With the new year well on its way you might hear many athletes refer to their “Annual Training Plan” or some other interchangeable term. You might wonder what the fuss is all about, but there is tremendous value in taking the time to design your own annual training plan. It is important to start the year with defined goals and an annual training plan is a brilliant tool to achieve them!
So, let’s get your season planning process started.
Assess Your Previous Season
To prepare for the year’s training, review and measure your performance from the last year. To help with this, spend some time examining your improvement over the year. Consider these questions:
Did you meet the goals you set for yourself?
Where did you perform well?
Where did you fall short?
Now add a “why?” to those questions and take the time to analyse the reasons.
When you achieved your goals, identify the trends in your training, recovery, sleep, and nutrition habits in the weeks leading up to the event. Examine the exceptions. What were your most and least effective training sessions, events, or field tests during the year?
If you’ve maintained a regular record of personal notes on your sessions, you’ll be able to recall and understand the reasons for your success or failure. Consider these standout performances when you plan for the next year and adjust your strategy accordingly.
Goal setting is such an important part of the athlete's life that we wrote a whole article on it! Go and read our article Setting the Goal for Success to get more insight into goal setting!
A, B, and C Events
This is where the RaceSpace App comes to your rescue!
When planning your goal events, select and rank a mixture of events in terms of importance.
We recommend that most athletes aim for no more than two or three “A” events throughout the year. The intervals between these events should enable you to rest from a previous event, train with intention, and ease off before the next event.
If you select too many “A” events, you may not have enough time to recuperate and improve between them, which results in lower performance. Having about 8-12 weeks between A events can help you reach your optimal level at the right times.
Now, add some “B” events to your plan. We see “B” events as events that boost your confidence and train you for “A” events. They should be events that match the requirements of your “A” events, and even if they are not as hard or intense overall, they should help you test the pacing and fuelling methods you will apply for your main targets.
You won’t ease off completely before “B” events, but it is wise to arrange them near the end of rest weeks so you can perform fairly well. You’ll have to evaluate how challenging your “A” races are and how many you are doing, but if you have less “A” races you can usually include a few more “B” events.
“C” events are useful for keeping your motivation, enjoyment, skills, and workout intensity high. They are the least important because you can get a similar training effect from solo or group workouts. If you wait too long between events without satisfying your competitive drive, you can lose your mental edge and energy before you get to your B and A events.
“C” races can also assist you in improving and applying skills and strategies. Even though “C” events should have a lower overall training impact than a “B” or “A” event, you still need to manage the training volume and stress that come from racing often. Usually, you can train during “C” events and use them as effective training sessions during build phases.
The RaceSpace mobile app is a brilliant tool for you to use when searching for you’re A,B and C races – with an extensive filter and search function and a logical calendar view, your next race is literally at your fingertips!
Your Annual Training Plan
Now that you have planned your races for the year, you can arrange your main training blocks and include those events in and around them. Your annual training plan is a roadmap to the improvement you want as you prepare for your “A” events. When making an Annual Training Plan, begin with the least event-specific parts of training and move toward more event-specific training as your “A” goals get closer. A conventional periodization plan makes this progression through Foundation, Preparation, and Specialization (or Competition) phases of training.
The Foundation phase for endurance athletes usually involves low- to moderate-intensity aerobic endurance training. This is your base training period.
Then, the Preparation phase enhances the focus on event-specific training intensities to build the physiological skills for performance. This is a good opportunity to include “C” events and maybe a “B” race.
The early part of the Specialization phase is a good time for “B” goal events, not only for the training effect they produce themselves, but for practicing and improving fuelling methods and tactics and focusing on the aspects of event-specific performance you still need to work on. As you advance through the specialization phase, include training sessions and training blocks that match the race-specific requirements of your “A” event.
What about the Taper?
The purpose of a taper before a goal event is to reduce the accumulation of fatigue that you have built up through training so that you can use all of your fitness and form. The key to a successful taper is reducing training volume by 30-50% over the two weeks before an event, while keeping intensity. So, you might reduce training frequency, shorten your rides, and run easy – except for some very specific hard interval sessions.
However, remember that a perfectly executed taper may only improve performance by 1-3%, so the training you’ve done in the months before your event matters a lot more than what you can gain during a taper.
You should remember that your annual training plan and your goal-setting process are only frameworks. Unexpected things will happen that require adjustments to your plan, but that’s why having a long-term plan is so crucial in the first place. Doing this process can help you prepare for holidays, family commitments, and work travel to plan where you can optimize your training. Even if one or two weeks of training go wrong along the way, you still have a clear idea of your goals and your direction.
By adopting a proactive approach to planning your year, you will always be ahead of the game and won’t be forced play catch up all the time!