How do I become a better _____? Do you even ask yourself this question? When, and how often?
This question should be an evaluative type question. But, many of us use it as a “I wish” type of situation.
Ok, now the answer. Most people answer “ride more”. Is that the proper answer? Well, maybe it is, but it isn’t a very good answer.
Personal evaluation can be so tricky. We often do not ask ourselves the right questions, and because of that the answers are wrong, or not usable. Learning to properly self evaluate is important if we wish to improve in the activities we do, whether that be at work, at home or on the bike.
So here are some tips:
First of all be specific. The question should never be, how do I become a better cyclist. It should be how do I improve my uphill sprint of 300 meters? Here is why: Simply stating you want to be a better climber is not enough. How do you train in general to be a better climber? Ride uphill more? While doing so will have a net effect, we want to use our time wisely, so with that, we need to specify things like climb 3 min long climbs 1mph faster. With that type of question, we can formulate better answers that can be achieved.
Second- be realistic. When we goal set, and then attempt to focus we often are vague, or we create things that are not achievable.
A quick story- A mentor asks his pupil what one of his goals was. The pupil simply answered “I want to become rich”. The mentor then asked, what does rich mean? The pupil answered “I want to make a lot of money”. Ok, what is a lot of money? By this point, the pupil is starting to get a vague idea of what the mentor was after. Vague goals have no proper finish line. Does rich mean $1000 or a million? Perhaps that person is rich already with friends, family and a great quality of life.
So to finish this idea, we have to be realistic and specific in what we are after. If you are working a basic job, you need to be realistic about what you expect to achieve. The same goes on the bike. If you only have 10 hours a week to train, realism sets in that winning a week long race may be difficult, but short criteriums might be easier. Or even if you want to break 5 hours for a century, you would have to be realistic and use your time the best way possible.
Write things down! We may mentally recap, or evaluate, but if we dont write things down, and have a lasting way to relate to the information, it becomes less effective. If you keep a diary of your training, perhaps a great addition is on Sundays, evaluate your week. That could just be the training for the week, or how you did in the event. A chance to reflect on what was good and bad, and then where you go from there.
Lastly, evaluation should not be a once a year event. It should be an ongoing process, perhaps weekly if you have frequent events. You should be evaluating as deeply as you can based on the information captured in your head, and through other devices. If you have data, make sure that you do not generalize, focus in on specifics so that you have a fair comparison, as well as be able to identify the cause and effect of your good or bad performance. Always evaluate based on as much data as possible, otherwise you are doing yourself a disservice.