Words by Taylor Thomas at Thomas Endurance Coaching
No matter when your “season” begins, there’s always the time leading up to it when things begin to take shape. This is the time when big goals are committed to, and dreams begin to become fully formed. Planning for any goal begins in an athlete’s mind. This is where the makings of any great season take shape, and it’s where things have to begin before steps forward are taken. Once a plan is solidified, and the commitment is made, then it’s time to put pen to paper and develop a plan of execution. It’s when both the science and emotion of endurance sports are combined that great things are possible.
Find Your Why
Before you ever run a step, take a pedal stroke, or swim a lap you must have an answer to one very simple, but profound question. “Why do I train?” Behind every athlete’s relentless drive and motivation is the individual answer to this question. Improved fitness can’t be the only reason or desired outcome. When the hard days come, and they will, there has to be deeper importance behind why it is you show up and commit to the task at hand. What is it that you get from training that fuels and drives you to step outside of your comfort zone? Before any planning begins to make sure you’ve found your “why”.
Next, if participating in any events or races is on your radar then it’s important to know why you’re committed to these events. What is it that’s important or special about the specific races on your calendar? Not all races have to be “priority” events, but racing just for the sake of racing isn’t always the best approach. Athletes often fall into the trap of racing simply because it’s being offered, or it’s close. Often time is better spent focusing on rest, focused sessions, or time outside of training rather than racing. Make sure that when you’re planning your race calendar that the races serve a purpose. Whether they simply provide a good training opportunity or are a bucket list item, race with a purpose.
Post Season Review
Take time to perform a critical review of your past season successes and failures. What worked and what didn’t? Don’t be afraid to admit when mistakes were made, and learn from them. There’s no such thing as a perfect season, so be critical and honest when it comes to pinpointing shortcomings. Often one of the components of training that’s improperly managed is training volume, or how much you train. Athletes often try to do more and/or accomplish too much in a given season. Make sure that your goals are associated closely with what’s realistic for you based on your time, availability, responsibilities, and outside stressors at any given time of year. We all have them so planning realistically from the start helps to mitigate disruption later in the season. Training doesn’t happen in a vacuum and there’s no cookie cutter approach to preparation. First and foremost the training approach has to work for you.
After you’ve thought through the broad approach, and outlined what’s feasible for you, it’s time to apply some quantitative metrics to help make things clearer. Look for broad trends in Chronic Training Load (CTL), Acute Training Load (ATL) and Training Stress Balance (TSB). When were you most fit, did you feel the best, or perform to your full potential? Combining the qualitative feedback with the hard science of performance metrics can help crystallize a plan moving forward. Use these metrics to set goals and outline a training strategy for the season as a whole. These broad trends can be helpful when developing a periodization model.
The Metrics That Matter
The metrics that are important depend on what your focus is, the races you want to participate in, the terrain you’re racing on, natural strengths and weaknesses, and much much more. Identifying what’s important specifically for you and your goals is critical at the onset of the season. With the availability of so many performance metrics many athletes get pulled in the wrong direction by focusing on the wrong thing, or the wrong thing at the wrong time of year. Ensuring a periodized approach to training, and highlighting the metrics that are expected to change during each period of training, should be a primary focus. Outline what metrics align with your goals and discipline focus. While FTP, fatigue resistance and Time to Exhaustion (TTE) may be important for some athletes, it may not be a top priority for others. Conversely, VO2 Max, neuromuscular power, anaerobic capacity may be lower on the priority list for some athletes. The point is that there’s a sea of valuable metrics available to athletes, but knowing how to apply them is what’s most important. Hone in on the ones that matter to you and your goals, and understand how to use them to make you better.
Planning goes hand in hand with preparation. It’s an invaluable component of any training plan and should be integral in an athlete’s journey towards their goals. The deeper meaning behind the training plan and individual workouts have to be uncovered first. An athlete’s drive, motivation, and purpose have to be grounded in the “why” before the science of endurance sports can be applied. Only then should you begin to dig into past results and apply the metrics that matter most to your training trajectory. Training is a nuanced and individualized process that has to be approached differently for every athlete to have the opportunity to reach their full potential.
The Perfect Six- Month Performance Plan
Taylor Thomas is the founder and head coach of Thomas Endurance Coaching (TEC) and has more than a decade of experience in the endurance sports industry as an athlete, coach, race promoter, and team organizer. TEC provides expert level coaching to athletes of all ability levels and specializes in both a scientific and metrics-based approach to endurance sports. They guide athletes in all disciplines of both running and cycling. For more information on their personal coaching and training plan options visit http://www.