Ten reasons you need a training plan
He who fails to plan is planning to fail
Winston Churchill, during World War Two.
The stakes might not be quite as high as during World War Two, but I’m certain there are enough of you willing to wage war on your training in order to reach your goals…
Having a training plan is where it all starts, where everything comes together and where direction is made towards your goals. Without a plan, you might be training sporadically, without direction and with a lot of bias.
Here are my top ten reasons you need a training plan:
1. Bridge the gap
Bridge the gap between where you are now and where you need to be (your goals). Knowing your current ability and knowing the demands of your goals, your training plan is the bridge between the two. If you’ve never done the goal before, find someone who has. Maybe an experienced rider, a coach or even the event organizer. Find out what you’ll need to achieve in order to succeed.
When you have the demands of your goal, test yourself in line with these and determine what you need to do in order to be successful. This method will also enlighten you as to which component of fitness (the demand you need to achieve) you might want to spend more time on.
2. Strengthen your weaknesses
Once you’ve done the above, you will know exactly what weaknesses you have. If you have trained in a structured manner before and have years of training experience and data, you will know how long it might take for you to strengthen your weaknesses. If you don’t know this, ask around and see what the average might be. While not totally accurate, it’s a better idea than going in blind.
Typically, a large chunk of your training time will be spent here, with only minimal work maintaining your strengths, until you get closer to your event or goal – when this might switch over.
3. Strengthen your strengths
Depending on how well you want to do in your chosen event, you might want to strengthen your strengths too. Typically you do this close to your event, you are already strong and you might not improve that much in this area, devoting time to your weaknesses is wise, but what isn’t is neglecting your strengths.
For example, this might look like you adding some sprint like training right before you start racing criteriums for the season – if this is already an area you excel at.
4. Avoid sporadic training
Your plan will help you avoid training needlessly and putting in ‘junk’ miles. Every block of training, maybe 3-4 weeks, might be devoted to achieving a certain goal (process goal). You might start with your weaknesses, for example FTP (power over about an hour) and finish with a strength, for example peak power (sprint).
Each will have its own testing protocol, in our examples above this would be FTP and peak power testing. With this plan in place, you will be less likely to train without focusing on your actual goals – avoid sporadic training!
No more junk miles!
5. Guarantee gains
Of course there’s no guarantee, but what you’ll find is that, using the above method, you will always be progressing towards your goal.
I see too many athletes who focus on one area throughout the winter and come into spring without being ‘complete’. Avoid this by testing regularly across a wide range of components of fitness.
6. Remove the bias
My personal favorite: bias. For the same reason as you will be less likely to train sporadically, you will also be less biased with your training.
Your training plan will keep you focused on your goals, your training will come first and you’ll be less likely to deviate to go ride with your mates.
7. Be holistic
A training plan might not be exclusively training. You might be new to time trialling and have a new bike. You will want to spend enough time adapting to the position, but how do you know where adaptation stops and bad bike fit begins?
With a training plan, you can tie in other aspects such as bike fitting or kit testing. You will be less likely to leave everything to the last minute the more organised you are.
I’ve touched on this in earlier points, but without a plan you won’t be periodizing your training. The benefit of this is that you are putting all your planning and hard work in training together.
Make the most of every session as it progresses towards a common goal.
9. Periodise your nutrition too
It’s very hard to periodise your training without a plan (how do you know when each period starts/ends without it being planned…?). It’ll be even harder to plan your nutrition without a training plan too.
I have no doubt that a large majority of readers could be better with their nutrition, be that weight loss/gain or increased energy, less injury. When you have an idea of your training periods you can plan your nutrition to compliment that.
Need to lose weight and focus on some low intensity fasted training? Match up your nutrition to this with some high fat, low carb dieting. Without a thorough plan, this simply won’t happen.
1. Actually achieve your goals…
Yep, the likelihood of you being successful at your target event or goal is far greater with a training plan (2x by TrainingPeaks research) than without.
No brainer really…