One of the main issues that limit the success of new coaches, and consequently their athletes, is a lack of long term planning. The reality is, two to three week out planning with the occasional long term goal tossed into the mix just isn’t going to cut it anymore. By focusing on ramp rate, while incorporating a balanced mix of time off and dedicated training, your athletes will ultimately be much more successful, with a reduced likelihood of burnout and injury. In order to illustrate this method, I will run through the Annual Training Plan building process, start to finish with an example athlete.
The Scenario: Andy the Athlete
Andy is a busy guy with big goals. He’s married, with three young kids. He has a full-time job that requires time-intensive quarterly reporting. This reporting forces him to minimize his training volume for a week at a time. His wife, Karen, has planned a six-day vacation in Costa Rica in the spring. For races, he’s got a few big ones planned: the California International Marathon in December, The Chicago Marathon as well as a number of other races mixed in throughout the year. He has two half marathons in spring, one of which he’d like to PR. He’s confident that with the right coaching, he can hit a CTL of 72 for Chicago and reach for a CTL of 80 for CIM. His best previous marathon performance had him at a CTL of 68 with a great taper. He’s reaching big for CIM so as to qualify for the NYC marathon next year.
Step 1: Ask Questions and Record Values
So, to kick things off for Andy, in TrainingPeaks, we will assess and record some key information: How fit is he currently? Does he require a training structure that allows for normal recovery or does he need a different periodization? By laying the groundwork, we can fill out the Details section of the ATP. Like Andy, unless your athlete is fresh off a race when creating the ATP, set Current Fitness to Weak. Andy is only 35, he’s been training for six years and responds well to a Recovery Cycle every four weeks. We know Andy set some big goals and likes to look at his CTL as a gauge of his ability and fitness so it’s best to plan his ATP by Event Fitness (CTL).
Step 2: Add Race and Life Events
The next step is to list out what we know about Andy’s events. Looking at the spacing of his events, we can start to create hypothetical CTL targets, making sure we stay within the five to seven CTL points/week guidelines. Once we’ve built out his race schedule, we can take a look at his life schedule.
You can’t plan for every day off your athlete will need in 365 days, but you can plan for the majority of them. Don’t forget to account for vacations, elective procedures, planned off-seasons and general family time. As you build out a schedule, remember that keeping your athlete teetering on the edge of heavy training with little respite or variation won’t last long. Purposefully planning in periods of detraining, or at the very least maintenance of fitness, is realistic and more effective.
Training Hack: I like to add sections of time off longer than just a day or two as “C” Events to the schedule. TrainingPeaks doesn’t taper down for C events so these can be used as pillars/ milestones for viewing and editing the ATP. In Andy’s case this would include:
Reporting Weeks (minimal training): 3/15-19, 6/14-18, 9/13-17, 12/13-17
Costa Rica Vacation: 4/13-4/19
Thanksgiving Break – 11/22-26
Step 3: Use the ATP Visual Editor for Final Adjustments
Using the visual editor is the final step in tweaking the athlete’s plan to ensure that everything fits together. This is also how you will track an athlete’s progress towards their goal as well as adjust the bars as new events are added or removed to optimize training. Make sure that you take a final glance at your periodization schedule (three weeks vs. four weeks) so you can keep the structure of the plan in place. Depending on the number of events, their priority, and timing between events you may get a few pop-ups from TrainingPeaks to help you optimize training as well as help you create a safe and effective workout schedule. Using the different columns in the Visual ATP editor will allow you to see how much TSS the athlete will need to accumulate in a week, the associated ramp rate or effect of that load, as well as showing the hypothetical CTL and Form. You will also be given queues on limiters or focuses for what you should be dialing in for the athlete.
Wrapping It Up
Once you’ve finished building your ATP, the relevant information will display in the weekly summary on the calendar to guide your workout planning and ensure that each week leads towards the overall season goals. The target TSS value from the ATP will help you plan the correct training load each week to hit the longer-term fitness goals you set for the athlete. Limiters and ATP Period help you with the specificity of the workouts you plan to make sure they target your athlete’s weaknesses and are appropriate for the current phase of training.