSINESS to me.
James Clear’s message is pretty much summed up in the idea that if you make small, positive changes, and form new habits, that over time these add up to big results. So far, my favorite quote is
“changes that seem small and unimportant at first will compound into remarkable results if you’re willing to stick with them for years.”
Last year I started doing this without even realizing that there was a book I could follow…and it didn’t even take years to see results…only months!
A few months into 2020 I was already seeing measurable progress towards my goal of losing 50 lbs. The scale finally started moving in the right direction (ha! Well, most of the time), my clothes were fitting better, and I had more energy.
I was experiencing the results of my compounded good habits. So what specific habits did I change?
- I started being in the habit of putting myself, my mental health and well-being, first. I realized I couldn’t be what everyone else needed me to be without taking care of me BEFORE I tried to take care of everyone else.
- I started planning my cycling workouts in advance. It wasn’t enough to just say I was going to ride today…I had to actually plan when it was going to happen, put it on my calendar, and make it happen.
- I stopped being in the habit of stopping at the store and grabbing treats on the way home from work. In other words, I stopped eating my feelings, and stopped “rewarding” myself with food. I stopped thinking I could and should have that bad of chips because I earned it working hard all day. I stopped feeling stressed and opening the pantry door.
- I got in the habit of actually making myself FEEL my feelings. I stopped trying to escape negative emotions and just let myself feel them, work through them, and move on. Escaping them through eating was NOT serving me. It wasn’t making me feel any better, and was just delaying the bad and uncomfortable feelings.
- I focused on the neutral/positive when I looked in the mirror. Instead of beating myself up over this, that, the other thing, I focused on how strong I was. Not focusing on how “big” my thighs were getting but focusing on the definition and being proud of that.
I focused on the things I liked, and gave that awesome girl a little internal pep talk every day. If there was something I really disliked I just focused on a neutral thought…such as I have a body. That’s not negative or positive! It’s just neutral. BUT it is so much better than saying “wow my body sucks.”
- I started weighing myself every single day. I know this is a controversial one that doesn’t work for everyone, but I wanted to take the drama out of my weight. It stopped being a measure of my self-worth. It was no longer this intense “did I gain?” or “did I lose” moment, it was just acquiring information.I made it a number that was just one of many measures of my progress. I tracked my progress with a Bluetooth scale (this one! It’s great!) and its app, and it shows me these cool graphs of my progress.
- I started planning my food the day before. Now if you know me, or have read anything about me, you know I do NOT count calories. I do not have the patience for it. But what I do manage to do is decide either the day before or the morning of what I am going to eat that day. And, I stick to the plan. If it’s not in the plan; I just don’t eat it.
And yes, the plan usually includes cookies. BUT by planning those cookies in advance, and surrounding them with healthier things, I was able to make progress towards my weight loss goals AND enjoy special treats without feeling negative emotions about them.
There were more habits that I changed, more processes that I changed, but these are just examples! They helped me get closer to my goal. Your habits will likely be different from mine, and everyone’s processes are different. You must brainstorm these on your own, and do what works best for you.
I also didn’t change ALL these habits/processes at once. I slowly started to add/delete habits, tweaked them, changed them, and evaluated them.
I kept asking myself, “would a healthy cyclist do this?” or “what would a healthy cyclist do?”
Slowly, over time, my habits began to change, and I started to see tangible results.
Take some time to brainstorm the habits YOU want to add or change, and then you will gradually start adding them into your everyday life, and practice them, until they become second nature to you.
STEP #3: BRAINSTORM OBSTACLES TO YOUR GOALS AND HOW TO OVERCOME THEM
I want you to think of any and everything that can possibly get in the way of you achieving your goals, and then brainstorm how to overcome these obstacles.
In other words, what gets in the way of you riding your bike? Do you feel you don’t always have the time? That work gets in the way? That you have a lot of obligations with family and friends?
Maybe YOU are the obstacle and you lack motivation to complete your cycling workouts.
Whatever your list of obstacles, excuses, etc. brainstorm a big long list, and then go through them one by one and figure out how to overcome each of these obstacles.
In 2020 many of us had the unforeseen obstacle of COVID. Suddenly group rides were all canceled. These were a HUGE motivator for me! Also, we were all quarantining, and some places discouraged or completely outlawed riding outdoors altogether.
I knew that COVID or no COVID, I wanted to be healthy and make some changes to my weight.
My list of obstacles looked something like this
- Boredom and free access to the pantry = the potential for unlimited snacking
- Daycare/work closing meant no more after work solo rides
- No group rides meant no motivation to keep up with the pack
- Having my son with me all day every day meant that solo rides in general were mostly out of the question
So, what did I do?
- Scheduled my meals and snacks the day before including treats so I didn’t mindlessly eat
- Rode my trainer in the basement and brought my son down with me to play
- Focused on my weight loss goal and wanting to make getting up the huge hill up to my house a little easier
- We got our son his own bike and taught him how to ride so he and I could ride together around the neighborhood. Then when he got tired of riding, I would jump on the trainer when we got home to complete my workout.
These are just examples…everyone’s circumstances are different. But, by brainstorming what sorts of things can get in your way in advance, you can come up with a plan to thumb your nose at those obstacles, and get on with your goals!
You may have to think outside the box a bit, or enlist others for help. You can figure it out! I know it! I have confidence and faith in you.
STEP #4: SCHEDULE THE HABITS/PROCESSES YOU NEED TO ACHIEVE YOUR GOAL.
This, of course, is going to vary greatly based on what your specific goal is. If you are training for a ride, come up with a plan on how many rides a week you need to do to build up to that distance/speed!
If your goal is more of a healthy living/weight loss goal, think about where you want to be by the end of 2021, what habits you need to change to get to that place, and schedule which habits you would like to change when.
For example, maybe one habit is to move your body 5 days a week, and that’s what you want to start with. Schedule it in! Then decide when you want to start adding in more healthy habits.
You may decide that in February you will move your body five days a week. In March, you will start planning your meals in advance, etc. The idea is to not change everything all at once, but have a schedule and a plan for what you want to achieve.
In October of 2020 I discovered the art of “calendaring.” Yes, I use this as a verb.
Every week, I use my Google Calendar to plan out my week in advance. This allows me to schedule in all of my rides, and schedule in time for myself.
For the first time ever, the September Slump when I return back to work (I am a teacher)…you know the one where I stop taking care of myself and stop riding my bike? For the first time it did not extend into October, November, and the holidays.
This is because I started calendaring. I kept it to September. And for this year? I am planning to not let it happen at all.
When you plan, when you schedule, when you put yourself FIRST, you don’t miss bike rides. You have a plan for your food. You have a plan for being healthy and you can stick with that plan because it is written down and scheduled for you IN ADVANCE. It is truly a glorious thing.
STEP #5: TELL ANYONE (AND I MEAN ANYONE) WHO WILL LISTEN ABOUT YOUR GOAL
I didn’t do this in 2020 exactly. I mean, I put my cycling goal here on my website for all of the internets to see, but I didn’t tell anyone about my weight loss goal because I was too fearful I wouldn’t achieve it.
FEAR, my friends, is legitimately our WORST enemy.
I was lucky in that my cycling goal facilitated my weight loss, and they were very much connected. I was able to make a lot of progress on my weight loss goal because a huge component was riding my bike.
If I told my dog, my husband, my mom, my mother-in-law, my friends that I wanted to lose 50 lbs in 2020? I would have had SO MANY MORE cheerleaders!!!
If I was fortunate enough to have the wonderful, amazing, Sascy Cycling Motivation and Accountability group earlier in 2020? I would have been freaking UNSTOPPABLE.
Let people know what your goal is. They will cheer you on. Your friends WANT you to succeed!
If you’re concerned about telling people you “know” in real life, you can join us in Sascy Cycling Motivation and Accountability and share your goals there! Don’t let your fear of sharing your goals keep you from actually achieving your goals!
By saying our goals out loud, by letting others know our goals, we have a group of people who will love us and support us through our journey. What is more amazing than that?
STEP #6 FOLLOW THROUGH WITH YOUR PLANS, AND SCHEDULE CHECK INS WITH YOURSELF/OTHERS THROUGHOUT THE YEAR
Now, I save this one for last because really, it’s quite easy to follow through with changing habits and making progress towards your goals if you meaningfully work your ways through Steps 1-5.
Every month or so, I like to do it on the first of the month, have an honest check in with yourself.
Where are you at with your goal? What have you achieved?
Do you need to modify your goal? In 2020 I switched my goal focus from riding a century to weight loss because I realized that I originally chose the wrong goal, and losing weight was what I REALLY wanted.
It’s not a great idea to change your goals every couple of days, but an honest check-in and evaluation each month, a tweaking of your extraordinary goal? That is perfectly fine and very advisable!
STEP #7: ABOVE ALL BE KIND TO YOURSELF, EMBRACE THE PROCESS, DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP, AND DON’T GIVE UP!
So many times we set goals, don’t achieve them when we want to, and beat ourselves up. This is a process and it is absolutely vital that we embrace that and recognize it for what it is.
Throughout 2020 I constantly was checking in with myself, giving myself a little pep talk, and patting myself on the back.
I focused on what was going well. I focused on what I felt like I was doing right, and just tried to do more of that!
I didn’t think I was a failure if I missed a cycling workout, ate an extra bag of chips, or had a month where I actually gained weight instead of losing weight.
Between you and me? All of those things happened. More than once. And yet, because overall I was making more good choices than not so good ones, and was constantly checking in with myself and being honest with myself, and above all else LOVING myself and my body enough to make these changes, I had tremendous success, and made awesome progress towards my extraordinary goal.
If I can do this? So can you.
I promise you, I spent a lifetime making every excuse you can possibly imagine to myself and everyone else about why I couldn’t possibly make positive changes to my health and physical fitness.
It was my genes. Maybe there was something wrong with my thyroid. Maybe I didn’t want to be healthy anyway. Maybe it was my asthma. I have always been bigger than other girls. I freaking LIKE food for crying out loud and what’s wrong with that?
Honestly? The real problem was the fact that I didn’t appreciate myself and my body enough.
Once I started to love and appreciate who and what I am right now, and not think of my body as something that was awful and broken that I had to fix and change, I was able to love it and myself enough to make the changes I wanted to make.
I am not any better now or more worthy as a human than I was before. I am just different. I was equally worthy when I was over 40 lbs heavier as I am right now.
And I still like food. I mean come on. Who doesn’t? It’s GOOD!
So, what is YOUR extraordinary cycling goal for 2021? What is it that YOU want to work towards? Or maybe it isn’t even a cycling goal at all…it’s a different extraordinary goal, and that is GREAT too! Go ahead and comment below, email me at [email protected], or join our Facebook Group, Sascy Cycling Motivation and Accountability, and share it there!
Let’s all check in and hold one another accountable. Ride on!