Monday, January 25, 2010

S.M.A.R.T. Goals for 2010

We're now three weeks into 2010, and I've been very busy riding and working. However, I did take some time before the calendar year rolled over to write down some goals I have. Goals are a tricky thing. They're born well intentioned and nurtured by enthusiasm, but often die a quick and quiet death at the hands of neglect. Consider how many people begin the new year with the goal of "getting into shape." That's an admirable goal, but it's so open-ended, it can't help but fail. While I was listening to the Two John's Podcast, I was reminded of the S.M.A.R.T. system of forming goals. There's more to forming a goal than simply snatching a high ideal out of mid-air. If you want to succeed and fulfill your goal, you need a plan. The S.M.A.R.T. acronym is a surefire way of forming both a goal and a plan at the same time. With it, fulfilling a goal is almost a surety.

S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. To see exactly how the system works, let's use the common cycling "goal" of "becoming a better cyclist." After applying S.M.A.R.T., it is transformed into, "Increase my average power output over a 40km time trial from 300 to 325 watts by July 4th." This new goal is definitely specific, few cyclists can argue that an increase in wattage makes someone a better cyclist. It is measurable (assuming you have a PowerTap). If you have hit 350 watts on occasion and already average 300 watts over the time trial, sustaining 325 watts is a very attainable goal. It is also realistic, a 8% gain in average power over six months is achievable with consistent training. And it is timely since you have set a certain date by which you want to complete the goal. Thus an amorphous goal without any direction has been transformed into a carefully crafted goal. So what are my cycling goals for 2010?

My main goal for 2010 is to increase my mileage for the year to at least 3,000 miles by December 31, 2010. That may not sound like much to some of the daily riders out there, but I'm relegated to riding 2-3 times a week. The remaining days are consumed by running and work. To accomplish this I've committed myself to completing at least one "long" ride of 30 miles or more a week. As long as winter maintains its icy grip, these will be closer to 30 miles until summer when longer days and warmer temperatures allow me to stretch those numbers. Regardless, an added long ride will help me get closer to 3000 miles for the year. Last year (my first year of riding) I managed to ride a hair over 2300 miles. Adding another 700 miles over the span of a year seems very realistic.

My second goal is to break the 54 minute mark on my 16 mile home loop by May 1. This is the loop I typically ride after work. It involves one climb of a mile at a 6% grade and a long steady 3 mile false flat on the return. Currently my best time is 55 minutes 22 seconds. When I first began clocking myself in August, my times were 58 minutes 21 seconds. After a steady diet of intervals and hill repeats I've dropped three minutes off my time. I'm hoping that over the next three months, my times can continue to improve at a steady rate as my aerobic capacity improves.

My final goal is to learn about training by measuring power. A power meter is the most accurate way to measure cycling performance. Unlike heart rate zones, power meters are unaffected by inconsistencies in biological rhythms or diet which can cause fluctuations in heart rate. Speed is easily affected by elevation and wind, it's not a very accurate measurement. However, power is. Whether you spin the cranks fast in an easy gear, or grind away in a hard one, the power output is the same. However, training with power isn't cheap or easy. A fair amount of knowledge is required and power meters (like the PowerTap or Quarq) are pricey. So in the next two months, I would first like to gain knowledge about the principles of training with power and whether they will apply to me. Then I will undoubtedly convince myself that I would be dumb not to sink $1500 in a PowerTap SL+. Seriously, this isn't really a goal which fits into the S.M.A.R.T. system. But it is something I'm very interested in. We'll see if it actually comes to fruition.

That's my basic plan for 2010, what are your S.M.A.R.T. goals?


  1. Dammit, you stole my idea!
    These are very precise goals, good luck with them.

    I'd love to read some blog entries about what you learn on your final goal.

    Oh...and what is a false flat?

  2. Thanks for the kind words!. I definitely plan on updating every couple of months or so to check in on my progress.

    A false flat is basically a road that appears to be flat, but is actually a deceptively shallow (1-3% incline). It tricks you into thinking it's easy but can be a surprising challenge.

  3. Aah yes, I've definitely come across those. Almost as bad as the roads that appear slightly downhill on the map but actually aren't.

  4. Great post. I wrote an article back in Aug 2008 about setting goals using the S.M.A.R.T. method. Because I've been bikeless for several months I haven't set any goals for 2010 yet. With a purchase immiment though, I can see myself having to set some.

  5. amazing post, man. definitely need to put this method when minding my goals, not just for biking but other goals i want to meet. keep things in perspective and be realistic. if you exceed them, pat yourself on the back.