Cycling Tips

Setting training goals in a pandemic year

Planning anything over the past year has been particularly difficult, but when it comes to setting training goals it’s been nigh on impossible. With ride numbers and distances restricted and any hoped-for racing season most likely cancelled, 2020 certainly was not the year we were all expecting. But now we’ve well and truly locked that year away, what about looking forward to the future? We’re finally beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel thanks to the new June 21st date, but as we all know by now, things can change at any moment. This makes goal setting a challenge as so many of your plans are tied to a strict calendar.

It’s time to look at things a little differently then and set achievable short-, medium- and long-term goals that won’t be affected easily by the pandemic. Let’s take a look at how these could work and the sort of goal you can plan to hit at each stage.

Short-term goals

Despite what we just said, as short-term goals are characterised by resolutions that can be met in weeks and months, these aims can be tied to a calendar. Now is a good time to question what you are training for and how to adapt your training plan to suit your needs. Due to current restrictions regarding travel distance and exercise boundaries, you’ve no doubt found it tricky to stick to every letter of your plan. As a result, it’s best to take your training indoors and focus on base fitness. Rebuilding your training plan to suit short term goals such as maintaining a fitness level, trying something new and steadily improving your numbers, such as FTP, can all be achieved at home.

Indoor riding software like Zwift have in-built training plans that help users to set and achieve goals within monthly timeframe, or even shorter. They cater to every type of rider and even have training plans associated with the sort of riding you are missing. If you need that race feel, you can even enter online races and judge yourself against riders in a similar category to you. Of course, nothing beats a proper road, TT, MTB, triathlon or cyclocross race, but in the short-term, taking part in online events is a fantastic alternative.

Time indoors can also be used to set goals that aren’t so bike critical. Cross training and focussing on core strength, flexibility and fitness by engaging in things like yoga, at-home gym work and alternative sports like running and swimming, will help to break the monotony of lockdown cycling and improve you as a rider.

 Medium-term goals

Unlike short-term goals, it has been difficult to train for medium-term goals such as events and races due to the ever-changing coronavirus restrictions. It’s been a sort of ‘now you see it, now you don’t’ kind of deal with races popping up on the calendar and then, as quickly as they were organised, being cancelled or postponed. This has made tailoring plans around these keystone events impossible. However, with new dates for the lifting of restrictions emerging, this planning will gradually become easier.

As a result, it is a good idea to change the way you look at your medium-term goals. Instead of setting resolutions, focus on open-ended intentions. This means that rather than aiming to finish in a certain position in a race or season, convert that goal into focussing on recovery and strength so that you’re in good condition for when the season does eventually restart. This approach can also be used for other medium-term goals. If you’re feeling a little out of condition and would like to lose weight, instead of setting the goal of getting down to a number (which can be unhealthy anyway), focus on your nutrition, how you’ve been eating in lockdown and the ways in which you can change your habits so that you’re eating healthier while still exercising regularly. The same can be said for other metrics such as improving your power output. Instead of being a slave to the numbers you want to hit, set yourself the intention of doing sessions each week that focus on things like intervals and threshold work.

Finally, let’s be honest, we all miss our ride mates. As restrictions lift through the summer (touch wood) we will be able to ride in groups again. If races and events are still a maybe at that point, and for the rest of the year, it might be a good opportunity to refocus your 2021 goals on challenges you can do with your ride partners. Locally, this could include setting each other challenges on local Strava segments and seeing who the best climber in the group is – a sort of socially distanced hill climb event. This is a both a good goal for training and something that will give you that competitive fix.

 Long-term goals

Over the next year or so it is likely that we’ll see gradual changes to restrictions and new parameters set on how we exercise. June 21st certainly isn’t going to be some kind of liberation where we can all go back to the cycling we had enjoyed before 2020, so long-term goals associated with travel are particularly hard to place in any sort of calendar. What we can do however is begin to plan the sort of riding we want to do at some undefined point in the future, be that 2021, 2022 or even 2023.

If anything, the pandemic proved to us that even the most simple and routine things in our lives couldn’t be taken for granted, like travelling out of your home region or country for a cycling trip. So now is the time to start looking at your cycling bucket list and planning to tick those must-do activities off in earnest because as last year proved, you never know when the chance will be taken away from you. Either on your own or with ride mates, begin to plan the sort of trips you want to take with your bicycle. Have you ever wanted to go bikepacking in the UK or abroad? Or ride an epic climb in the Dolomites? Or thunder across the bone-shaking Paris-Roubaix cobbles? Now is the perfect time to begin researching such trips so that you’re ready to take on the challenge when the time comes.

This is especially true when it comes to bikepacking. Whether you want to go abroad and ride an epic route unassisted or stay closer to home and explore the Scottish Highlands or English national parks, one of the best and most rewarding ways to do this is in a group on your bikes. So why not start dreaming now? Researching the routes, training for the adventure and putting kit and equipment to the test is a great way to plan for this and keep your motivation for cycling up throughout the year. Our fantastic article ten reasons to switch to gravel is a good place to touch base.

Cycling as we know it may not be the same for a long while, we just don’t know. Until then it’s important to set goals for your fitness, motivation, wellbeing and of course to stay safe. We’ll see you out on the road soon enough.

Whatever the goals you are setting yourself and whatever riding you do, Pedal Cover can protect you and your bikes. Click here for a free quote.