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Rob Lee’s 7ds blog: Goal setting – make your goals realistic and exciting

7dsLIVE, of which Bikemagic is the official media partner, is the final stage of Rob Lee’s Seven Deadly Spins project, which has one goal: to make this knowledge and endurance based guidance available to as many riders as possible. On the ground Rob will pair-up with riders looking to take their riding to a level they’ve always dreamt of, or felt they were capable of, and online the tips and advice will be freely available for all through a series of 10 blogs. Here’s the first…

There are lots of ways to go about setting some goals. Depending on the type of person you are, some will work really well, while others can leave you feeling uninspired or overwhelmed.

Whenever I look at goal setting, either for myself or with another rider, I always try start with the following criteria:
1) The goals set MUST be realistic given available time and support
2) The goals we set MUST be attainable yet hard enough to stretch the rider

Let’s look at each of these criteria individually so I can explain the importance as I see it in goal setting. All of us have the same 24 hours in the day as everyone else. The critical difference between different riders lies in the amount of time we already have allocated to other commitments, people or habits.

Too often we fall into the trap of believing that in order to do anything worthwhile as an athlete then we need to set our goals as if we were the elite. The elite train for 20+ hours a week because they can also rest for 20+ hours a week. If you or I can’t rest like the elite then we should not expect to train like them either! So the first thing to establish is HOW MUCH TIME do I actually have to train?

Commitments: Anything that I cannot get out of and still maintain the equilibrium of my life goes into this box. It includes the basics like going to work, sleeping and eating. It also includes anything that just has to be done like picking the kids up from school, cooking the dinner, and anything club based or work related. This is the category that I try to change the least unless I really have to so as it has to be taken into account fully.

People: We all, with any luck, have loved ones in our lives. The time we spend with them can be very important. This category will differ from person to person but it helps to have a partner who at least is willing to listen if you need some help freeing up some more time to train. When assessing the time I have available (or could have available) I like to split my people time into two categories…

The first is quality time and this is important to me. This is the time we are engaged in each others company and building on our relationships. This is important and the one bit that needs to be kept for any kind of life balance.

The second category is casual time and this is the area that really should be open to negotiation, and the one you may need to discuss with your partner, if more time needs to be found. This includes any time where one, or more, of you are not engaged in the company of the others. Both sitting in the same room while one watches TV and the other reads a book, or surfs the net, is company and comforting but it’s not the same as quality time. My rule: quality time should not be sacrificed for training but casual time should be open to negotiation.

Habits: We all have them and we all know that if we really wanted to then we could find the time for some training. It may only be 20 minutes, or it may be hours and hours, but every week we all have some time in our lives that we devote to habit. I surf the net too much, I look at my phone – Twitter and Facebook mostly – and I’ve still found enough time in my life to train for solo 24 hour events and write a book!

We all have habit time and we can all switch some of it across to training time instead if we put our minds to it. So once I look at my time available, and establish how much I have and how often I will train, for me this more often than not allows for somewhere between eight and 12 hours a week as an average. Once I start planning my training I find that some weeks are slightly less than eight, and some longer than 12, but more often than not this is the average. If I take my best years of racing and my highest results then these years are averages in the 10 to 12 hour range.

As I said, once establishing time available we move onto the second step which, to recap, is to set goals which MUST be attainable yet hard enough to stretch the athlete.

In the same way that we set our academic or professional goals in relation to where we are as an individual, sporting goals should be set at a level that allows for accomplishment. If the kids came home from school one day and told their parents that the teachers had decided that GCSEs, A Levels, diplomas, higher diplomas, and degrees would be skipped and instead all the kids are starting PHDs then there would be more than a few questions asked! By the same standard, teaching PHD students the alphabet and timestables isn’t go to inspire them to do much either. In both examples the task in hand is inappropriate to the standard of the individuals involved.

Sporting goal setting should be just the same. Inspiration comes from many places but keeping a perspective on who you are and what you are capable of will make your sporting experiences all the more pleasurable. It is possible to ride really long distances if you are not that fast – you will just ride them slower than the fast guys – so that’s not to say that you should be put off by distance. It’s more a case of working out who you are and what is appropriate. If you are someone who wants to complete something but has not yet at a level to compete with the fast guys then there is no shame in having a go – in fact having a go is a very worthy goal if it’s something you are possibly capable of, yet will stretch you to attain it. The ultimate competition for any of us is the one against ourselves.

There is a difference, though, and if you set yourself up as a competitor, when in reality you are not, then ultimately something that should be a triumph will eventually be put into perspective by someone who is! Setting goals that are appropriate to you as an individual and then living by them is the best route to success as an athlete. I like to set no more than two “absolutely must be done” goals in a season. The reason for this is two fold: 1) if there are too many goals that must be done then it makes it very hard to hit all of them in the best possible physical condition, and 2) I find that most athletes perform at a much higher level if they give their mental training for a particular event time to sink into their subconscious mind for longer.

For me personally this is the same and in fact my best results have been in the events that were my only goal for the year. Some people fear having just one goal thinking that it adds more pressure to the event. My opinion is that it actually adds way less pressure to an individual when they can focus properly and have time to prepare everything. To my mind it is a bit like the difference between trying juggle four balls or just two (or even just one). The more you add to the equation the higher the likelihood is that you will drop the lot. However, have just one to repeatedly throw straight up and catch and chances are you’ll catch it each time – and throw it higher each time!

I start with choosing my goal(s) and then I build the rest of my season, training and prep around them. In part two of this blog I will look at the first consideration: sponsorship.


Who is Rob Lee?

Rob started racing mountain bikes in 1993, battled around the country with an elite cross-country licence for six years, before diverting his attention to endurance events in 2003. He went on to win the solo category in many of the UK’s top events as well as a masters 24-hour world title in 2005. Rob broke the South Downs Double record in 2008, and set the new standard for riding such challenges unsupported, before moving on to establish the Seven Deadly Spins series of challenges over the course of the next three years. He ran his own race team – Extreme Endurance – from 2005 until 2010 with the goal to bring together established racers, talented future athletes and supporting companies under one roof. The team quickly developed into the number one endurance race team in the UK and over that six-year period Rob personally mentored four riders to 27 podium placings in some of the biggest races on the UK calendar. It’s worth noting that even though the team was disbanded two seasons ago the majority of athletes who were nurtured through team Extreme Endurance are still at the top of the UK endurance racing scene.

Rob wrote the guest chapter, regarding endurance racing skills, in The Mountain Bike Skills Manual by Clive Forth. His own book Endurance Within was published through Crowd Funding and was fully funded, and sold out, in just three days. His exploits are available to view in a section of the film FIND by Reset Films Now a member of the Kinesis Morvelo Project his work within the sport is as much as an ambassador as an athlete.

Rob regularly mentors upcoming athletes – through internet support with various sponsors such as For Goodness Shakes! and their Bring on Tomorrow Foundation – and also supports individuals on the race scene with free advice, skills tutoring, race mentoring/support and sharing of kit or expertise.

You can follow/contact Rob throughout 7dsLIVE through Twitter (@RobLee7ds) and on the Kinesis-Morvelo Project blog (


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