Outcome vs Process, or Habits vs Cognitive Choice

Tim and Amber have both talked about the knowing-doing gap and how we cognitively know what we should be doing: --"I shouldn’t be going out this hard on a ride" or "I should be riding easy, it’s a recovery day"...yada yada yada -- and yet we don’t do it. Amber also talked about the cognitive aspect of our cycling, which is important for a number of reasons. Tim talked about those hard starts we all tend to do and how we want every training ride to be pedal to the metal, even though it's contrary to how we should be training.


So why do we all struggle with this? We know, but we don’t do.


Enter in habits. Habits can be good, habits can have issues.


"Habits are a kind of action that is relatively insensitive to rewards." That's from Wendy Wood in her book Good Habits, Bad Habits.


At first we get the reward of feeling really good: we're at the front with the lead group, we're feeling strong, we're motivated, we have the world at our handlebars. But then we fade, we get tired, the group disappears up the road, the workout gets harder to complete, we start to beat ourselves up, and we finish with our tail between our legs. Then we vow to get stronger, do more workouts, work harder...and the same thing happens. We end up in a circle of repeating what doesn’t work, simply because we think it should. It becomes habitual. We get so focused on the outcome we want -- what we think we will get -- instead of the process of getting there.


Your BaseCamp training plan gives you the opportunity to focus on the process, to break those habits and make cognitive choices, and to bridge that knowing-to-doing gap. Start by using the cognitive approach to your behavior on your bike, as Tim wrote about in a workout review last week. Be intentional. Pay attention. Accept the easy when it's there (because you know hard will be coming!!!). Be okay with not always beating yourself into a pulp every single workout. Be diligent to follow the prescribed EASY zones, as well as the more intense ones. Be open to a new and different process. You may find a greater reward for your outcome by allowing the process to become your focused goal.


We tend to look at performance outcomes -- ugh, I got dropped again -- instead of the quality of the performance -- OMG, I stayed within my power zones, look at that cadence, my heart rate drift is diminishing, I felt better this week, etc.


Take a moment to assess your outcome goals vs your process goals for the first block of training. What is it that you know that you are ready to do?


Some concepts here are from the book The Knowing-Doing Gap by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton.


Thanks for reading! Please leave your comments and questions below.

About the Author

Kate Johnson is a USA Cycling Level 2 certified coach and a TrainingPeaks certified coach, and she has earned her power certification through Peaks Coaching Group. She has over ten years of experience with in-person coaching, from the ultimate beginner who's never been on a bike before to age group world champions in Ironman and ITU Triathlon.

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