I hope you’re making great progress toward your 2016 goals, training hard both on and off the bike. But if you haven’t done the planning to help you achieve those goals, STOP!
The great Yogi Berra, who died last year, said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”
How will you end up where you want to go? You are much more likely to achieve your 2016 goals if you develop a personal plan. Keep riding and cross-training — they’re fun! But also spend a few hours planning.
Hopefully, based on Part 1 of this series last week, you have:
1. Developed goals for 2016 and set priorities.
2. Identified important family, work and other events.
3. Assessed your strengths and weaknesses.
4. Reviewed your training history from prior years.
A week has passed. Review what you’ve written down. Any changes?
If you didn’t start the planning process last week, re-read Planning for 2016: Part 1 to get started. Meanwhile, let’s continue planning for 2016.
What Kind of Planning Works for You?
Recapping from last week, 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 area 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.
Creating The Big Picture
Whether you are a geographer, navigator or mapmaker, start by laying out the big picture. Enter on a calendar your peak event(s) and/or goals. Suppose your peak event is the end of July. It could be a particularly challenging 50-mile club ride, a weeklong tour, a hard local five-mile climb, a 25K club time trial or something else. Work backward from that to create the big picture. The big picture has four different phases:
- July = Peaking. You peak for your specific event by doing rides that closely resemble the peak event. For the challenging 50-mile club ride you could pre-ride the first 25-miles once to scout it and a second time at the club’s pace and then do the same for the second half. To prepare for a tour could you do progressively longer back-to-back rides on the weekends. To master a hard local five-mile climb you could ride it slowly, stopping if necessary, to scout it and then on successive weekends ride different parts of it. For a 25K time trial you could ride several 10 to 15K personal or organized time trials.
- June = Power. For each of these events you need to develop power: power to hang with the big dogs on the club ride, power to climb the hills and face the wind on successive days touring, power to get up that big climb, power to go fast in the time trial. My eArticle Intensity Training for Cyclists describes how and why to incorporate intensity workouts in your training – whether your goal is to increase your health and fitness, tackle a club ride or complete an endurance event. The article contains two dozen different workouts.
- April and May = Endurance. For any of the above goals you need good endurance, although how much you need depends on the duration of the goal. Equally important, endurance riding provides the necessary foundation for harder riding so that you don’t get injured. My eArticle Spring Training: 10 Weeks to Summer Fitness contains four different plans for riders whose winter training ranges from four hours a week up to 10 to 12 hours a week.
- January to March = Preparation. Unless you live near the equator (or are on a pro team that takes you somewhere warm) your riding and other exercise will naturally decrease in the winter. This is the time to be working on different aspects of fitness to prepare for the spring, including: cardiovascular endurance, general and core strength, flexibility and riding technique. My eArticle Productive Off-Season Training has two different 12-week programs incorporating these elements.
Your plan should also include a recovery week with significantly reduced riding at the end of each of the above phases. Depending on the timing of your main event(s) and/or goals, you can modify the above big-picture plan. Include all four of the phases, and be sure that you spend more weeks in the first two all-important phases (Preparation and Endurance) than in the third and fourth phase.
Working on different aspects of cycling each month is the most important way to improve your performance.
If you’re a geographer, you know the different kinds of training that you’ll do each month, and Creating the Big Picture is enought information to get you started on your planning.
Building the Structure
Many riders want more detail in the plan, however. The next step is to put on your calendar the key ride for each week to build progressively toward your goal(s). To continue to improve you need to increase the overload on your body by increasing one of these factors:
- How much you ride
- How often you ride
- How hard you ride
To reduce the risk of injury or overtraining, you should increase just one type of overload at a time: volume, frequency or intensity.
To develop your plan follow these rules of thumb:
- Increase your total volume by 10-25% over last year.
- Increase your volume by 15-25% from month to month.
- Increase your week-to-week volume by 10-20%.
- Vary the week-to-week volume in each month. Either increase the volume for several weeks and then have an easier week before the next month, or alternate harder and easier weeks in a month.
- Increase your weekly long ride by 10-20%.
- Your weekly long ride should be no more than 2/3 of the week’s total volume except in weeks with events.
If you’re a navigator adding in the Building the Structure portion may give you enough detail for your season’s plan.
If you’re a mapmaker, though, you want even more specificity. For each month, write down specific objectives that build to your goal(s). You can control your general preparation, training, equipment, etc., but you can’t control the outcomes of rides, which depend on conditions and competition. Your objectives should reflect this. They should be S.M.A.R.T.
The objectives should be phrased in positive terms. For example, “lose 2 lbs (1 kg) every month,” rather than “stop being so fat.” Focusing on a positive future rather than a negative current self-image improves motivation.
I’ll give you a quick personal example. My XC ski season is off to a great start. My first race was a 7.5K on January 2 and I finished 5 minutes under my goal time! For the XC ski season one of my objectives is to ski a 21K race under 3:30 on February 6. My goal is S.M.A.R.T:
- Specific – yes
- Measurable – in both distance and time
- Attainable – I’ve done many 10K skis and several 15Ks, so stepping up to 21K next month at a reasonable pace is attainable.
- Realistic — I have the time to put in the training and easy access to trails.
- Time oriented — a specific target date.
A plan is a guide to the year rather than a cue sheet. Remember what Eisenhower said, “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” Planning gives you the framework within which to make all kinds of modifications month by month. Just remember the big picture — the purpose of each month’s training.
Next week I’ll write about what to do when the weather sucks: cross-training.
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.