Updated: Oct 5, 2021
6 Steps to a Successful Training Plan Do you get to the end of an event and feel somewhat unsatisfied, like you could have prepared better or you didn't meet your pre-race expectations? This happens all of the time because athletes are forever overestimating their abilities and underestimating the demands of their event. I like to use a six-step process to get athletes to the start line knowing that their preparation has ticked every box. When an athlete is confident in their preparation, they get to the finish line with a sense of accomplishment knowing that they did all they could during the lead-up and within the event to achieve their best performance.
Step One - Pick Your Events You want to have about three events within a two-month span with at least six months to build up for these events. If you're doing an ultra-endurance event, pick one key event and two lead-in events that can be used to determine your physical capabilities and pacing strategies for the main event.
If you're doing shorter events of two hours or less, maybe even up to three hours if you really fit, you can put three key events in a two-month span.
Step Two - Timeline Work backwards from your main event, or events, and figure out your time availability for training. Use a timeline to figure out when your holidays are, when you're going to have time to train more, and where you may have to train less due to work or family commitments.
Step Three - Analyzing the Event Break down and the key aspects that need to be incorporated into training. Look at things like the event’s elevation profile, whether there are any technical sections, and the expected weather conditions? You can also check the results of any competitors you've competed against in other events and use those as a reference point for your pacing. Maybe you thought it was going to take you three hours but Jim or Jane, who normally finishes around you in other events, took four hours—their time is probably a better reference point. Once you've broken down the event, you can then move to step four.
Step Four - Training Phases Once you've got your events and your timeline and you've analysed the key aspects of the event, you can now figure out when you're going to focus on each of those aspects in your build up, e.g., strength, fitness, technical abilities. All of these phases can be incorporated into two or three-week blocks. Once you've figured out your training phases, you can incorporate them into your timeline. Now it's time to start writing the plan.
Step Five - Training Plan Start with a skeleton plan of what you can achieve each week. Can you go longer at the weekend? Maybe you prefer mornings over evening training? Put that all down. Once you have your skeleton, you can focus on training phases and start to plot those onto specific days. You can now continually incorporate the different aspects that were figured out in steps 3 and 4 into your training plan as you progress along your timeline towards your event.
Step Six - Critical Evaluation Get an outside source to glance over your plan while you run through it from step one through to step five. Talk about how you've incorporated all the different aspects of analysing the event, your timeline, your phases, and your actual training plan to see if it's going to meet the demands of the event.
Once you've done this, you now have a plan that is going to get you to the start line knowing you're prepared, and you have a good gauge on your physical capabilities, pacing strategy, and how you are going to get through the event. When you do get to the finish line, you will know that you did all you could to get yourself there in the best possible position. There's no more feeling unsatisfied, there's no more over expectation of your abilities, just the feeling of achieving your goals.
Dr Will O'Connor
Educating and inspiring athletes to train smarter