Accountability is at the core of reaching a goal, and accountability requires measurement. If you can measure something, you can improve it. I achieved a lot of goals in 2016, and here is some background on implementing a measurement strategy and use it to make your goals happen.
Let’s do a hard accountability measurement example first that many of us all share-we want to spend more time with family. If you say you love your family and want to spend more time with them, you have set a goal. How do you make the claim that you are doing something about it and not just blowing hot air and making another fruitcake New Year’s resolution? Start with the measurement!
Get out your calendar and look at how often you saw them in 2016. Perhaps you saw them a total of 6 times, and all but one of those instances coincided with a holiday. That means your measurement showed that you had 5 holiday visits and 1 non-holiday visit. Remember, we aren’t measuring quality here-just quantity. To reach your spoken goal of spending more time with family, you need to visit them more than those 6 times. That means that future measurements include numbers that are larger than 5 and 1. Perhaps you could set a goal of 6 holidays and 3 non-holiday gatherings. From your measurement, you see a need to pick some holidays that you missed and add in a couple of non-holidays. The unspoken assumption here is that you will continue to repeat your previous behavior.
At the start of last year, I studied the outcomes from running and riding my bike. I knew I could do better but the causes for the low performances were a mystery. So, I got serious with my measuring. Here is what I committed to measuring:
- Body Fat-I was between 10 and 12%, and I knew that I needed to get to 8%, if not less.
- Power on the bike. Going “as hard as I can” didn’t give me a metric to say how hard was hard. Measurements shows that my sustainable power was 200 watts and change. I needed it to be in the 255 Watt window to get the sustained speeds that I wanted.
- My running cadence was 165 to 168 strides per minute. I needed to get to 180 to be more efficient.
- The difference between the speeds that I did my long runs at was not that much different. My easy days weren’t easy enough, and my hard days weren’t hard enough. I needed to learn how to go easier, as well as go harder.
To address body fat, I felt that most of my eating habits were healthy, but there was room for improvement. I committed to a monthly body fat measurement regimen with one of my Pilates instructors, Laura Pittman. I knew I was eating too many carbohydrates late I the day and needed to measure what happens when I eat less. I started eating more sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes, and I added more veggies. During my monthly body fat analysis, I watched my weight remain relatively constant, but my body fat went all the way down to 7% at the end of the racing year. It remains there. Success!
To address my low power, I incorporated more “hard” sessions that included repeated efforts above my best race efforts. These anaerobic efforts worked wonders to increase my power. My cycling speed is up 10%+, and I haven’t worked out any more than I did in 2015.
My running still has room to grow. My long runs are nearly all on trails, so I run slower. I have started doing intervals but that aren’t frequent enough or fast enough to result in much of a difference. To address this, my first 4 events of 2017 are all running events, forcing me to prioritize running ahead of cycling until the end of March. This makes me put more runs on the schedule.
Every Sunday, I review outputs from these tools and adjusted workouts.
I implemented a plan to address these-details of this would be an overwhelmingly long blog. Suffice it to say that without the help of my family and business, this plan would have failed. Here are the 2016 results:
- I had two first place overall wins last year: one duathlon and one Ultra-Marathon. That causes me to shake my head in disbelief, and, in one instance, cry. Beating everyone else in an endurance competition when I am 51 years old breaks nearly all molds people have of what the aging process is.
- I did better than ever both at Duathlon Nationals in Bend (9th place in my age category) and at Duathlon Worlds in Switzerland (10th in my age and 91 out of 241 overall). Despite aging, I am getting faster in both disciplines.
- I finished the competition season at 7% body fat
- I didn’t get injured. I could have put this first, as it is a precursor to success with everything else. What this means is that I didn’t get any overuse injuries or range of motion injuries associated with not being aware of your body’s limits. Had I been in a car accident or the like, I would still be making this claim.
- Giving-it-away points were higher than expected. Giving-it-away points are earned each time my wife and I share our knowledge of fitness and nutrition. I helped a couple of athletes out as well as taught two of our classes.
The items up there that I controlled are the 3rd and 4th ones. The first two I didn’t control-I have no input as to who else shows up on race day. However, I know that 1 and 2 would not have happened without 3 and 4 happening.
Accountability requires that I do this process again, starting now. There were things that didn’t go right in 2016 that I need to address in 2017. My goals remain the same: run faster, ride faster and longer, avoid preventable injury and eat better. The obstacles I hit were associated with inconsistent efforts to get there. My strategies all revolve around avoiding inconsistency.
In those moments when you get honest and observe that your results don’t meet your goals, don’t take the “let’s try harder” strategy. That doesn’t work. Start with measuring your efforts and keep doing it. You need the feedback provided by measurement to see if your efforts are working.