It’s 2017 and cheers and resolutions are in the air. Don’t let your athletic season unfold without intention. Now is the time to set goals and develop a plan of attack that is smart, detailed, logical and doable. This systematic approach allows for proper periodization and execution without unnecessary overload or overtraining. Three deliberate steps can assist you in having a season of success:
- Choosing and ranking race goals.
- Building and using an Annual Training Plan (ATP).
- Developing a mindset where consistency is the norm.
First, choose and rank your races—and be aware that it can be easy to unintentionally sign up for too many events. I’ve seen athletes register for multiple sequential race weekends hoping for peak performance in each event. Let’s face it, it’s hard to appropriately peak for each race if the season is crammed full. The ATP provides a system for scheduling race dates in order of importance—”A”, “B”, or “C”—ensuring adequate taper time and ideal freshness and fitness on race day. Start by choosing an “A” race. It is possible to have more than one “A” race in a season. Ultimately the goal is to reach peak fitness for “A” events. Your “B” and “C” races support training and prep for “A” events, and also offer practice, experience—and fun. It’s important to keep in mind that goals for “B” and “C” events may be focused on “A” race training, rather than going for a PR. I tell athletes to focus only on the goals they have set for that day; when the objective in a “B” event is to practice bike pacing and IRONMAN nutrition, if they succeed in those areas, the race is a win.
Once races are scheduled it is time to build the ATP. Enter race details and choose a method of planning. There are three options in the TrainingPeaks ATP:
- Using weekly TSS (Training Stress Score).
- Goal event CTL (Chronic Training Load).
- The traditional method of activity duration.
A TrainingPeaks coach can assist you in utilizing any of these systems, and the tools are also available for the athlete to use on their own as well. A hypothetical timeline for an August IRONMAN—33 weeks from the start of the new year—could begin with a May Olympic-distance race and an early July IRONMAN 70.3, balancing racing with recovery time. While the goal of the Olympic distance may be to practice transitions and regain race feel, the 70.3 race goal may be to initiate IRONMAN nutrition strategies and work on fueling before hitting the “A” designated IRONMAN event in August. A properly planned ATP is a roadmap for the season; take the time to do this planning and you’ll reap the benefits later.
Finally, consistency and flexibility are crucial in the approach to your new plan. Consistency is achieved by ensuring that you have sufficient time to hit important workouts, while also being flexible and adaptable. In most cases, doing something is better than doing nothing at all. Adopt the psychology that you can and will be consistent and flexible. This might mean an early alarm, a compressed lunch run, or perhaps a modified indoor bike workout. Conversely, it may entail missing a workout entirely. It’s important to know and prioritize key workouts each week. Athletes should focus on the big picture at all times; hiring a coach can be the biggest asset in this regard. A capable coach will keep goals in mind while assisting the athlete in managing their schedule each week.
Developing a systematic approach now is a step towards success in the new year. Pick race goals carefully, create a well balanced annual training plan and mentally prepare for consistency and flexibility. Planning out the upcoming season in advance both saves time and limits stress later on. Now that you have the right mindset and a map for the season, it’s time to fire up the engine, get out there and train!