It’s time to look back at 2016. But why so early? I hear you ask. The year is not over yet, there are adventures yet to be had?
It’s at this time of year, when the leaves are turning and littering every path, puddles forming, with chillier mornings and darker evenings drawing in as the autumn reluctantly releases its grasp and we succumb to winter, that I start to think of the year ahead.
You’re right, there’s still much to be explored, hills to climb and roads to be ridden before the year is out. Yet somehow focusing on what the New Year might bring helps me to come to terms with the less than favourable weather and the feeling of dread that accompanies the short days.
I am by no means a fair weather rider. Sure, it can be difficult to get out of the house when in the torrential rain or on a bitterly cold day when you could be tucked up in front of the fire with tea and biscuits, but once out in the elements and acclimatised to the conditions there’s no better feeling.
So why start now?
By looking ahead to what challenges may lay ahead now and thinking about what you’d like to accomplish, you can start to formulate a plan in order to get you there. Winter riding builds the foundation for next year’s success, maintaining a good level of base fitness using long, low intensity winter rides.
Many opt for alternative disciplines when the weather turns sour, such as cyclocross or mountain biking, where the act of getting plastered in mud and soaked through is arguably more enjoyable than doing the same on the roads. Whatever you choose to do, next year’s success starts here.
Why it’s important to reflect
In our busy day to day lives, we often neglect to spend the time reflecting on events both in the near and distant past, whether that’s a meeting at work or tactics in a race. It’s a crucial exercise, allowing you to closely review what has and hasn’t worked, central for developing a plan for improvement.
So what will I be asking myself about 2016? Firstly, what have I enjoyed? What have I achieved? What were the highlights? What would I like to do more of? And what was it about those moments in particular that made them so memorable and fulfilling?
My mind whirrs with events, scenes, maps, finish lines, and feelings. Where even to start?
Equally, if not more important to question, are the negatives. What did I do that didn’t work for me? What did I try that I didn’t like? And most significantly, why?
Once you have an idea about this year’s successes, it becomes easier to think about what you’d like to do in the future. It can be daunting to draw up a plan for the whole year – I’m certainly not suggesting that you must create a twelve month structured training plan and schedule in weekly events, races and training camps. For some, having this approach may work, but for many others, just having a general objective is more practical and manageable. For example, if you know that you’d like to cycle to see the Tour de France in July, you might think about working on your long distance endurance riding, or if there’s a local road race in the diary then you can work towards upping your performance accordingly.
It’s not always easy determining what you want to do. Some find inspiration in discovering competitions such as the Yearly Century Challenge or reading books like the 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs. It may be a remark that a fellow club rider makes, or a new discipline that you’d like to try. Whatever it is, remember that you are not bound to it for the rest of the year. If you aim to give track cycling a go, and you simply don’t like it, just think again and realign your goals to something different. Keep it fluid, making sure it still excites and motivates you.
Hoping to cycle to success in 2017? Start thinking now – there’s no time like the present.