Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Working the numbers

This is the spreadsheet where I have been recording all my rides this year.

The rows at the top record daily rides and calculate weekly statistics, while the boxes at the bottom show progress against various goals. It also generates various charts, such as this one showing week totals, and various averages:

The idea is that by setting myself goals, and tracking progress, I am more likely to overcome inertia, and hence get out and ride more often, further, and more energetically.

I know this won't work for everyone, but on the whole it seems to be working for me.

At present I am on track to cover more than the 2,500 miles that I am aiming to cover over the year. I am trying to ride 56 miles each week, and though I only achieve this 60% of the time, I average more - at nearly 58 miles a week. In any week I try to get out on the bike more days than not, and I do average four trips a week - though half of the time I am doing fewer rides in a week.

The spreadsheet also tell me that my Eddington number is 27, I have ridden nearly four times as far on my current bike (in 9 months) as I did on the previous one(in 18 months); I have ridden my metric age 17 times, and my imperial age four times; I am approaching Berlin on my virtual European tour, and I would be a third of the way round the moon, if I had been riding up there this year.

Depending on weather and other commitments, my distances fluctuate quite a lot from week to week. I can see that my longest trips were in May and June, and I haven't had a stretch of more than 45 miles since. Similarly, my total weekly mileage grew to begin with, but is settling down at a fairly consistent 58 miles a week.

All this has been a bit of an experiment to see what works, and what doesn't. So the whole spreadsheet has got a bit messy and over-complicated. It needs tidying up for next year, and some of the goals will need to be reset.
Meanwhile the ground-rules seem to be:

  • It's best to set goals that are challenging but not too difficult. 56 miles a week was a lot more than I was doing previously, and setting it fairly high forced me to change my approach. But if it had been much higher, failure would have been inevitable, which would act as a discouragement, rather than an encouragement. 
  • Without some prior knowledge of how difficult things are going to be, it is OK to set an initial goal, as an experiment, then change it in light of experience. It is far more encouraging to aim low initially, then raise the goal, rather than the other way round.  
  • It is better to set objectives where it is possible to recover from a glitch, rather than ones where success and failure are absolute. Originally I was aiming to do at least four rides every week. Inevitably, a week came when it was impossible to do four rides. So I changed the goal to an average of four rides every week. That way, after missing too many days, a bit more effort in the subsequent weeks will get me back on track.
  • It helps to set a mix of objectives, so that on different days, in different moods, there is always something to work on. For example, when a long ride is impossible, it is best if there is still an incentive to go for a short ride
  • It is important to set some long-term and some short-term goals. Seeing real progress towards a big long-term goal is more encouraging than repeatedly achieving small short-term goals. It is also far too easy to postpone work on a big, long-term goal, thinking that there will be plenty of time later
  • I like to express long-term goals in silly ways. I find it quite encouraging to pass the big round numbers (1,000 miles; 2,000 miles, etc.) but sometimes there is a long gap between them, and despite my age (or perhaps because of my age), I get childish pleasure from imagining that I have reached Paris, Rome, or Venice on the bike. 
Finally, I need to point out that this is just one of the ways that I encourage myself to get out on the bike. The satisfaction of watching the numbers move on appeals to one part of my nature, but I also enjoy the adventure of exploring unknown roads; the pleasure of discovering attractive countryside; and getting a feel for the shape of the landscape. So finding routes that appeal is also part of my motivation. But more of that later.

1 comment:

disgruntled said...

Ah - puts my amateurish effort to shame. No graphs yet, but I'm tempted. I do think numbers are an effective motivator for some people (certainly me) as long as there's always some measure that can be shown to be improving ...