Words by Taylor Thomas
For athletes that are looking to improve year after year, season after season, some sort of plan is typically required. It involves a careful review of past and present goals, as well as the performances and approaches that built up to those goals. Every athlete is different and requires a dynamic approach that takes into consideration individual physiology, along with natural strengths and weaknesses. While there is no one size fits all answer, there are a number of things that, if focused on, will consistently yield results and lay the groundwork for a successful six-month training approach.
Post Season Review
First things first. You can’t look forward without looking back. Before embarking on any length of plan it’s important to perform a post-season review. Think critically about what it is that went right, as well as what didn’t go as planned. Ask questions like, “Did you achieve the level of fitness you wanted?”, “Was there an appropriate amount of recovery?”, and “Did the training produce the results that you were hoping for?”. Blend qualitative questions like these together with a quantitative analysis of historical data. Looks for insights that can help shape your training regarding frequency, intensity, and duration.
It’s easy to focus on the things we’re good at. However, often what makes us stronger are honing in on the areas where we see deficits. After a thorough season review, you should be able to nail down the appropriate intensity for key workouts. Use tools like the planned workout feature to pinpoint key zones/intervals to make sure you’re targeting the right areas. Base interval intensity on past race efforts to ensure they’re pushing you hard enough, and targeting the right training zones at the right time. For example, if sprint finishes where a weakness then building workouts around the necessary intensity and duration needed to strengthen that skill would be a valuable use of time.
This concept is often where athletes have the most trouble or find themselves feeling confused. When staring down the next six months it’s challenging knowing if you’re doing the right workouts, at the right time, and at the appropriate intensity. Integrating volume, intensity, and frequency at the appropriate times is critical to peaking during the season. Depending on your race schedule, and near and long-term goals, the periodization approach should be different. Generally, the rule of thumb should be to focus on the basics first before building into more volume or intensity. Ensure enough time is spent building the proper foundation through a focus on gaining muscular and aerobic strength. Also be sure the body is ready to handle the demands of race preparation before moving forward.
Integrate Strength Training
The word is out. Time and time again strength training has been proven to aid in injury prevention, as well as increase power and stamina for nearly all types of athletes. There are varying schools of thought on how strength work should be integrated and the consistency at which it should be performed. However, what’s important is that it takes a primary role in your training. It, much like the training for your primary discipline, should be periodized. Strength training should be a tool that complements your overall goals and it should look different at different times of the year. When thinking through the next six months, make sure that the appropriate type and frequency of strength training is included.
Specificity is Key
The days of the “just ride a lot” approach to training are over. With tools like the KICKR Smart Trainer, Zwift, seamless workout integration to ELEMNT Bike Computer, and access to individualized workouts, now’s the time to hone in on what it’s going to take to make you successful. With busy schedules and other obligations often the trainer is the best and most efficient way to ensure quality sessions happen, especially during the base building periods when volume is typically lower and focus remains high. Always use the post season analysis as a resource. Match when and how the key workouts are executed with what it is you hope to accomplish. Whether it’s an improvement in Threshold or VO2 Max, do the workouts that take you where you want to go. Also remember, when in doubt always choose quality over quantity.
Consistency Above All Else
Be realistic when setting goals and laying out a plan. Athletes tend to be driven and motivated individuals, and with that comes the tendency to set lofty goals. While that’s always encouraged and is an important part of progress, it’s also important to be aware of our limitations. The best-planned training is only as good as your ability to show up and execute it! Take outside responsibilities into consideration, and build a plan that makes sense for your life. Even if it means more off days, it’s only the workouts that you show up for that count! Don’t be afraid to give yourself plenty of runway to reach your ultimate goal. Maybe that priority race becomes a 2-3 year goal versus a one year, that’s alright. Put consistency first!
While there’s no cookie cutter, one size fits all, perfect approach to building a six-month training plan. There are tried and true methodologies and practices that you can employ to ensure you’re on the right track. Learn from seasons past and use that insight to inform your decisions about the future. Make sure that there’s an appropriate cadence to your training and set yourself up for success by being realistic and critical of your time and resources. You can accomplish a lot in 6 months if it’s done correctly.
Learn more about power and how to effectively use this key piece of data to train effectively.