Goal setting for inspiration

I have been reading Sir Chris Hoy’s ‘How to ride a bike’ over the last few days. The book is an excellent training manual that I highly recommend it for any cyclist. Hoy starts with the basics, including choosing a bike and road safety but quickly moves to training details. As one of the most successful British athletes of all time, winning Eleven World Championships and six Olympic gold medals, some training methods, such as the clown bike where Hoy would do short high cadence intervals at 320+ rpm are not for the faint of heart. There is no referenced research on the methods to satisfy the more geeky time trialist, but it makes it an easier read and Hoy was at the cutting edge for most of his career, and at the hight of British Cycling’s rise, so the methods have provenance.  

Later in the book, Hoy writes about setting and managing goals. He suggests setting a massive goal that you would love to do, that is a bit beyond you, and is a little scary such as riding a tour du France mountain stage in l’Etape du Tour or targetting a national age-group title. You can then spend time analysing precisely what is needed to achieve the goal and compare them to where you are. You can then create a ‘recipe for success’ planning out exactly what you need to do in your training, recovery, nutrition, and equipment to bridge the gap. Finally, Hoy quotes advice given to him by Chis Boardman, if you are not excited when you read through the plan, then rip it up and start again. 

The big goal acts as a motivation to carry out each day’s plan and develop discipline in your training. Hoy suggests you close your eyes, imagine doing something that excites and gives you goosebumps, then write it down, plan out how you can get there an, and then do it. 

How to choose and manage your cycling goals

  1. Choose a big scary goal so large that you are almost embarrassed to tell people. 
  2. Research and map out each aspect of what it will take to achieve the goal, such as a required power to weight ratio and equipment needs.
  3. Map out where you are now against the requirements to identify what you need to do.
  4. Create a long term plan to bridge the gap between where you are now and where you need to be.
  5. Create a detailed plan for the next four weeks.
  6. Execute the plan flawlessly, ‘controlling the controllable.’
  7. Review at the end of the four weeks to assess if the plan achieved the intended outcomes.
  8. Repeat steps 7-7 until the big scary goal is complete. 


I woke up tired this morning and scrolled through my phone under the covers rather than getting up. I missed my 7 am planned start time for a training session and then needed to help my wife testing some technology before a call. I had an hour and a half ride on the turbo planned, and the daily stand up with my team at 9:30 so the ride move to lunch.

I did not get back to my desk until 14:00 and then spent the next few hours catching up. After work, I had a trip to the supermarket, dinner with my wife, and then a later than planned weight session. I got to my daily blog at 20:30, clean the kitchen and sorted the recycling for bin day tomorrow. I will hopefully be in bed for 22:00 to hit my 7 am training ride in the morning.

While I was putting off the inevitable cold outside of the covers, phrases from sportsbooks I had read teased me. Schedules matter, as soon as one thing is late, the rest of the day is late too. If training starts at 7 am, you are ready at 6:50; you give yourself the leeway to fix it if you have a problem. You treat yourself as a professional in terms of preparation, attitude, and skills. You develop a personal regime and culture of professionalism. I am impressed by professional athletes who reach the top of their sport, but I am more impressed by the ultra-amateurs, like Roger Bannister. They achieve exceptional physical feats but are dedicated to their work in a profession and treat training as a secondary pursuit.

When your main focus is your profession, your training has to fit around your job. Training is put before everything else for professional athletes, but most of us do not have that life, and if we are honest, do not want it. So we wake up a 6:00 to training before work and then again after we finish, and save energy and time for our family and responsibilities. But in that hour or two when we train, we focus on nothing else.

I choose to ride and lift and write. I choose to focus on being great at my job. I choose to spend time with my wife. I choose to have a clean kitchen every night before I go to bed. Training is not a job for me, but it is more than a hobby. There is something deeper to the pain and the effort than getting a 6-pack and staying young for longer. The physical goals I set myself and the training I go through to achieve them become a part of me but when the next day comes around it is my role as a husband and an educator that matter. The pain is just a bonus.

Creating a running training programme

At the start of the year, I aimed to get serious about my running. I have been running on and off for around five years, but I have never done anything more than 30+ miles in a training week and never followed a programme or put in any consistent volume. I completed several big races including the 69 mile Rat Race Wall in northern England, the 66km long, 4,400m of accent, Pirin Skyrun in Bulgaria, and the 49km long, 3,600m of accent Matterhorn Ultraks with my relaxed approach. Still, the aim has always been to finish rather than to race.

I decided in December 2019, with the help of a Percy Ceritty book, that if I was going to invest time and energy into doing long mountainous races, then I need to respect them by preparing correctly. I chose the Tromso Skyrun, a beautiful and remote event on the edge of my current ability as my target race and set about getting serious. I set an annual target of 2000 miles and got the five times winner of the event to coach me for the six months leading up to the event (The organisers cancelled it in the end). Jon Albon helped me build a strong running foundation, so after the six months under his coaching ended, I wanted to create my plan for the rest of the year.

Creating a training plan

In the book ‘Run Faster from the 5k to the Marathon: How to be your own best coach‘, Brad Hudson and Matt Fitzgerald suggest eight steps to creating your training plan:

  1. Choose a peak race and a race goal
  2. Pick a start date and plan duration
  3. Decide on appropriate running volume, frequency and weekly workout structure.
  4. Divide your plan into introductory, fundamental, and sharpening periods
  5. Plan your peak training week
  6. Schedule tune-up races and recovery weeks
  7. Schedule progressions for intervals workouts, threshold workouts, and long runs
  8. Fill the rest of the schedule

For most people, picking a race and a goal for it in step one is going to be based on an event that gets them excited, but if you are looking for inspiration, check my post from Sunday last week on the progression of a distance runner.

If you want to get faster at running and do not have a coach, you should pick up a copy of Brad Hudson and Matt Fitzgerald’s book. The book is full of useful advice, training plans, and more importantly, guidance on how to adapt a plan for your context and how you react to the training load on a day to day basis.

Contact me on Twitter if you have any questions or want to discuss ideas creating your own running training plan. 

A distance runner’s progression

This year is the first year I have taken running seriously. In previous years, I have done some significant challenges, including Sky runs, ultramarathons, and 70.3 Ironman triathlons. I am not a naturally fast runner, I have done ok at the longer events, but I have not been fast, and not fully committed to the training so I never got near to seeing how good I could be. 

This year I committed to becoming a better runner. I signed up for the Tromso Skyrun and several warm-up events, I convinced the five-time Tromso winner and OCR world champion Jon Albon to coach me, and set an annual distance target of 2000 miles (over twice the total I had done in the year before).   

For the first month of the year, I built up to 40 miles per week and then ran a local half marathon event in early February, setting a slow 1:50 minutes, and a 48 minute 10K time trial solo on local roads. With these benchmarks set, I began working with Jon to build intensity in 2-3 runs per week and then slow down the rest of my running to comfortable distance pace. Events had been cancelled, but I managed to get my Half-marathon time down to 1:37 in a solo time-trial before my time with Jon ended. 

The lack of events got me thinking about the progression of a distance runner. What benchmarks should I target at each stage of my training to keep it interesting? I started to look through books and read online about some targets to direct my training towards achieving.

The progression of a distance runner

The term distance running tends to cover events from 5km to Marathon. traditionally younger competative runners would start at the shorter distances, get fast, and then work up to the marathon later in thier career but as I am in my 30s already I can be a bit more created with my running progression. Run Britain have programmes for the following distances and target times. On their website, they list the events by distance, but I wanted to order them based on difficulty to create a ladder of events to target. I have listed these distance and time benchmarks in order of difficulty according to the equivalent race time tool of the Jack Daniels calculator:

  1. 10k in under 60 minutes
  2. Marathon in under 4 hours
  3. 5k in under 24 minutes
  4. 10k in under 50 minutes
  5. Half-marathon in under 95 minutes
  6. 10k in under 40 minutes
  7. Marathon in under 3 hours
  8. Half-marathon in under 85 minutes
  9. 5k in under 18 minutes

On the 20th December, I am going to time trial a half marathon to get under the 1:35 time. I had planned to do this in an event, but this has cancelled too. I have been following a Half marathon programme from Brad Hudson’s ‘Run Faster’ and can highly recommend this book and its included programmes.

Contact me on Twitter if you have an alternative set of targets that make training more exciting or to share your running progress. I am back to work tomorrow after a week off so the next few days will be focused on Learning Design. I will keep Sundays for running-related blogs.