Preparing for the 2010 Season, Part 1
If you're following the suggestion in my last post to allow for some downtime in training after your last race of the 2009 season then you may be feeling a bit guilty about not working out seriously. I understand. It's hard to let go of hard-earned fitness. My clients often feel that way. In fact, one of them got carried away with his uncoached Transition period and managed to create his second-highest fitness of the year in four-weeks. I've given him a hard time about this because my concern is that he'll wind up mentally wasted and not be able to focus on challenging workouts and high performance when it counts next spring and summer. His first A-priority race is six months in the future. He's on his way to being a 'Christmas Star' - an athlete who performs great in the middle of the winter but fades as spring comes around. He's made it more difficult - not less - to be in top form on that race day. I hope you're not doing this, also.
Instead of training hard, now is a good time to do some planning for the coming season. In this and the next five posts I'll walk you through this process. It's also covered in greater detail in my Training Bible books.
Planning is at the heart of success in nearly every endeavor in our lives. In sport the most commonly used method of planning is called periodization. This simply involves dividing the training season into periods with each having a purpose. And those purposes all point in one direction – the best possible performance in a few events within a season or series of seasons.
The basic concepts of this method have been around since the early 1900s when Russian sport scientists developed and later refined it. It wasn’t until the 1970s that western athletes began to understand and use periodization. Among the earliest adopters was the Finnish distance runner Lasse Viren who won gold medals in the 5,000- and 10,000-meter races at the 1972 and 1976 Olympics — the only endurance athlete to ever accomplish this track and field “double-double” in Olympic history.
Periodization isn’t just for elite athletes. If you have been training somewhat randomly or repetitively, using periodization in training has the potential to produce a higher peak of fitness for your most important races. There are four guiding principles that are key to your success using this method:
● The closer in time you get to the race, the more like the race training becomes. This is called “specificity.”
● The best determiner of success for experienced athletes is race-specific intensity — not volume. Heart rate monitors, powermeters, accelerometers and GPS pacing devices greatly improve your chances of getting training intensity right.
● Training is purposeful. There is a reason for every workout. If you don’t know why you are doing it then perhaps you shouldn’t.
● Training follows a planned pattern of alternating stress and recovery to avoid overtraining. This is done at all three periodization levels — weekly, monthly and annually.
Keeping these guiding principles in mind will point your training in the right direction, but there is still the possibility of failure. There are three common reasons for failing to succeed when using periodization. The first is a failure to be flexible with recovery. If you are feeling completely wasted it’s time to rest regardless of when the plan next calls for a break from hard training. The second is failing to set aside time each week to plan the details of the coming week. Once you get a training routine established this will take only a few minutes. The third, and most likely cause of periodization breakdown, is other athletes. You may have designed the perfect plan but then you hook up with another swimmer, cyclist or runner and the next thing you know you are trying to “win” the workout. Planning and purpose go out the window.
In the following seven steps I will guide you through the development of a training plan for your 2010 season that is unique to your abilities, needs, race schedule and capacity for training workload. This training plan will serve as a “road map” for your season. If you refer to it weekly you will stay on track for a stellar season.
Having a template — an Annual Training Plan (ATP) — to guide you through the process helps. You can use TrainingPeaks for this. Or go to TrainingBible Coaching's Free Resources where you will find a free, blank form for your sport (if you're an athlete other than triathlete use the 'Cyclist' form). Guidance in how to set up a training program may also be found at TrainingPeaks where a 'Virtual Coach' will quickly and painlessly create an ATP for you using the same instructions that follow (you must become a member of TrainingPeaks to use this service). That may serve as a starting point for the seasonal plan which you can then modify to better fit your needs.
In the next five posts I'll walk you through the steps of laying out a personal periodization plan.