The new year has rolled around, and lies spread out ahead of you full of opportunity and potential: a vista of bike rides yet to be and the chance to get a whole lot of amazing cycling in. The start of a new year gives you good chance to refresh your cycling resolutions list. Think of them like a series of goals to make the next 12 months of cycling as successful and fulfilling as possible.
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- 4 steps to making bike-based resolutions you'll stick to
- 7 ways to get fit cycling
The resolutions themselves are just the starting point, however. If you want to make them stick all year long, you'll need goals that will make you want to get out of bed on a cold, rainy morning to ride, and that are achievable. It's a delicate balance between motivation and giving yourself a target that's unachievable, which ends up getting you down.
How many resolutions to go for (and how to stick to them)
Some people swear by a nice even 10, others feel that three is an achievable amount. There's no right answer when it comes to deciding how many resolutions to go for because it depends on what they are and what you think you can realistically do over the year. For example, if one of them is 'race the Transcontinental', that's surely going to take up most of your cycling time, energy and drive over the year.
However, if you're looking for guidance, might we suggest one of the following approaches:
12 goals in 12 months
Pick 12 smallish goals, or nine small and three bigger goals, that you plan to achieve or fulfil over the course of the year — so one for each month. This is perfect for people looking to improve performance or ride in specific events and anyone who tends to lose interest and motivation in bigger long-term resolutions.
Three big resolutions
If you're looking to make a major change or achieve something big in 2017, like ride a big event or shift weight, then make that the main focus of the year and you're more likely to achieve it. But it's always good to have a few other projects on the go, so if you need a break from your main point of focus you can switch attention to one of your other, hopefully complementary, goals.
Brainstorm and refine
List every single resolution you can think of, big and small, in a short period of time — we suggest three minutes, but once you start to slow down on the ideas front, you can stop. Then pick out somewhere between five and 10 that really jump out at you. You can also keep the full list tucked away somewhere safe; that way, if you achieve your goals by summer you'll have more to pick from or you can use it as a basis for next year's resolutions.
How to stick to them
Once you've got your resolutions sorted how do you make sure that you stick to them longer than the six week mark, where many good intentions fall by the wayside? One suggestion is to make them FAB: Feasible, Actually measurable, Blinking well motivational. What this essentially means is do you think you can feasibly achieve this goal given the time, resources and abilities you have, what do you need to do to get to that end point, and how badly do you want to achieve this goal.
To share or not to share? Well, that's a question only you can answer. Some people find that sharing their resolutions means they are more likely to stick to them, and friends and family can be a great source of support and encouragement — and, of course, a little guilt can be very motivating. However, other people prefer to keep their resolutions to themselves, particularly if they are personal or long-held goals.
Revisit your resolutions over the year; check in every month or so, see how you're progressing and adapt where necessary. Everyone falls off the wagon now and again, so try not to let that dishearten you. Regroup, tweak the plan, and keep on going. It'll make turning the resolution into reality all the sweeter.
Some New Year cycling resolutions to get you started
Not sure where to start? We've come up with some corkers that you should consider adding to your list if they aren't already on it. They'll give you drive, help you focus your training or just ensure that you get through the year with a zen-like calm.
Resolution 1: get fit / lose weight
These two resolutions have to be the most common in existence and they're both good things to aim for when approached with a healthy attitude, the problem is they are hopelessly vague!
Let's take losing weight as an example. Really what you're looking at is losing fat, rather than muscle mass or water, and it can reap rewards; less weight will mean faster climbing, less drag at speed, and not to mention the general health benefits that losing excess fat can provide. To do this in a healthy and sustainable way requires a lifestyle shift — healthier eating and more exercise.
As a very general guide, you're better off working out an amount you'd like to lose or a target weight, then coming up with a plan that involves losing four to eight pounds a month. The key here is to shift the weight and increase your fitness in a sustainable way.
Likewise with fitness. It's very tempting to sign up to every class in the gym and plan to ride six days a week, but is that really sustainable? Chances are you crash out with tiredness by week two. You're better off to aim for something achievable and sustainable, and then build it up from there. Aiming for an event or race is a great motivator when it comes to staying on track too.
Resolution 2: remember that you reap what you sow
One of the most important thoughts to hold on to is that you'll get back what you put in. Whether it's miles in the saddle doing quality training or time and effort in preparing yourself fully for the challenges of the rides ahead, commitment to being the best rider you can be is the key.
This applies equally to the mental approach to sport. Being positive with oneself in the way you prepare for a ride and reflect on performances is key to maintaining motivation and getting yourself in the right frame of mind to perform to your best. Remember that every ride has a positive element that needs cherishing even if doom and gloom dominates.
Resolution 3: learn to relax
Life can be stressful, so making sure you take time to relax is an important skill.
For most riders, developing relaxation skills is the first building block to effective use of imagery and controlling attention. If you are yet to master relaxation skills, then spend a little time researching the best approach for you. Whether it is a local workshop in meditation techniques or a self-help guide to breathing techniques, relaxation can be an important skill for helping you get the most out your riding.
This approach can translate into cycling itself. If you're pushing yourself towards certain goals, there's always the risk that cycling becomes a chore rather than a desire. Make sure you take some time over the year to go for rides that aren't about achieving a certain cadence, distance or heart rate, and are instead about enjoying the sensation of riding, the whirr of the wheels, the wind blowing in your hair and the countryside flying past you.
Resolution 4: keep a healthy balance
This might not be the most popular resolution out there, but it is potentially an important one, especially if you have family commitments or a partner that isn't as into cycling as you are.
Cycling is a sport that takes time and commitment. Unlike the squash player who fits in a 60-minute game once a week, cyclists are likely to spend considerable time and money on their sport. But such commitment to the sport does come with a potential cost other than the pounds spent down the local bike shop: the cost on those around you for whom your commitment in time and money may not be so logical or welcome.
If the next year is going to be a truly effective one on the bike, we'd suggest a good clear discussion with family and friends about your priorities for the year and their perspectives on your riding. Setting some clear parameters in terms of weekends to be committed, money to be spent and so on, early in the year can allow for a much clearer plan for the year's riding that avoids conflict and keeps your cycling as part of a well rounded life.
This is also important in other contexts. For example, if both you and your partner cycle and have big goals for the year ahead, and/or other commitments such as childcare and work to think about, take into account what both of you want to achieve in the year ahead. Make an equitable plan that shares out the cycling and the chores so both parties get a fair shot at achieving their resolutions in the year ahead.
And if your partner, friends and family don't cycle, why not introduce them to the wonder of cycling? Which leads us nicely on to...
Resolution 5: introduce someone else to cycling
Cycling is a brilliant activity whatever way you look at it. It's good for the body, good for the mind, it can improve mental and physical health, it can satisfy that competitive edge or enable a cheap and sustainable way to travel to work. Kids can do it, adults can do it, families can do it, friends can do it, couples can do it.
Really, as far as we're concerned there are very few downsides, so why not introduce someone to cycling this year? You could end up with a new cycling buddy, they could end up discovering a potentially life-changing passion. What's not to love!
Resolution 6: try a different discipline
Now, you could go fairly simple with this, with road cyclists trying mountain biking and mountain bikers trying road cycling. There are definitely benefits to mixing things up like this. Mountain bikers will see serious fitness gains from miles put in on the road and hill reps, while road cyclists will see their bike handling skills soar through mountain biking, particularly once they've mastered corners or riding on uneven terrain.
You can go one step further. Mountain bikers, try some BMX for a serious core workout and the chance to develop skills that will see you pumping energy from trails without a pedal stroke. Road cyclists, if you haven't already, try either time trials or audax riding. The first will develop your fitness and skill at a high but sustainable pace and will help you push your limits, while audax riding will give your legs some seriously impressive mileage and see your endurance capacity soar.
Resolution 7: do a long distance ride
Do you know how far you can ride in one go? Or over the course of several days back-to-back? Long distance bike rides, whether you do it on a road bike, mountain bike, touring bike or your old but reliable commuter bike, can be transformative. They're an opportunity to test your limits, see how far you can travel under your own steam, and can be a test of self sufficiency depending on how you go.
Resolution 8: do an event!
Participating in a race or event can be a perfect resolution for your list. It'll give you purpose, something to train for, a date to complete it by, and if you get some friends to sign up, training partners too.
There are so many to choose from, whatever your discipline or preferred experience there will be something out there for you. Crazy-long audax events and multi-day mountain bike races for endurance fiends, crit or cross-country races for those who like the adrenaline of competing in close contact with other riders, and charity and social rides aplenty for those who want something a little less competitive.
You'll also find help and advice aplenty online on everything from training plans and nutrition guides to what bike to ride and what kit to bring.
Resolution 9: stretch it out
This is a simple resolution that will have a huge impact on your cycling if you manage to stick to it. As a repetitive form of exercise, cycling can lead to tightness in various parts of the body that over time can lead to injury.
Whether you stretch it out yourself or join a yoga class, a few good sessions one or twice a week will see you reap rewards such as better flexibility, fewer niggles and aches and pains.
Resolution 10: volunteer (or donate) at a cycling charity
How about spending a little time giving back this year by helping out a cycling charity? Whether it's donating old bicycles or fixing bikes while learning maintenance skills, or spending some time leading social rides, you can give yourself a warm glow, some bike time and help others at the same time.
And if there isn't a charity you can volunteer with how about selling some of your old kit on eBay and donating the proceeds to a charity like World Bicycle Relief?