Planning for Endurance Events

Annual or Cyclical Plans

Whether you're a fitness athlete, an age group competitor or a  budding Olympian it's important that you approach your training  with common sense, don't ignore the basics and plan to be successful. You'll get far more out of your training and a lot more enjoyment from it than by approaching it haphazardly.

The general principles of training for any sport are that any plan should incorporate a series of cycles or phases, often split into Preparation, Base, Pre-Competition, Competition and Recovery, with each phase concentrating on a slightly different elements of the training mix.

The plan can last for a single target race, a season or even a number of years, in the case of planning for the Olympics etc.

Preparation Phase

This is just a period where you concentrate on developing good technique in all the disciplines. Good stroke mechanics, pedaling technique and getting back into running with efficiency is the key.

Base Period

Is the time when basic fitness is gained and forms the foundation of a successful plan. The distances covered in this period are likely to be greater than in competition but will be slower pace. New athletes will simply use this period to gain fitness whereas competitive or improving athletes will add "Reminder Speed" sections, where they raise the pace to race their pace and above, to remind their bodies of the speed they need during competition and not lose the all important "Feel for Speed".

Pre-Competition Phase:

Allows the athlete to consolidate on their fitness gains while concentrating more on the speed they will need in competition. Distances covered reduce but the pace increases and you begin to train more at the speed you need to compete. You're likely to race in this period to test your pace and preparation, hitting some races with a view to reproducing your target race pace in one or more elements of the 3 disciplines.

Competition Phase:

Is what all your training is about and will have both minor and major targets to achieve. Minor targets will give you a chance to both practice elements of your racing and test your speed against your main targeted goal. So it's a matter of maintaining fitness while increasing your speed in competition while recovering from the previously heavy training load. As your major season goal approaches you will also taper down while maintaining and building on your speed.

Recovery Phase:

In the Recovery phase it's important to give your body and mind time to recover. This doesn't mean you go to bed and don't get up for 4 weeks it simply means you don't train in your major sports. Often people will go skiing, mountain bike or play tennis to enjoy themselves, so participating in sport is still OK but taking a break from structured training is important.

Goal Setting

Setting goals are important for every athlete, whether you're just starting out or a seasoned professional. However, whatever goals you set yourself they have to be;

  • Realistic
  • Achievable
  • Challenging
  • Measurable
  • Time Specific

From that point you start at your target races and work backwards, putting phases in of 2 to 6 weeks that will lead to a peak in your major target races.

In the plan on the right there are 2 target races and 2 overall "Macro" plans. The first runs through the Rother Valley Qualifying race and the second runs through the National Champs.

Note:- as the volume increases (coloured blocks) the intensity, but not always, generally reduces and vice-versa.

Monthly / Weekly Plans

Once we have an annual or seasonal plan and have set the intensity for each training phase we then have to break that down into monthly, weekly and daily plans within those phases. With triathlon all three sports have to be practiced so each week must all of these plus an element of rest built into the programme, as it's only after rest that you can begin to improve.

The plan below is from the end of the base 2 period and pre-competition phases and incorporates rest days on the first Monday and following Tuesday.  From the long ride on the first Sunday the intensity drops except for swimming. There are 3 swimming, cycling and running sessions in each week and the distances of each session are shown in the grid below the daily plan.



Session Planning

Every time you go out and do a session it should have a purpose. That purpose could be as simple as "Recovery Run" but without a purpose you won't in the end achieve a coherent and consistent training regime. After that all sessions should contain a Warm Up, Main Set and then a Cool Down. The main set can be made up of a few different types of set, all combined to achieve the purpose of the session. You should always print out your session and take it to the track or pool. The only place you might need to leave the plan at home is on the bike, for safety.