Progressive Goal Setting and Success: How I Trained Myself to Tour Long Distances
I am a believe in progressive goal setting as a means to achieve greater success over time. It is probably attributable to a degree of risk aversion in my personality coupled with a strong desire to accomplish new things.
For a while, I had a goal of going on a self-supported, long-distance cycling tour in Europe. At the time, I was merely a recreational cyclist who rode a couple of times a week and did the occasional triathlon. And, I was not an experienced traveler, as I was just becoming adult enough to have the means to make travel happen. Some people I know would just buy a ticket to Europe and figure the whole thing out and ride themselves into shape – turning themselves from couch potato to elite cyclist over hundreds of painful miles. However, that approach doesn’t mesh well with my progressive goal setting approach. I want to have smaller successes to build my confidence that I will reach my goal.
So, started my progressive journey toward that eventual goal. The first step was being able to ride 60-100 miles in a single day. I learned to do this by training on progressively longer rides and entering myself in organized “century” rides of that length.
Once I had become adept at that, I was able to move to the next goal – cycling long distances for several days in a row. My next goal was completing an organized tour in Tuscany where I would do just that… aided of course by cappuccinos and pasta followed by plenty of recovery Brunello each evening. That trip provided two important phases to my goal development – the ability to ride long distance several days in a row in addition to comfort with travel in the region. I’d had a taste of my larger goal and was even more excited to make it happen.
The next phase involved being able to cycle long distances day after day while carrying a heavy load of luggage. So, after obtaining an appropriate touring bicycle, my first goal was to do an overnight tour. Two of my friends got married on the coast – about 60 miles from my home and over a mountain range. I took the opportunity to tour. I rode over the morning of the wedding, checked in to the motel, cleaned up and walked to the ceremony. Picking a dress that would come out of my pannier unwrinkled was my biggest hurdle! After a nice recovery sleep, I rode home over the mountains the next day.
The final phase was doing a long, self-supported route, which was close to home and well known. My then-boyfriend, now-husband and I decided to tour from the Bay Area down the California coast to Santa Barbara over a week as our starter tour. We would pass through well-known terrain and would even be able to take a rest day with family en-route, which is always a comfort. The experience was fantastic and gave us a lot of information about doing such a trip and how much was needed to take along. When we got to my family’s home near San Luis Obispo, we mailed about 10 pounds of overpacked stuff back home. The coastal tour gave us the mental confidence and physical/logistical preparation needed for a big overseas tour.
The entire process took about 2.5 years to prepare for the ultimate goal. That might seem like a long time. However, each preparatory phase had its own adventures and learnings that made what was formerly an abstract, possibly unattainable goal seem well within our capability. The culmination of our efforts was a tour of Northern Italy over a couple weeks in the Summer of 2004. We toured from Venice through the Dolomite Mountains, into the Alps, and back through the Lake Country. The trip was not perfect, but it was remarkable and thoroughly enjoyable thanks to all the prior goals that led to the accomplishment. Now, a self-supported tour abroad is something we do almost every year. That is what I call a success!