Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Planning Your Season… A Different Perspective

by Dave Latourette

While many of you have already planned out your season there are still a lot of athletes picking their peak races and trying to assess the best way to go about it. When I approach the planning of an athlete’s season I tend to look at in a slightly different than some others. Quite often publications will encourage you to look at your peak race (or maybe first peak race) and simply plan backward to where you are. It’s generally very good advice but I have taken a different spin on the process.

I always have a broad idea what I want to accomplish over the last 10 to 12 weeks before a long distance race with an athlete, and I always know what I want to accomplish in the first six to eight weeks of the new season. The tricky part for many is the time in between those two blocks, usually in the neighborhood of six weeks. Below I’ll try to describe how I might approach setting a broad six month block (24 weeks) taking in to account the periods mentioned above and the highlighting key points in each period.

WEEKS 24-18: “Foundation Period” (Note: Pending athlete fitness, some folks may need three to four weeks preceding this period to get ready to handle the training)

  • The biggest piece of the puzzle to establish in this period is consistency of training week to week with very few missed sessions. It’s important to set up volume and workloads that you can tolerate week in and week out.
  • The large majority of my athletes are hitting a wide variety of speed and intensities across all disciplines. None of these higher intensity efforts or speeds are sustained for long periods but we surely include them in this foundation period. They may be as simple as sets of fast 25s in the pool, 30- to 60-second efforts or variety of hills on the bike, and for running it can be as simple as strides at the end of the run or 30- to 60-second hill reps all with full recovery.
  • Within this period, or any period, I tend to structure in two lighter days of training separated by 10 to 17 days of more sustained work. This depends very much on the individual.
  • This first six weeks is a great time to address body composition and continue to address strength discrepancies or imbalances athletes may have.
  • Some athletes can consider a shorter distance race at the end of this period.

WEEKS 18-12 (or 10): I like to call this a “Bridge Period,” in effect creating a link from the foundation period to the more specific “Race Prep” period.

  • Ideally, here you’ll choose a part of your arsenal that needs some work. That can simply be the swim, the bike or the run or it can be sub-sets of any of those disciplines. This may simply mean training against normal preferences to shore up weaknesses.
  • I often have athletes who need to extend the foundation period out a little longer and this bridging period is shortened.
  • Consistency is emphasized during this time but it’s also a time to consider inserting a race or two.
  • As mentioned above be consistent with planning in short, active recovery or off days before you need them.
  • Finishing this block with a race is also a good idea. Be sure to finish that race with a good five to seven days of very light training to prepare for the final block of work.

WEEKS 12 (or 10) to race day: This is your race prep period where the bulk of training is focused more and more towards specific terrain and improving at the intensity and duration you will race.

  • It’s important that you get to this period mentally and physically excited to prepare
  • From the time this periods starts until two weeks out the training you do is the most influential to how you’ll perform on race day.
  • You should be able to handle slightly longer periods of sustained or increased work loads but your easy or light days may need to be incredibly light.
  • Racing: Races can be beneficial in this period but you’ll need to factor in recovery and your own specific needs. For ironman-distance athletes I prefer racing a 70.3 no closer than seven weeks out and for 70.3 athletes I prefer racing an Olympic distance race no closer than four weeks out.
  • From 14 days out until race day you want to be sure that your training isn’t demanding large amounts of recovery, rather think of it as a time to build energy.
  • Finally, the goal is to finish this period being more fresh and fit than you have been the last six months.

One of the most difficult things for an athlete is getting to the final race prep period feeling like they maybe haven’t done quite enough, yet they are very motivated to train. If you do some simple planning in advance, and follow that plan, it will help you arrive to the time that training matters most feeling optimistic about moving forward.

Dave Latourette is a full time triathlon coach living in Santa Rosa, California, who works with athletes from newcomer to elite. His top athletes have won USAT Age Group National Championships and raced in World Championship events that include the ITU World Championship and the Ironman World Championship. You can learn more about Dave and follow him at: TrainToEndure.com, his blog, or on twitter @dklatourette
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