Saturday, January 05, 2013

New Year's Resolutions

Everyone makes them, but few stick to them.

To me, the key is to be more specific than making a general, sweeping statement concerning some aspect of your life that you wish to improve. The classic 'eat better, drink less, exercise more' just isn't going to work in the majority of cases. Moreover, laziness is often quoted as the reason for the failure of these resolutions but is rarely the true cause.

To illustrate an alternative method, I will now make my own resolutions (a few days late, I know, but then I have done 15 hours of training and lost a kilo of weight since January 1st anyway, so I am not too concerned).

The process will be to isolate the aspect of life (mainly sport for me) that I wish to improve, find something specific within that I am not wholly satisfied with, and come up with a simple and realistic plan to improve it. By following this method, I will ensure that the things I resolve to do are things that I want to do, done in a realistic fashion.

Ad so, I will begin:


- I am happy with my current weight, plus or minus a couple of kgs. As such, the effort required to lose weight is larger than both my desire to do so and the benefits that it would reap.

- However, diet quality is something that can suffer, especially when I am tired from training. The ease of eating a ton of bread or cereal to satisfy my hunger makes it something that I do too often given the lack of nutrients in these meals.

- My goal, therefore, is to reduce the amount of 'empty calories' that I take in after sessions. I have noticed that this relies heavily on satiety, which can be increased with protein and fat rich foods.

- My resolution is to have a thick protein shake with milk after all training sessions, along with a couple of pieces of fruit and a handful of nuts.

This should allow me to recover from the session without having 200g of carbs in the form of peanut butter sandwiches or wheat based cereal. I can then have a normal lunch or dinner in due course (my '3 square meals' tend to be balanced and nutrient rich with lots of veg, good fats, and moderated carbs anyway)

Core strength:

- I don't believe that my core strength is a big limiting factor in my performance. Therefore, I often skip my planned core sessions.

- I think that a cause of this is a lack of precise scheduling. I plan to do the sessions on the same days as my recovery rides (Monday & Friday) but inevitably forget.

- Incorporating a core circuit into the to my recovery rides, thus treating them as an integral part of the session, might go some way to improving my 'hit rate' with regard to the core work.

- My goal is to do 2 core workouts of 20 minutes each per week, every week.

- My resolution is to do them immediately before my recovery rides. Don't get on the bike until its done. If I have to cycle 20 mins less on a recovery day, then such is life.


- I tend to be well enough motivated to do my key workouts of the week, often on the turbo. However, when faced with medium or long roads rides and below average weather, I take the easy way out and sick to the turbo again

- For example, if I plan to do 2 hours with an hour of tempo, then it really should be done on the road in the TT position to get the right sort of practice in. On the turbo, the session end up being 90' (too short!) and I often don't do the whole hour of tempo in the aero bars due to the lack of comfort (restriction of hip movement on the stationary rig makes it uncomfortable, not a poor bike fit!)

- This is occasionally due to lack of daylight hours (easier to do it in the dark on the turbo at 5pm than on the road in the light at 2pm or in the morning) and occasionally due to the weather ('oh, it's a bit wet, let's not get the race bike dirty')

- When I have done these sessions outside, not only have I thoroughly enjoyed them, but I have found them very useful in terms of training effect. 3 hours on the road just isn't the same as 2 on the turbo, whatever others may say (a Watt hour is a Watt hour!)

- All that I need to do is figure out the best time of day for me to do these sessions. If its raining, I do own a rain jacket. It's light from 0800 to 1630 even at this time of year, that's enough time for a bike ride.

- If I am riding with someone else and they are expecting me, then I inevitably do the ride outdoors.

- My goal is to do my designated road rides actually on the roads

- My resolution is to plan these rides well in advance, preferably with a ride partner.

Training (II):

- I rely heavily on carbohydrates before training, which I think is more mental than anything else. I find it tough to contemplate a session before breakfast or if I feel I haven't eaten enough.

- During training I don't face the same problem, and am happy to do 2 hours or more with just water and BCAAs in my bottle.

- Not eating before a morning session, if its not intervals, will likely lead to a greater ability on the part of my muscles to use fat as a fuel source. This will certainly lead to better performance in longer endurance events, and may also improve performance at the lactate threshold (thought the research behind the second part is lacking)

- If I give myself time for breakfast before a planned morning session, I will end up eating it.

- My goal is to do any non-interval morning sessions in a fasted state.

- My resolution is to schedule these rides for such a time that I don't have time to eat, or to plan other things to do before the ride that will take the place of breakfast.


- Studying photos of me racing, my head is often not in the most aerodynamic position, especially when I don't know the course that I am racing on

- I have gone to some effort to put the rest of my body in a good position, but the head is a significant source of drag that I haven't minimised.

- Whilst training, especially on the turbo, there is no obvious reason to put your head in the tuck position and a reason not to: it's uncomfortable! However, I am unlikely to adopt a position in a race that I don't use in training.

- During road intervals, I wear a different helmet and so again the impetus to achieve the correct position is reduced.

- My goal is to get my head out of the wind during races

- My resolution is to practise this whenever I use the aero bars in training and to wear my race helmet when doing intervals on the road, or even on the turbo if its cold enough.


Analysing a small goal in the method presented above will lead to a resolution that is Specific, Measurable, etc (c.f. the traditional SMART goal setting system)

None of the areas I outlined require significant amounts of willpower to achieve on a regular basis, leaving all my willpower for those gruesome lactate tolerance sessions.

This will ultimately make it much more likely that the resolution is stuck to. A broken resolution does more harm than the good intention behind its conception.

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