Take that first step

staircaseI am a road cyclist.  I am also a senior, well past my athletic prime.  But like most cyclists, I want to continue improving.  Ride faster.  Ride farther.  Climb more easily.  I plan to train more consistently this year and have been considering goals for 2013.

Last week, I learned of some remarkable cycling accomplishments in 2012:

Each of these men recorded personal bests in 2012.  I am not a competitive cyclist, nor do I have the time to ride 10,000 km this year, but I do want to improve and to continue riding for years to come.

What steps do I need to take?

Alaine Lambert is a Montreal husband, father of six, businessman and a competitive, amateur cyclist.  His January 4, 2013 blog post “Get off the couch, don’t be afraid to train” is not only an inspiration to cyclists of all levels but a template for all goal setters.  In it he chronicles his progress from a recreational to competitive road racer in 6 years and, how he sets annual goals for himself including numerous micro-goals along the way that keep him on track.

Mr. Lambert’s methods transcend cycling excellence.  They are a model for everyone wanting to improve no matter what discipline.  His following remark is profound and made me realize that my goals were ambiguous and, my commitment to them, questionable at best.

“But becoming a successful amateur cyclist requires the same commitment to excellence as one makes to becoming a successful business person, parent or spouse. There is no way to achieve a high level of excellence without a high level of commitment. The greater your commitment, the more your life will focus on achieving success.”

As an older rider, I began making excuses.  Certainly, as one ages, strength and flexibility wane.  It is natural and begins at 30.  How much and how fast depends on your genetics and activity level.  You have to work harder to progress and you cannot expect to realize the same gains as a 25 year old.  Nevertheless, numerous studies conclude that, given good health, there is no reason you cannot improve your physical conditioning.  In fact, maintaining aerobic fitness could delay biolobgical aging by up to 12 years, a 2008 study finds.  Robert Marchand is evidence of that.

Okay.  Age is no excuse.  If you are committed, change is possible.  All you need is the courage to take that first step.  That first step may be the hardest, frought with anxiety, but without it, there is no change.

2013 Cycling Goals

settin-a-goalThese goals are intended to establish a regular training schedule, build confidence and create a foundation for continued growth.  I recognize if I aim too high, I will become frustrated and lose  motivation.  A Gran Fondo or riding stages of the Tour de France in the Pyrenees may be too ambitious for this year.  I also cannot aim too low or I will not be challenged enough.  I am not a beginner.  I have ridden for over 35 years, toured for weeks, commuted 30 km a day for years and trained regularly on the summer weekends.  I need to set realistc goals that establish the basis for faster, longer and more enjoyable rides.

I recently learned of BJ Fogg PhD, a Stanford professor and industry consultant on behavioural change.  His work centres on finding triggers that result in long term, permanent behaviourable change.   My 2013 goals are small steps designed to build the confidence necessary to continue riding.

I have the following 3 cycling goals for 2013.

xxxCypresRideClimb Cypress Mountain.  This a popular ride for Vancouver cyclist.  A 900 metre climb over 15 km with an average grade of 6%.  I am not certain I can’t already complete this climb.  I have never tried.  Climbing Cypress will give me the confidence to ride further, faster and more enjoyably.

100-year-old-cycli_2354367bComplete a 100 km ride.  I have ridden this distance many times but not in recent years.  And, not on my newest ride.  I want to confirm I can still do it.  And, I don’t mean just do it.  I want to be able to do it comfortably and enjoy it.  At the completion, I want to feel like doing another one.

xxxorcoastTake a bike holiday.  Last year I took my road bike to the cottage for a month and rode 40-50 km every morning enjoying the quiet, rural, rolling, southern Ontario roads in cottage country.

This year, I would like to try a new destination.  Someplace warm, dry and, preferably, close to the sea.  These detinations are on my “bucket list”:

  • The Oregon Coast from Cannon Beach to Brandon;
  • The Irish coastline in the spring;
  • The West Maui Loop in Hawaii; and,
  • the cottage in Bolsover never gets old.

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2013 Q1 Plan

WebArticulating goals is one thing.  Reaching them is another.  To be successful, I also need a plan that is both realistic and measurable.  Otherwise, I have no idea if I am on target.

What follows is a 3 month plan designed to prepare for the warm weather riding ahead.  These months are usually wet and cold in Vancouver.  A good time to hit the gym.  I will evaluate my progress at the end of March, design another 3 month plan for April – June and adjust these goals, if necessary, at that time.  The plan needs to be fluid so that adjustments can be made to insure my goals are realized.

This is the plan.

Maintain an optimum weight.  The less weight you have to carry up a climb, the easier it is and the less effort required.  Alberto Contador, arguably the best climber in the world, is my height but only 137 pounds.  By March 31, 2013, I plan to reach and maintain an optimum weight.  I’ll do that by:

  • reducing my daily calorie intake to ~ 1,500 as recommended by this Calorie Count tool that takes into consideration current weight, target weight, gender, weight and activity level;
  • drinking a VEGA smoothie each day to aid with recovery; and,
  • continuing the 16 hour daily fasting regimen I began 2 months ago that has helped me eat less, eat more nutritiously and enjoy food more.

Train 5 times a week.  These training sessions will include a variety of workouts but include 2 sessions with a 4-5 Training Effect (Suunto Training Effect).

  • Spinning.   This is an excellent way to have an effective workout in a relatively short period of time.  A 45-60 minute workout can result in a level 5 TE.  The objective over time is to lengthen these spins in preparation for longer road rides in the spring.
  • Road Riding.   When it is dry, I will get on the road.  The Stanley Park road ride is an excellent winter training route.  It is relatively short (9.25 km) but includes a 65 m climb and a lengthy descent.  Several laps is good preparation for longer climbs.  I’ll use this ride as a benchmark to measure my progess by recording lap times and my maximum heart rate at the top of the climb.
  • Resistance training.  This is to develop more leg power and endurance.  And, to strengthen the core muscles.  Core strength is needed to stabalize the hips and minimize upper body movement while riding.  The core fails before the legs.  Unfortunately, this muscle group is not strengthened by riding alone.
  • Walking.  I have a 75-90 minute, up hill walk every evening after work.  This walk has a TE of 1.7 and, at a brisk pace, burns over 400 calories.. Suunto recomends 2 workouts at this level between each 4-5 TE workout.

Join a local cycling club.  There are several local clubs each with different objectives and skill sets.  I will identify the club that best fits my experience and skill set by March 31, 2013 and begin riding with them beginning in the spring.

Research cycling destinations.  There are many cycling holiday options and possible destinations.  I have listed several on my bucket list but will spend the winter researching possible destinations for a cycling holiday and make a decision by March 31, 2012.

TrackFitnessThere is no point having a plan if I don’t track my progress.  There are many different methods but, in my case, the immediate objective is to improve my conditioning and, to do it during the colder, winter months.  Each week I’ll track the following fitness measures:

  1. waist to height ratio (WTH) – more reliable than the BMI;
  2. resting heart rate (RHR) – an indication of cariovascular fitness; and,
  3. body weight – excess weight only helps on the descent.

Provided I folow this plan (and make micro adjustments along the way), I expect to see an improvement in each of these measures by March 31, 2012.

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Reward Success

hurrahSo how do I stay motivated?  I’ll listen to BJ Fogg, take small steps, reward each success, no matter how small and, surround myself with individuals who share and support my vision.  Each step of the way, I’ll raise my hands in the air and say hurrah!  I’ll celebrate each pound lost, the completion of each TE 5 workout and the addition of each new plate on leg press machine.

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3 thoughts on “Take that first step

  1. Pingback: January Training Summary | PedalWorks

  2. Pingback: I cycled the West Maui Loop | PedalWorks

  3. Pingback: I completed the 2013 Canada Day Populaire | PedalWORKS

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