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Chris Hoy on Inspiration and Goal Setting

Let your long-term goal inspire you. There is nothing like setting a really big goal to get you out training. Shut your eyes and try to visualize something you would love to do, even if you think it might be a bit beyond you, and go for it. Of course, you have got to be a bit realistic. Olympic gold medals and winning the Tour de France are beyond a lot of people’s reach, but if
you are young enough they can be valid goals or dreams. Shoot for the stars, but be happy with the moon too.

For older cyclists winning an age-group race, even an age-group national or world title is possible if you have good health and the time and resources to train properly. Improving performances in time trials, or the time you achieved in a cyclosportive the previous year are good goals for many. Then there are big international cyclosportives to ride, like the Etape du
Tour, which covers a mountain stage of each year’s Tour de France. There are also big cyclosportives run on the routes of all the single-day Classics races. There is a whole world of inspiring goals you can go for.


The Mechanisms of Inspiration

Within your personal possibilities what have you always wanted to do on your bike? Take a moment to imagine it. Does it give you goosebumps? Does it scare you a bit? If it does either of those, and it’s better if it does both, it will inspire you. Now imagine what you will feel like when you have achieved you goal. Write down your objective, plan out a path to it and go for it.

You might be scared about failing, but fear of failure can help you keep knocking out the training sessions. Your big scary objective will also keep you on the right path nutritionally, and make it easier for you to turn your back on any temptation to slacken the healthy diet you need to support your ambition. Note, though, the occasional indulgence never hurts.


Be in the moment

Use your inspiration to help you focus on each aspect of cycling as and when you are doing it. If you are planning, plan to the best of your ability. Focus on each training session, and only that training session, as you do it then move on to the next. In short, focus only on what you are doing at that moment and don’t let everything get jumbled up, or you will end up simply going through the motions and not realizing your potential. Above all, regard everything – training, recovery, eating or looking after yourself and your bike – as essential steps towards your goal, because that’s what they are. Some coaches call living in the moment “being in the flow”. Many consider “the flow” as the gateway to the perfect mindset for competition and they call that “being in the zone”. The zone is a state beyond focus, it’s where you feel in total control, where you are dictating what happens and everything around you slows down so you analyze it correctly and do the right thing. The flow is something you work on and practice, but once you have cracked it you can switch the flow on any time you need it.



Visualization doesn’t mean daydreaming and wishing you were out on your bike instead of in a boring meeting or at school. It means taking time to remember the good sensations of cycling and visualize yourself riding perfectly on the way to achieving your goals.

It doesn’t mean seeing yourself on the top step on the Champs Elysees dressed in yellow with the Arc de Triomphe behind you, although that is a nice image to conjure up on a grey December day. It means thinking about particular aspects of your cycling challenge, your goal and visualizing yourself doing them perfectly.

For example, a track pursuiter might visualize the perfect start and pick up, then settling down into an aerodynamic position and fluidly pushing out the power into the pedals. A time triallist could visualize riding in a perfect aerodynamic tuck while cutting through bends on the perfect line. In fact, perfect should be a feature of all visualization: the perfect sprint,
the perfect climbing performance or the perfect descent. Try attaching a mantra to what you are visualizing, repeating it in your mind. It might be as simple as two words,
“perfect start” for example, or “smooth as silk” when you visualize your pedalling style. Repeat the mantra in your mind when you visualize and when you practice. Every time you do this you are reinforcing the neuro-muscular pathways that improve performance.

It’s important to set goals because they bring discipline to your training. Goals help you get out of the door, get on your turbo trainer or out to the gym. Goals centre you and they give you specific objectives, from longterm major goals right down to what you want to achieve in a single training session.

Training goals are stepping stones to achieving bigger goals, and big goals spur you on. They help you strive, to push yourself and do all of your training, including nutrition and recovery, properly.



There is a system to effective goal setting. First, review your situation as it is now. If you are new to cycling, ask yourself what your fitness is like, how much time have you got in a week for training, what inspires you and what would you eventually like to achieve in cycling?

It doesn’t matter how far you are from your inspiring goal when you set out, the key question is do you have the time, resources and physical capacity to achieve it? To answer those questions you need to analyze the goal. What does it consist of, and what does it take to achieve it?

Look at the nature of the event you are training for. Break it down into its constituent parts and set specific goals for each of those components. As an example, for the onekilometre
time trial, I would be looking at my maximum strength and measuring my one-repetition max squat as a key performance indicator for my ability to generate force that would help me with my snap out the gate.

I would look at my standing start 65-metre times as a benchmark for my acceleration and set myself a series of performance goals for that exercise. I would do the same for
my peak speed, my speed endurance and my lactate tolerance. I would also look at technical areas too – my technique out the gate, my line on the track, my aero position on the bike – and set goals of increasing difficulty along the way to challenge myself and ultimately improve the overall end result.

All these things need practice and training, and they determine the shape of your training plan, which should be task focused. You focus on one aspect of your goal, while maintaining other aspects you have focused on, then you move on to something else. It’s like spinning plates; you get the next plate spinning then pop back and give another a little spin and so on.

It’s important to break down the demands of your goal and see if you have the resources, the time and the commitment to do the training to achieve it. In some cases, the money and desire to spend it on specialized equipment also needs careful consideration.

Then, whether you have a coach or not, sit down with a pen and paper to assess where you are now and specify where you want to go. Don’t just think abstractly about your cycling, sit down, review and plan. That’s how to get the best results.


Make big goals

Think big, something that excites you will keep you striving, training and moving in the right direction. Yes, you have to be realistic with where you are in life and what resources you
have, but within those restrictions big goals work best. Make your goals performance- and not outcome-oriented. That’s one of the keys to good goal setting. If your goal is winning a race, don’t focus on winning. Winning might be what you want, but it is an outcome. A lot of factors outside your control can prevent you achieving a specified outcome. Your best possible performance in the race is the only thing you can control. Of course, the outcome of your best possible performance might be winning the race. I would set my goals at the beginning of each four-year cycle, and whilst Olympic gold was my aim, the actual goal that I had control over was to arrive at the Olympics in the form of my life, and to be the best I could be.

By focussing on the process and not the outcome you are in charge. “Controlling the controllables” is a well used phrase, and for good reason. If you worry about things out of your control, such as your rivals’ performances, then that will create stress. Only one gold medal is given out for each race, and not everyone can win, so if you can look yourself in the mirror on race day and truly say you have given your best in every training session up to that point, then you can go out and enjoy the race and accept the outcome. If you win, brilliant. If you don’t, you shake the other person’s hand and say well done, the better cyclist won. But if that happens then you make sure you come back next time even better prepared, and kick their backsides!


Planning for your goals

Leave no stone unturned, that’s a good way to think about writing out a plan. Your plan is your recipe for success. You should always have a detailed plan for what training you are about to do in the next four weeks, and a rough plan for the months beyond that. The rough plan then becomes more detailed in the light of the training you are currently doing. That way at the end of each four-week period, you have another detailed four-week plan ready to go.

Above all your plan should excite you. I remember talking to Chris Boardman early in my career, looking for advice. He said that his events were nothing like mine, but the one piece of guidance he could give me was that if I wasn’t excited when I read through my plan I should tear it up and start again. When the plan you have written really excites you, that’s when you will fully buy into it and fully commit to it.


How to Ride a Bike by Sir Chris Hoy published by Hamlyn 20 September 2018 –

Photo credit: Chris Terry

Written By

Sir Chris Hoy