OK, 2020 didn’t exactly go according to plan for anyone. And while 2021 in there will likely be some races, local and grassroots events, the future is still pretty murky after a year of mass cancellations.

We can hope and plan we’ll be at the start line of our beloved A-race gravel grinder, but if 2020 taught us anything, it’s to be prepared for change. So, wouldn’t it be nice if you had another goal that you actually could accomplish?

The tricky thing with goal-setting this year is we simply don’t know enough to set a goal based on a specific event. Instead, we’re going to have to do what we should have been doing all along: Look for process-focused goals that can be always done. At our coaching company, The Consummate Athlete, we’re huge fans of goals that aren’t defined by finishing times and race results. We love goals centered around personal performance, from nailing a log hop to improving an FTP by 50 watts. And we really, really love habit-based goals, meaning they’re broken down into daily steps.

Let’s look at process goals and habit goals—and hopefully, you can get some ideas for this coming season! You can still keep your outcome or results-based goal if it keeps you motivated, but having some of these goals in your back pocket is great for when you do run into a canceled race or even a disappointing finish. Also, it’s nice to have another goal met on the way to the start line.

Process-Focused Goals

These are goals you have complete control over. They can still have a specific result, like running a certain pace for a certain distance, but unlike an outcome or results-based goal, they’re entirely dependent on your performance, not how you stack up in a field. That’s what makes them great anytime, but especially in an uncertain year.

The piece most people miss with process goals is the breakdown of ‘how’ you’re going to achieve said goals.

  • Picking a specific skill to hone, like bunny-hopping, and breaking it down into smaller chunks that you’ll work on during regular practice sessions
  • Improving your FTP by doing threshold workouts weekly
  • Improving your starts by doing standing sprints and practicing clipping in 10 times every time you get on the trainer
  • Creating an adventure route by yourself or with a friend, and setting a goal around training to do it in a set time, or even just completing it. (This is what I did in 2020, when a friend and I went on a 100-mile bike ride to a provincial park, then did a trail marathon on foot, then rode another 100 miles to get back home!)

Habit-Focused Goals

These are similar to process-focused goals, but with one small tweak: They are repeated daily, weekly, or monthly depending on the specific habit.

Habit-focused goals help you get to your process-focused goal (or your race goal!), but there’s no finish line in sight with them. The only ‘finish line’ that happens with a habit goal is when, at some point, the habit becomes automatic, and you do it without thinking.

A few of our favorite athlete habits to adopt for 2021 include:

  • Keeping a daily training log and gratitude journal: Not just logging your workout, but noting how your workout went, how you felt and any details worth mentioning. And then, adding a short list of a few things you’re grateful for! You’d be amazed at how fast that gratitude list boosts your mood.
  • Doing a morning yoga flow: This might be a minute of planks, a couple of sun salutations, or just some twists done while lying on the ground. Don’t overthink it, just get in the routine of waking up and stepping onto your yoga mat and moving your body. (You can find a couple of easy videos to get you started here.)
  • Drinking a glass of water as soon as you wake up every day
  • Going for a walk every day
  • Taking time once a month to clean out your gear drawers and closets, making sure your bike, kit and accessories are all in good working condition

For a ton more on goal setting and habit forming, check out our new book, Becoming A Consummate Athlete!

About the Author

Molly Hurford is a journalist in love with all things cycling, running, nutrition and movement-related. When not outside, she’s writing about being outside and healthy habits of athletes and interviewing world-class athletes and scientists for The Consummate Athlete podcast and website, and most recently launched the book ‘Becoming A Consummate Athlete.‘ She’s the author of multiple books including the Shred Girls, a young adult fiction series and online community focused on getting girls excited about bikes. She also writes regularly for publications including Bicycling magazine, Gear Junkie, and Outside.