By Linda Freeman Goals have long been used as tools to support motivation and give the athlete and fitness enthusiast something to work toward, whether it’s for overall health or to record a personal best in a race. Without a goal, training becomes stagnant and meaningless; it’s merely an exercise in motion. Striving to progress and achieve a goal eliminates that tedium and revitalizes one’s efforts.As Spinning® instructors, we have the unique opportunity to experience goals and challenges from two perspectives: our own and that of our students. Having a personal and individual goal toward which we are working takes our work out of the employment zone and into the jurisdiction of passion. As we work to better our performance, increase our endurance, and expand our power, we find ourselves able to relate to our students, each on his or her own mission.Furthermore, by putting ourselves out there and sharing our goals and struggles with our students, we use our own goal and journey to reach them—we might invite our students to join us on this journey as spectators or as fellow participants. Having this support helps push us harder and further than we can reach alone.First, a goal must be defined. Once a goal is identified, it is imperative to craft a plan to reach that goal. As Joe Friel, endurance athlete, coach and writer, once said, “A goal without a plan is a wish. Deciding exactly what to accomplish, by when, and writing it down provides a road map for the trip” (Cycling Past 50, Human Kinetics, 1998).Identifying an achievable goal is key. A goal should have clear parameters, encourage us to reach beyond our present comfort level and be something worth doing. For example, the goal to become a Cat I cyclist is unrealistic for most of us, while the dream of being eternally happy is too vague and difficult to define. But to decide to ride a Century in three months, to go to a Mad Dogg Athletics conference to participate in every Spinning session, or to sign up for a bicycle tour of Ireland, are dreams that might be realized with careful planning and diligence.In his classic book, In Pursuit of Excellence, (Human Kinetics, 2000), author Terry Orlick stresses the importance of making both long-term and short-term goals. This process provides a means to take something large and potentially beyond our reach and break it down into small, achievable tasks. It is a process that takes us beyond doubt and limitations into the realm of possibilities. We must begin with the present, and then figure out how to progress from there. Choose a goal that is so important that you are willing to commit fully to it. Write it down and share it with others.When we have a clear picture of the end result and why we want to get there, we need to translate our objectives into action. Make use of available resources such as classes, equipment, or help from professionals, and check in with your progress by establishing clearly measurable benchmarks along the way. Friel suggests finding a balance between training and the demands of family and career (The Cyclist’s Training Bible, 4th ed, Velo Press, 2009). “A fully committed rider is a student of the sport,” he says, which means we need both direction and the ability to honor priorities.”As Spinning instructors, we have daily opportunities to connect with our students, be aware of their personal goals and encourage them to keep working toward achieving their dreams. A newcomer to your Spinning class may have a goal to increase time out of the saddle. Another student may strive to complete a first Race Day Energy Zone™ ride. Not all goals are about cycling. One of my students is training for her first half-marathon and is using the mental skills and strategies from the Spinning program to help her. Another is dealing with a new job and transferring his growing confidence from the mind-body connection of Spinning training to help him achieve his professional goals.As Orlick suggests, following a plan will help you “connect with the step in front of you.” If we fall short of our ultimate goal, we are still better for having made the effort.Last year, our facility participated in a fundraising Spinning class that was long enough to be challenging to most of the participants. Preparing for the event added spice to their training and purpose to their classes while including the entire community of Spinning students. The ripple effect was obvious. To participate in a special class or event or strive to reach a common goal puts us all on a level playing field and pushes the boundaries of expectations.When we lead by example, encourage individuals to reach for personal goals, and use our collective struggles and joys to enhance our Spinning experience, we take the opportunity to fully utilize goals as a valuable resource in our work toward fitness, health and productive lives.