Fall is here. With the exception of the cyclocross season, most cycling, running, and triathlon races are in the record books. For the majority of us, it is time to put our training schedule away and just swim, bike, and/or run to our hearts content. This is the time to take a month or so to just chill out and enjoy exercise. Your mind and body will get the time they need to regenerate so that you can be strong next season. This is also the time to start planning for the coming year.
Too often, we finish a big race and make a plan right away. However, we realize a month or two down the road that our plan was ill conceived because we planned it at time when we were enthusiastic about a great season or when we were bummed out about our season’s disappointments. The decisions we made were based on our current emotions and did not truly represent sustainable goals and objectives. Our decisions lacked objectivity. So, make sure you give yourself time to come back to Earth after a big race. You’ll be thankful you did.
Once relaxed and thinking with a clear head, it is time to look back before planning ahead. You will already have a good sense of what you want to do for 2022. But is it really what you need to do? Often what we ultimately want and the plan to get there do not jive. For instance, you may want to peak for a race in August. However, you also want to ride a century, go to a family reunion, and learn how to be a better swimmer during the summer. Sure some of these “wants” may help you peak for your race but the combination and utter volume of “wants” makes achieving your goal unrealistic.
It is important to set realistic goals and then build a plan that sets you up for success. If you spend a few hours reviewing your previous races and training then the chances of writing a good plan are greatly increased. You will have a sense of what you need to do because after all, this is all about you and you know yourself better than anyone. You will be surprised how when you take an objective approach your perspective on what you need to do changes.
First off, ask what worked and what didn’t throughout the year. Look clearly at the different types of training you did, but also review how your race schedule, stresses outside of training, and financial commitments affected your racing in the past.
Every athlete is very different. We have different make-ups and each of us live under very different sets of circumstances. A plan for Mike who excels with track repeats is not a good plan for Sally who gets tendonitis every time she steps on a track. Similarly, our work and social lives affect our plans. For example, Bruce is an accountant who gets very busy in the spring when tax season hits. He tends to get sick when he tries to continue his training schedule during this busy time.
This is why we need to put the training books away at first and take a much closer look within. Your best resource for 2022 is your personal history. Here is one approach you can use to ask the right questions:
- List out all your race results for the past one to two years.
- Look for trends in your races.
— Are you stronger in one sport or a specific distance compared to another?
— Do you have repetitive problems (i.e. cramping, nausea, or excessive emotional stress) that affected your race?
- Look for trends in your training.
– What times of year were you the strongest and the weakest?
– Did you get injured and if so what led to that injury?
– Did other stresses affect your training quality and/or quantity?
Doing this simple exercise will systematically outline what works well for you and what can be improved for 2022. More importantly, it improves your commitment to training because you have taken the time to prepare properly. Now, you know what needs to be done to reach your future objectives.
Now, you are ready to start your plan. A good first step is to find help and gather resources. If finding a coach to help you achieve your goals and formulate a more concrete plan is something you have pondered, this is the time to take that step. A good coach gives you another perspective, helps establish realistic goals, and will use their extensive experience to improve or write your season plan.
The first part of your plan is base training. Your first priority before starting any training though is to make sure all your injuries and health issues have been adequately diagnosed and are on the mend. Then, you will want to spend four or more base training weeks getting into a routine and re-introducing your body to regular training. Once that is established, you should focus on your weaknesses that you outlined in your analysis. This may mean a focused running period, strength work, or improving your nutrition. This may also be a good time to improve the balance of stresses in your life.
Set yourself up for success by taking this time to prepare!
About the Author:
Scott McMillan, MS, operates Blue Moose Coaching. He uses concepts of periodization and comprehensive performance testing to help all levels of athletes reach their goals.