The following is an excerpt from an upcoming book on technology, distraction, and why training simply is the most effective way to improve your cycling. To get updates and follow the progress of the book please sign up for our newsletter.

You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.

James Clear

Most cyclists have plenty of experience mapping out goals and objectives. 

While goals help define a training direction, they do little to move the needle of progress.

In his book Atomic Habits, author James Clear draws attention to the fact that winners and losers nearly always share the same goals [1]. 

Most riders want to win in a bike race, yet every race sees a group battling for the podium, and another group falling off the back. What drives these different outcomes? 

Back to James Clear. “We think we need to change our results, but the results are not the problem. What we really need to change are the systems that cause those results” [1]. 

Cyclists who struggle to make progress aren’t usually failing because of unclear goals or even a lousy training plan. They’re failing because the systems required to support the hard work of training are weak or nonexistent.

You can think of your systems as a fulcrum around which your training choices and cycling progress pivot: the broader and more robust the base of your fulcrum, the greater your potential for progress. Conversely, weak systems lead to progress plateau and burnout. 

In the upcoming chapter, we’ll highlight six systems that are sure to lay a solid foundation for your sustainable progress on the bike. 

System One: Organize Your Thoughts

As David Allen describes in his productivity classic Getting Things Done, our modern economy’s demands have transformed much of our work from tangible tasks like farming and manufacturing to abstract “knowledge work” existing entirely in our heads [2].

“Knowledge work” is challenging because it lives without clear boundaries or goalposts. Our thoughts and to-do lists impose, interrupt, and degrade our ability to focus on the other priorities we value: like family, friends, and cycling. It’s no wonder many cyclists struggle with the basics of training, let alone making progress.

One solution to the challenge of “knowledge work” is to build and maintain a system to organize your thoughts. My favorite system is outlined in David Allen’s Getting Things Done [2]. Here’s the fundamental pitch.

At any one moment, you might have 50 different details whirling around in your head. There are dates to remember, tasks to complete, people to follow up with; these snippets of information degrade your ability to focus and make you feel stressed.

The first solution to this problem is to offload what you’re trying to remember into an external system of organization. Building and maintaining an organizational structure for your mind has two distinct benefits. 

  1. It frees your mind to spend less effort remembering things, so you can spend more time doing things.
  2. It works as a private assistant, reminding you of the specific tasks or projects you need to pay attention to, while hiding all the details that aren’t presently relevant.

The result is more clarity and focus to spend on a singular task at hand, like spending time with your family, enjoying the company of a friend, or doing work on the bike.

References

  1. Clear, J., ATOMIC HABITS : an easy and proven way to build good habits and break bad ones. 2019, [Place of publication not identified]: RANDOM House BUSINESS.
  2. Allen, D., Getting Things Done. 2015: Penguin Publishing Group.

Training can be confusing. In our free eBook, we’ll show you four ways to use your data and insights from science to ride better than ever.


Written by Nate Dunn M.S.

Nate Dunn has spent his entire career in education and coaching. As a former teacher and now founder/head coach at Data Driven Athlete, he is most excited about helping cyclists discover their potential as they experience more great days on the bike.