Why It Is Important to Have Short- and Long-Term Cycling Goals

By Megan Flottorp

Following this strangest of summers, the fall has arrived and with it the challenge of encountering another season of uncertainty. In many places, the leaves are already turning yellow, there is a pronounced chill in the air, and the sun is slow to show itself in the morning and quick to disappear come evening. Whether you love or hate the cosiness of autumn, it might be the case that this is the time of year when your cycling motivation wanes. Although it’s a natural reaction to the change in conditions, there are definitely some techniques you can use to enter into the colder months with confidence.

When you start to feel the going getting tough, it is important to have a framework to rely on to keep yourself thinking positive and feeling motivated to move forward, in the immediate future as well as in the grand scheme of things. Let’s take a look at why it’s important to have both short- and long-term cycling goals and how to effectively set them.

Cycling short-term goals
Both long- and short-term goals are equally important. © Profimedia

It eases anxiety and indecision while boosting focus and motivation

Regardless of the role cycling plays in your life, setting even modest goals can help add an additional level of pleasure and satisfaction to an activity you already enjoy. When you have a clear idea of what you’re working towards, you automatically benefit from the sense of purpose that comes with it. You’re pulled out of the uncharted sea and are steered back on course.

If you haven’t given yourself the chance to sit down and think about what your goals are, it is time to do so! Commit them to paper and don’t be afraid to dream big. The beauty of setting both short- and long-term goals is that it enables you to have something to look forward to in the near future (meeting a less ambitious goal) and something to focus on when you’re losing sight of the big picture (achieving a significant milestone down the road). When delineating what you want to accomplish, it is best to start expansive and then zero in on the smaller steps you need to take to get there. This will help you look at things as an overall progression and see how one step of the process relates to the next.

Cycling goals
Even modest goals and their fulfilment can bring you pleasure. © Profimedia

It allows you to assess your strengths and weaknesses

When you fall into a comfortable routine, it can be easy to lose sight of where your natural strengths are and where you have to put more effort in to improve. By committing to certain goals, you automatically give yourself a structure that can provide feedback regarding whether or not you’re on the right track. You might have great endurance capacity but are hoping to perform well at a time trial and, therefore, need to focus on speed. It could also be the other way around. Whatever the case may be, paying attention will help you identify opportunities for growth and make the best use of your time.

You might realize that you’d like to improve your climbing and so it’s time to hit the hills. Or maybe you’ll learn that in order to reach your sprinting goals, you need to push yourself beyond your usual 80% maximum heart rate. You can then develop the kind of aerobic training plan that will help improve this aspect of your physiology. By investing a little time developing a targeted approach, you’ll discover what it means to work smarter, not necessarily harder.

Training plan
Whether it is sprinting or climbing you’re after, a targeted approach is the way to go. © Profimedia

It empowers you to expand your horizons

Developing both long- and short-term goals allows you to strike a balance between strategy and tactics. In short, strategy centres around the destination you’d like to arrive at, and tactics describe the specific actions you are going to take along the way. When you have both a path laid out in from of you and the specific resources and best practices to guide you along the journey, you’ll be better equipped to stick to your plan and maintain a high level of motivation over time.

Remember that although your cycling goals should be realistic, they shouldn’t impose limitations. You should always focus on defining minimums, not maximums. When formulating your goals, use language like “at least”, “more than” or “as fast as”. Think of each ride as a chance to get a step closer to where you want to be. With this approach, there’s no telling how far you’ll go!