Mistakes I've Made Planning My Season
by Russ Cox
I always start the year by drawing up plans for the season ahead, setting goals and identifying races. My first draft is at best impractical and at worst impossible. The following few weeks are spent altering the plan so it's testing, but achievable. I might hope to live up to those early intentions, but over-committing myself will lead to disappointment.
I may not be the best at planning, but by understanding the errors I make it might help you avoid them yourself.
Training after the off season is disconcerting. There's a gulf between my current fitness and my goals, the work needed to get there seems insurmountable. How will I run 6:50 miles in July when 7:20 feels so hard now? I know with training my times will fall, but the further my target the more work required.
Driven by doubt I'll attempt to reach my target fitness as soon as possible. I'll aim to be ready by March rather than building through to July, attempting to compress the effects of six months training into two. It never works. I'll need a break before racing has even begun and I'll not achieve the level of fitness a more patient approach delivers.
There's a lot of time before I need to be at peak fitness; best to use it.
Individually I'm not rushing my training, but I'm overloading myself by attempting to achieve so much at the same time. In short, manageable bursts this might work -- extended periods build fatigue and lead to protracted recovery. When I want to push it's best to focus on one area. High run volume? Time to cut back the cycling and swimming. Once again patience is needed.
Sometimes I need to hold back in one area to progress in another; I can't achieve everything.
A small, local event might cost a day's training; with travel, tapering and recovery a race could cause me to lose weeks. Fitness takes time and consistency. Every time I race I interrupt that process. I'll get fitter, but will I reach my best? Entering a race is easy, adding into my season plan in a way that enhances my goals is more challenging.
I can't enter every race and expect to always perform my best.
Once I have the plan in place I have to commit to it along with everything that entails. That means completing each training sessions, not looking to postpone them to later in the day or worse week. It also means behaving in ways that support the training: managing my time, eating well, sleeping and recovering properly. It will take a few weeks and it won't be easy, but once I'm through the transition I can make real steps towards my goals.
I may need to be patient, but I also need to train. Once the season starts, the season starts. There are no delays.
As my goals have risen the training has tended to become more clinical. Too much of my time is concerned with target paces, power or heart rate and not enough with the world around me. It's a recent development that I'm keen to combat before it drains the fun from training. I need to get the balance right so that whilst I improve as an athlete I don't suffer from burn out.
I want to be fitter and faster, but I also want to be training and racing into old age. It's not just about setting PRs.
I recommend that you think about your own common training and planning errors. By understanding past mistakes and recognizing early if you start doing them again, you can avoid any extended derailments that can keep you from achieving your goals.