“A goal is a dream with a plan.”, said motivational speaker, Greg Reid. When it comes to successful cycling, having an annual plan is key. Planning out your cycling season is about hitting peak race form while cultivating a healthy relationship with cycling, improving your overall fitness, and preventing injury or burnout. Every cyclist is going to have unique goals. It’s important to avoid comparison when it comes to planning out your year of cycling, and focus on goals that support your cycling journey.
Mapping Out Your Races
Now that it’s time to create your annual plan, maybe you feel like a kid in a candy store when it comes time to pick out your races. There are so many events to choose from and you likely want to do them all. Consider a brainstorming approach to this process.
- Start with choosing every single race you want to do. No limits, just what you want to do in an ideal world.
- Next, start by eliminating the ones you absolutely can’t do, due to timing, budget, or amount of travel. This one is the same weekend as your sister’s wedding. Can’t do that. Thanksgiving race because you promised you’d be with family. This race conflicts with a work deadline, etc.
- Now that you have a pool of races you can do, using the number of races you want to ride this year, quickly highlight that number of races on your list. Do it fast, off the top of your head, or from your gut—just don’t overthink it. This doesn’t have to be a final list, but it’s a good way to cut through the noise and find the races that are important to you.
Now that you have your list of races, pull out a calendar and start adding your races. This is a practical way to spot any places in your schedule where races are too close together, or where serious training might conflict with another area of your life.
Next, count backward from your A race. To plan your different phases of training, you need to know the dates for base (six months out), build (12-16 weeks out), and peak (6-8 weeks out). Now that those dates are in your calendar, it’s time to plan your season.
6 months out
Base training starts 6 months before your A race. A proven way to improve aerobic fitness and cycling performance in a maintainable way are with:
a) A mix of high-intensity interval sessions.
b) Zone 2 endurance rides.
c) Structured rest. It’s recommended to do 3 or fewer high-intensity interval sessions a week.
12-16 weeks out
12-16 weeks before your A race is the build phase. Its goal is to steadily increase your training load in quantity and power. This is when you start race-specific interval training.
6-8 weeks out
Next is the peak phase, which is designed to put you into well, peak form before your race. Your training will increase before the taper period.
7-10 days out
Begin your taper period, to prepare for the upcoming race.
Setting Realistic and Stretch Goals
When you’re setting your goals, you must be honest with yourself about both your strengths and weaknesses. This informs the creation of practical goals, goals you have a realistic chance of reaching. From there, create stretch goals. These goals are still realistic but require more effort to reach and are what you should visualize in training. While it’s important to be realistic, it’s also important to push yourself to stretch as well. Meeting those stretch goals, when all the parts of your race plan come together just right, is one of the best parts of this sport.
Avoid Over Training
It can be easy to overtrain, even if you’re on the lookout for it. Another way to look at overtraining is to frame it as under-recovering. Your body requires rest, relaxation, and proper nutrients to recover. Recovery includes replenishing energy stores and re-building muscle. Proper recovery is essential for healthy cycling and racing, and is arguably the most important part of your training plan to nail. Here are a few simple ways to tell if you’re overtraining.
- You feel exhausted physically and mentally.
- Things like training and socialization feel like an effort.
- You have a consistently elevated resting heart rate.
- You’re getting frequent colds.
- You’ve been experiencing poor digestion.
- You experience dizziness when standing up.
- Your heart rate fails to come to normal levels when riding.
- You think you’re working harder on the bike than you are.
- You feel lethargic.
- You have nagging aches and pains that do not subside overnight.
If you’re overtraining, schedule more time to rest so your body can recover. Also, consider a few restorative yoga practices to replenish your energy.
Follow a Training Plan!
There’s a lot that goes into planning a successful year of racing and training, and the stakes include your performance and health. Many people work with coaches or trainers to help them plan out their training schedules. Coaches can look at your information objectively. This allows them to see past any blind spots you might have. And, coaches and trainers have training and experience that can help improve performance and safety. Accountability is another benefit to coaching—it’s easier to do hard things with someone else. Working with a coach can also improve your confidence, which will support every aspect of your racing and training.