Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Preparing for the 2010 Season, Part 2

I've received a number of comments and questions in regards to my recent post on Training and the Transition Period. What really stands out from these is how many of you are unwilling, or perhaps even unable, to relax at the end of the race season and take a break. There is obvious concern about gaining weight and losing fitness. I suppose this is to be expected. I can only tell you that you will never achieve a really high level of fitness until you learn to accept low levels of fitness. As with many things in life, the lower your lows, the higher your highs. Let go and relax for two to six weeks after your last race. You'll race better next year. I've seen it happen many, many times before with athletes who were reluctant but forced to rest. Now back to the business at hand...

Two days ago I posted Part 1 of this overview of how to plan out a season. I also suggested that you download a free Annual Training Plan (referred to as an 'ATP' below) at TrainingBible Coaching or sign up for an account at TrainingPeaks where all of this ATP heavy lifting will be done for you by the VirtualCoach I designed. Now back to the planning process...

Step 1: Determine Goals for 2010
At the top of the ATP are spaces for three seasonal goals. I’ve found that three is about right. When there are too many goals something gets neglected. You can have fewer, but I’d suggest no more than three.

Goals should be event outcomes, not vague statements about your dreams of success. They should be well-defined by including one basic element — what exactly you want to achieve in given races. Goals such as to lose weight and improve power or pace are actually training objectives, not goals, which we’ll get to in a while. These are things that will help you to race better in some way. If you are training to race then state your goals around what you want to accomplish in those races. If you don’t care about the outcomes of races (or other events such as century rides) then you can make your goals whatever best fit your interests.

Goals should also be measurable. It isn’t enough to set a goal of “Race faster.” Goals should be more along the lines of, “Complete the XYZ Time Trial on May 7 in less than one hour.” The more tightly you define your goals the easier you will find it is to work toward their successful accomplishment. I've always been a firm believer that the more precisely you state your goal the easier it will be to achieve.

Of course, a goal to win the local road race or triathlon has a lot to do with who shows up that day and how fit they are. It is often better to set a performance-related goal, such as a time or strategy that you believe will win the race. The exception is when you know exactly who the competition is likely to be and what they are capable of doing in a race.

Write your three goals for 2010 in the spaces provided at the top of the ATP.

Step 2: Establish Training Objectives
Can you achieve your goals? There should be at least a seed of doubt in your mind or the goal is too easy and won’t really be fun to achieve. If there is no question at all about your potential for success then the goals aren’t going to challenge you and training will have little purpose.

Here’s something for you to ponder: Why can’t you achieve your goals now - without even training? If you knew you could achieve them now we’d call them accomplishments rather than goals. Since there is uncertainty about your capacity to perform at the level of the Big Goal there is obviously something lacking that stands between you and immediate success. The purpose of your training is to ‘fix’ this performance ‘limiter.’ The sub-goals that will lead you to doing this are called ‘training objectives.’

A limiter is not merely a weakness; it’s a race-specific weakness. For example, you may have a weakness when it comes to racing on hilly courses. But if your A-priority races are all flat then this weakness is not a limiter. If we know what your limiters really are and you train in such a way as to make the limiters stronger then you will be able to achieve your goals. It’s that simple.

The key question is, what are my limiters? Answering this question is the single most important thing you can do right now to move toward achieving your goals. Most athletes never ask this question. They train absentmindedly doing whatever seems right at the time. If they are strong believers in hill work they do lots of hills. If long, slow endurance is their favorite way to train then that’s what they do. It never dawns on them that until they improve whatever it is that is holding them back there will never be a performance breakthrough. Continuing to focus on strengths while ignoring limiters means there will be little or no change in performance.

So, what are the possible limiters? They are nearly endless including everything that affects athletic development in such broad categories as training, lifestyle, nutrition, time available for training, athletic equipment, training environment, support, susceptibility to illness and injury, poor tactics and strategy, lack of race experience, poor body composition, insufficient sleep and psychological stress. While you need to examine yourself in terms of each of these categories, we will concern ourselves here primarily with limiters that can be strengthened with training.

Training is something we do to improve performance abilities. In The Triathlete’s and Cyclist’s Training Bibles I describe six abilities that determine how successful one is as an athlete. They are
Endurance — the ability to keep going for a very long time. Improved by doing long workouts, especially in zone 2.

Force — the ability to overcome resistance. Improved by training with weights, on hills, against the wind, and in rough water.

Speed skills — the ability to make the movements of the sport in an economical and effective manner. Improved with drills, fast repeats of a few seconds, plyometrics, and high-frequency training.

Muscular endurance — the ability to go for a moderately long time at a moderately high effort (at or just below lactate/anaerobic threshold). Improved with long (6-12 minutes) intervals with short recoveries, or long (20-60 minutes), steady efforts done in zones 3 and 4.

Anaerobic endurance — the ability to go for a relatively long time (a few minutes) at a very high effort (well above lactate threshold). Improved with short (2-4 minutes), fast intervals with about equal recovery durations done in zone 5b (CP6).

Power — the ability to sprint at very high outputs for a few seconds. Improved with very short (less than 20 seconds), max effort sprint intervals with long recoveries (several minutes).
For novice athletes the first three, the ‘basic’ abilities, are the typical limiters. For experienced athletes who have devoted three or more years to improving endurance, force and speed skills, the common limiters are the ‘advanced’ abilities — muscular endurance for longer events, anaerobic endurance for shorter events, and power for sprinting. The power ability is seldom an issue in triathlon.

The following are some examples of training objectives listed by ability. These may give you some ideas about what yours might be. Give this some thought and then list your training objectives at the top of the ATP below Goals. There is room for five. You’ll need at least one objective for each limiter. Be sure to indicate when you need to achieve the objective. That will keep you honest so they don’t just become ‘maybe’ dreams. This date should be in advance of your most important race for which that improved ability is needed for success.

Endurance Objective example: Within a six-week period complete six, four-hour rides in zone 2 with the last on July 8.

Force Objective example: Freebar squat 1.5 x body weight by January 7.

Speed Skill Objective example: Complete a 5k running race with an average cadence of 88 by August 12.

Muscular Endurance Objective example: Take 30 seconds off of 3km run done at a heart rate 10 bpm below lactate threshold by September 2.

Anaerobic Endurance Objective example: Improve CP6 to 330 watts by June 17.

Power Objective example: Average 800 watts for at least 12 seconds by August 30.


At October 27, 2009 10:52 PM , Blogger Cedric Bosch said...


Thanks for posting this series! I had a question about preparing for TT's in the off-season.

One of my goals is to improve my TT. My main limiter is my position. I feel unflexible and uncomfortable in my aero position. I'd like to spend as much time as possible in that position to get more comfortable.

Is it OK to do base training rides in the aero position? My coach has told me that you want to train your body to assosciate that position with speed, and to only get aero when you are going fast.

Do you agree with this? Also, what are some other things I can do to improve comfort in the TT position?

Thank you!
-Cedric Bosch, AZ junior

At October 28, 2009 4:36 AM , Blogger Pablo R said...

Joe, very nice series of posts. I tried to open the Excel file (ATP) but it doesn't work. I see the date in the formula space but there's nothing else. The rest of the spreadsheet is completely blank.

At October 28, 2009 5:13 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you think a person really needs to rest if: During triathlon season was injured and did not race at all after july and only sprints and oly. Now I am switching over to just bike racing and am just trying to acclimate to riding at least 5 days a week. I did take off time during the summer in hopes of healing injury. Finally injury is gone.
Thank you in advance.

At October 28, 2009 1:29 PM , Blogger Marshall said...

As a XC mountain biker, my events are typically 2hrs +/-15min.

Apart from the higher stress, is there any reason not to train endurance with 2hr rides of steady state power from zone 3 to zone 4 instead of the classic zone 2 long rides?

It would seem to me that if I want to challenge my endurance, I should do so at the duration of my event at an intensity approaching 100% of "CP120" by the end of Base3.

At October 28, 2009 2:03 PM , Anonymous Dave B. said...


What are sort of supplements do you suggest? I take a protein shake 2-4 x per day and a multi shake. Do you suggest anything specific for triathlon training? I also use xtinguisher from max muscle that seems to help with recovery.

I just want to make sure my $$ is going to what I should be supplementing with.

At October 28, 2009 2:36 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Cedric--I often have riders who lack flexibility and also core stability. Because of this it is difficult to get them in an aggressive aero position without greatly compromising power. The key to this is to improve flexibility and core strength. A physical therapist may be able to help you identify what is needed given a physical assessment.

At October 28, 2009 3:35 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

PabloR--Hmmm...I'm sorry to hear you can't open it. If you'll send me an email I'll forward it to you. Let me know what your sport is. Email to jfriel@trainingbible.com

At October 28, 2009 4:01 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Anon--Sounds like you don't need a Transition period.

At October 28, 2009 4:04 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Marshall--When you get to the Build period (~12 weeks before A race) you want the workouts to become increasingly like the race. Until then you need to build endurance, force, power and the beginnings of muscular endurance.

At October 28, 2009 4:06 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

DaveB--I'd suggest using real food and not supplements. Supplements are best used for convenience (when real food not available).

At October 29, 2009 7:21 AM , Blogger Booksy said...

I don't generally read down the comments list. Glad I did today because something caught my eye in your response to DaveB. It's the reference to "real food." For years I thought designer food was the way to go. Powders and Potions and Gels and Bars... But I usually didn't feel "good" and my performance wasn't necessarily better either. I got away from racing for a few years and when I returned, I already adopted the Michael Polan (In Defense of Food, Omnivores Dilemna) manifesto: Eat Food, Mostly Plants, Not Too Much, in my day to day life and I decided not to change it just because I was racing bikes again. I find that eating food, as in real, whole food not food-like substances has encouraged better training results, faster recovery and a much much happier gastrointestinal system. I wonder how you feel about this and if you might consider dedicating a blog to the exploration of the benefits of a food diet (sounds so obvious, right?)
thank you for making all your insight available.

At October 29, 2009 7:29 AM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Booksy--Yes, I agree with your line of thinking. Real food is preferable to lab food for everyone including athletes.

At October 29, 2009 11:35 AM , Anonymous Trisha said...


When keeping track of your training, how do you log spin/cycling classes? As actual miles or as a spin class? Seems there are a lot of different opinions out there on this.


At October 29, 2009 11:48 AM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Trisha--By "actual miles" do you mean as if ridden on your road, mtn bike, fixed gear bike, or indoor trainer? If so if it involves pedaling a bike then it's actual miles (or hours).

At October 29, 2009 4:16 PM , Anonymous agnosia said...

hey joe,
thanks for the blog. i was wondering what's the longest i could go off the bike without losing all that i've gained this year? i ask because i live in the northeast and hate training indoors. I spend most of the winter downhill skiing and XC skiing.

At October 29, 2009 6:52 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Agnosia--Here are 2 real world examples of athletes I've coached. Each had to stop training for 10 weeks. One was at what I would call a high level of fitness as measured by WKO+ software (93.5 TSS/day). The other was at a low level (26.9). After 10 weeks of not training they had both lost about 82% of their fitness. With steady and consistent training I figure it will take the one with the highest fitness originally some 30-40 weeks to return to his prior fitness level--3 to 4 times as long as it took to lose it.

At October 29, 2009 9:41 PM , Anonymous agnosia said...

hey joe, wow your answer really depressed me! just a follow up - i know you mention in your book that in order to maintain your endurance u need to do a long ride every 10 days. is there a base schedule i can maintain throughout the winter to keep both my endurance/speed? i can force myself on the trainer if need be if it will help me keep my hard earned fitness i developed this year. thanks for your help. much appreciated.

At October 30, 2009 6:35 AM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

agnosia--You can _probably_ maintain about any aspect of fitness with a workout specific to that type of fitness about every 10 days. A lot of _abouts_ here because there isn't much on this sort of thing in the literarture.

At November 4, 2009 11:01 AM , Anonymous DRL said...

Like everyone else, I really appreciate your comments. My goals next season are to reduce a 2:40 olympic triathlon down to 2:30; to get a half marathon time down from 1:28 to 1:26; to do the Time Megeve cyclosportif (2 alpine cols included) 85 k in 3 hours 30 rather than 4 hours (!!). Goals I've thought up so far: (for Lausanne) - be able to cycle 40 k 1:15 (average 32kph) on hilly course by early August;
(also for Lausanne)- beat my pb of 40 mins in a 10k by Annecy Triathlon, 4th July.

Am I along the right lines? Can you suggest how I would establish goals for Time Megeve? I do plan to enter more cycling events, but understand that simply getting mileage in is not specific enough...

At November 4, 2009 1:46 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

DRL--What you have listed sound more like objectives than goals, using my terminology. Your goals would be event outcomes (2:30 for an Oly tri). For Megeve, what is standing between you and success? How will you know if you're ready to achieve the goal (3:30)?

At November 7, 2009 12:10 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Joe,
Two Questions:
Love your blog. As a cat 2 cyclist, I am trying to determine my limiter holding me back from raising my FTP to the next level. I can go hard for long periods and suffer for long periods so I dont think muscular endurance or anaerobic endurance are limiters.I suspect strength might be my greatest limiter. How would I determine if this is the case?

At November 7, 2009 4:06 AM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Michael--A key to this is determining your power to weight ratio at FTP. Divide FTP by body weight in kg (2.2kg = 1 lb). Goal should be 4.0+.

At November 16, 2009 8:32 AM , Blogger Chris said...

On an intuitive level I completely agree with relaxing after the end of the season, and I plan to take a good month and a half off from training after cyclocross is finished to do some other sports and activities just for fun. You make the comment "As with many things in life, the lower your lows, the higher your highs.", which again makes intuitive sense to me, but I was wondering if you know why this is the case, or if this is just your observations from experience?

At November 16, 2009 2:01 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Chris--Thanks for your note. It's just been my experience. I've found I can accomplish a lot more with athletes who have kind of an 'even keel' when it comes to both success and failure. Don't know why.


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