Words: Mark Fenner

The start of a new year is always a time to reflect on the year before. You should recognise the new skills that have been learnt and the achievements and goals ticked off the bike riding bucket list. It is also a time to learn from the things that didn’t go to plan and understand why they went wrong. By understanding the positives and the negatives we are able to empower ourselves to set new goals.

It’s easy to think that it’s always the physically gifted and talented riders that win races or complete their goals, however, this is not the case. What is it that really underpins performance and drives you, what motivates you to drag yourself out of bed? What is it that makes some athletes give up when they are so obviously talented, and others just keep plugging away, year after year?

As a coach it is not only important to empower athletes to understand why they are doing a certain session from a physiological perspective, but also to understand what is motivating them to do so and to help set goals that are within the reach of the rider for the year and years ahead. 



“Motivation is an internal process that makes a person move toward a goal.”

By understanding the real reason for doing something we can develop our own motivation and continue to make small steps towards better race results and enjoyment out on the bike.
There are two types of motivation and they are both very different. Focusing solely on the wrong type of motivation can lead to problems down the track, so, understanding what it is that motivates you in the first place is fundamental to making 2019 your best year yet. 

Intrinsic motivation focusses on thought process, actions, activities or reactions simply for the sake of doing them and without an obvious external incentive for doing so. Simply riding your bike for the experience is a form of intrinsic motivation. Athletes that are intrinsically motivated are more likely to keep on the path to achieving their long-term goals. This type of motivation is incredibly powerful and is less influenced by external factors.

Extrinsic motivation focuses on rewards or punishment, both tangible and intangible and result in an external benefit. Tangible benefits could include monetary reward or a prize at the end of the race. Intangible could include things like the adoration of others along with recognition and praise.
Motivation is therefore very different for everyone. If we are simply looking to smash our mates or win a race, then our motivation can be lost very quickly as many of the factors that govern these outcomes are often out of our direct control. The feelings of disappointment and failure can lead to us losing the drive and giving up at the first hurdle. Likewise, if we just want to get fitter, faster on the bike and have no real direction or major aim or goal we can also quickly lose the desire to get out and push ourselves.

A combination of both forms of motivation can be the best way to approach the season ahead. If we focus our efforts towards achieving a certain time or distance in a certain race or over a certain course and we aim towards achieving our very best, then we could combine a small amount of both motivational factors to help drive us forward on those cold wet mornings.

Goal Setting

The process of goal setting and the Steven Covey idea of “beginning with the end in mind” is the best way to approach the year ahead, but it is often in this process that the mistakes are made. Goal setting needs to follow some set principles. Establishing these principles right at the very beginning of a training program is fundamental to helping us achieve our objectives.

Short Term Goals

Short term goals are vitally important to maintain focus and give us small victories along the way. These should be developed with the longer-term goals in mind. This means that if the main objective is to compete in The Pioneer the year after, then it’s important to be a strong climber with great endurance. The key with short term goals is that you can and do achieve some success in completing them. I believe that success breeds success and so by completing and achieving the short term goals your motivation will be enhanced further still. Don’t go setting yourself some unrealistic time on the climb by looking on Strava and trying to beat the time of Cam Ivory for instance, as you might not be giving yourself a realistic chance of achieving that goal.


Medium Term Goals

Medium term goals can be considered within the next 6 to 8 months and should be a continuation of the skills and work you have done towards your short term goals. As with short term goals medium term goals could be to complete a sub 6-hour Marathon race, or, to complete a 6-hour ride without stopping. When establishing your yearly plan consider that there will be a peak period in the year when you might be in your best physical condition.

You should look to establish several races or events around the time of your main goal race or event. By doing so it enables us to use our fitness and condition fully and if something goes wrong in the goal race or event it provides a fallback plan and another chance to succeed. This is often where most athletes go wrong as by focussing on just one event in a year it can be easier to fail due to a puncture or classic bad day and it all feels like everything was for nothing. This inevitably leads to de-motivation and lack of desire to keep pushing on and setting a new goal to aim for. If you have another race in a couple of weeks it is then possible to refocus and go out and smash it.

Try not to do too many races and focus on too many goals, it is very difficult to have the highest level of arousal and performance for a special race when we have been racing every week for the past 6 months.


Long Term Goals

Long term goals are those things we would love to achieve as our ultimate goal. It’s still important to consider making these goals realistic and achievable and if the stars align your ultimate achievement. Long term goals inevitably drive us onwards after the shorter and medium term goals have been achieved for the year and add to the continuity from year to year. By establishing our long term goals, we can develop the processes, skills and physical condition while on the journey to the dream goal.

Dealing with speed bumps along the way

No matter how motivated you are there will be times you can't get up to go training. You’re in the best condition of your life, but suddenly out of nowhere you feel like you have lost your mojo. It is the culmination of many months and weeks of training and often occurs when the taper starts towards the big one. During down times I think it is great to draw on the motivation of others, teaming up with mates for rides can be all it takes. Sometimes just going out and riding your favourite trails experiencing the thrill of riding fast down some awesome singletrack will put the smile back on the dial.

I hope this has helped you start thinking about setting your goals and understanding what it is that motivates you for the 2019 season and beyond. Catch you on the trails!