You probably have some ideas about what you’d like to do this year. You may have made New Year’s resolutions, you might have some specific goals you’d like to achieve and might have targeted specific events that you want to do. Warning: Most New Year’s resolutions fail, and most goals are not met.
Why Planning, Not the Plan, is Important
“Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II and 34th President of the United States
In the process of creating a cycling training plan, you develop commitment to your goals, understand what’s required to meet them, realize that you can’t do everything and set priorities among your goals, learn what you don’t know about how to reach your goals and find the answers, discover constraints, anticipate problems and consider options.
Some form of planning can benefit (almost) every roadie. For example, you ride for health and fitness. You rode 900 miles last year, but laid off in the winter. You want to be more consistent and ride at least 1,000 miles this year. Doing some planning will help you to meet your goal.
What Kind of Planning Works for You?
Imagine that you are taking a month-long driving vacation with family or friends who don’t cycle. Which kind of person are you?
- Geographer—you and your companions discuss what natural and other sights you’d like to see on the trip, about how long you’ll stay at each place and agree that you’ll figure out the route, where to stay and the other details on the road.
- Navigator—you want a little more certainty. You pick out cities that are a reasonable day’s drive apart, make motel reservations and decide you’ll navigate en route.
- Map Maker—you use a mapping program to figure out the optimal route from sight to sight, download the driving instructions and make the motel reservations.
The process of planning is valuable for all three kinds of riders; however, the amount of detail varies from rider to rider.
My Cycling Planning and Goals
It’s XC ski season in Colorado, and I ski 4 – 5 days a week for fun and to build endurance and power for cycling season. I also enjoy doing events. As I write this in December, I’m planning to do four races:
- Jan. 2, Snow Mountain Ranch 7.5K – a training race
- Jan. 16, Chama Chili 12K – for fun
- Jan. 23, Stagecoach 15K – important race
- Feb. 6, Crested Butte Alley Loop 21K – peak race
Note that I’ve prioritized the races based on a training plan that includes important training workouts and skills sessions.
On the bike, my planning for 2016 includes targeting five major passes I didn’t do in 2015:
- Independence pass (12,095 ft.) from the east. The US Pro Challenge goes up this pass – important climb
- Cottonwood pass (12,126) from the west. The Pro Challenge also races up this gravel side – important climb
- Cottonwood from the east – for fun
- Berthoud pass (11,306 ft.) from the south – for fun
- Berthoud from the north – for fun
- It’s not a specific pass, but I also a credit card tour with my cycling buddy – for fun
Although I haven’t set dates for the rides yet, I’ve prioritized them. Note that of my 10 XC skiing and cycling events, half (five) are just for fun!
Here’s the process that I use with my clients, which you can use to develop a personal plan.
I. Setting Your Cycling Goals – Realistically
In January, many riders make a long list of goals and events to accomplish in the new year ahead. Many feel like they didn’t ride enough last year, enough mileage, enough events, enough time.
And it’s New Years – the time in so many cultures when we almost feel obliged to resolve ourselves to “do better” this year. So, many of us plan to do more events, ramp up our mileage, do more rides overall, spend more time on the bike, etc.
Aspirations and resolutions to have a better year are fine as long as they are realistic. Often, we seriously overreach in our goal-setting.
We may decide to try for 7,000 miles this year instead of 4,000 like last year—4,500 or 5,000 miles would be a much more reasonable goal. Or aim to do three double centuries when we only did a couple of metric centuries last year—the reasonable step is to do a few full centuries and metric centuriesthis year, building up to double centuries next year.
Big jumps require vast increases in training and can easily lead to an actual decline in performance due to overtraining, as well as overuse injuries, colds, etc. Further, a big jump in volume means a big jump in training time, which may result in burnout as well as your family feeling neglected.
What are your realistic goals and events that you want to do? Write them down! Then set priorities using these categories.
- Peak event(s) and/or goals — one or two peak events when you want to do your very best.
- Important event(s) and/or goals — again, just a few events, when you want to do well as preparation for a peak event, but also want to save a bit for the peak event(s).
- Training events
- Fun events
You’ll have your best season if the number of events increases as you move down the categories. That is, if you have more “fun” events than “training” events, and so on. Fun is the single most important category – you aren’t being paid to ride.
II. Important personal dates
Look at the year ahead and write down:
- Important holidays
- Family events: birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, vacations, etc.
- Work events: project deadlines, conferences, etc.
These should be more important than your cycling goals, and you need to plan around them.
III. Strengths and weaknesses
Think about your performance over the past several years and then write down:
- What have been your successes?
- What strengths contribute to those?
- What have been your failures?
- What are your weaknesses?
IV. Training history
Finally, dig out your cycling training logs for the past several years. Write down how much you trained each month and the total volume for the year. Of course, you may be like the geographer above and not keep a training log. No worries. Without the data you can still create a plan at the appropriate level of detail for you.
Next week, I’ll describe how to use these four ingredients (I. Setting Your Goals – Realistically; II. Important personal dates; III. Strengths and weaknesses; and IV. Training history) to create your personal 2016 plan.
For more detail on how to develop your plan, see my eArticle Your Best Season Ever, Part 1.
And for more information on how to assess your weakness and what to do about them, see my eBook Stop Cycling’s Showstoppers: how to eliminate everything that could keep you from reaching your goals.
Coach John Hughes earned coaching certifications from USA Cycling and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. John’s cycling career includes course records in the Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200-km randonnée and the Furnace Creek 508, a Race Across AMerica (RAAM) qualifier. He has ridden solo RAAM twice and is a 5-time finisher of the 1200-km Paris-Brest-Paris. He has written nearly 30 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training and nutrition, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach John Hughes. Click to read John's full bio.