What's the plan? Ask champion cyclist Brad McGee

4 min read

Struggle to get out of bed some days? Feeling a bit weary? Try getting out of bed and cycling 170 kilometres. And then tomorrow, get up and do it again.

That's what elite cyclists face some days. And they have no choice but to get moving - even when they'd rather just hit the snooze button

Brad McGee OAM is one of Australia's best known and most awarded cyclists, a champion of track and road events. His career highlight to date is winning Olympic gold in 2004 for the four-man Team Pursuit event, which Australia had been chasing for 20 years. "It was more than just my individual achievement, it was for Australia," he says.

In two decades of cycling he also won Commonwealth Games gold, and as a pro cyclist he won leaders' jerseys in the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta in Spain. The recipient of a medal of the Order of Australia in 2005, Brad retired in 2008 after a series of injuries. He is now Head Coach at the NSW Institute of Sport.

It's not accidental, all this success. Brad is all about the planning and goal setting.

A man who loves a goal

Dreaming and reflecting are where goals start, according to Brad McGee. He says you need to look carefully at your dreams and decide which are realistic according to various success markers - like feedback from someone you respect, for instance. 

“So then you start thinking, if this is going to happen when’s it going to happen? And then you’ve got a date. And once you’ve got a date, then you just work backwards,” McGee says.

“If you’ve got to make it happen by that date, what will you be doing the day before? And the week before, and the month before? And suddenly you’re back to where you are right now, today. And then the beautiful thing is, you know exactly what you need to do tomorrow,” he says.

Even for a guy this hugely motivated, he’s had his moments - like during the gruelling Tour de France, which is three weeks long and goes for 3600 kilometres. “You get to the point where, after multiple days of sheer battery, you’re just destroyed.” At that point, it’s hard just getting out of bed he says, knowing you have to do it all again, and do it well. 

His trick? Before you get up, spend time sitting there reflecting on the day. "There's going to be some hardship, there's going to be some tears and sweat and it's going to be really tough. But there's also going to be a sense of achievement… if you achieve your plan for the day. And suddenly you realise your legs are moving and you're standing up and you're looking for a cup of coffee and it's 'let's go'."

Goal setting for life and family

McGee applies similar principles in the rest of his life. "We've got a holiday cabin business down in the southern highlands and it's the same process there. I wait for the dreams to come in then work out what's potentially real and possible, then plan ahead and work backwards."

Setting up a cycling shop in Bowral NSW with two of his brothers in 2007, McGee learned firsthand what happens when you fail to plan. "We had no idea what we were doing, we knew there was something there, did a bit of research and got stuck in." 

When they closed the business in 2015, it was a big learning curve for all the brothers. For McGee, he realised that without proper planning, they’d still been operating in that dream world.

Taking time off to reflect

With so much going on and lots of rewards on the job, the temptation is for Brad to work all day, every day. But he acknowledges how important real breaks are - taking time off to reflect, which makes you sharper and more efficient when you go back to work.

To make sure he can take holidays Brad put on extra coaching staff at the NSW Institute of sport. And he plans ahead, naturally. As he says, “The first thing we do now - me, my coaches and peers - is actually put in our time off. They’re the non-negotiables. Everything else has to work around that.”

Financial planning? But of course

A goals man like Brad McGee doesn’t leave his finances to chance. Even before it was compulsory to have superannuation and insurance as a pro cyclist, he had those safeguards in place. For some years now he’s been consulting with a financial adviser - he wishes he’d started 10 years earlier. 

"Now I give that advice to young athletes," he says. "Don't wait until you’ve got a certain amount of money, or 'til a certain point in your career. Get in and get that sorted from day one. Don't delay."

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