Preparation: Creating My Cycling Training Plan

In my last article in this Creating My Training Plan series, I went over the reasons why I decided structured training and having a well thoughtout plan is so important, so if you have not read that yet, or are still a little unsure as to weather you need to get structured and actually have a plan then I encourage you to quickly take a look over it before continuing.

About / Disclaimer blaa, blaaa

Receiving Coaching Instructions from Steve Draver a few days before the start of the Team Time Trial at the 1991 Junior World Cycling Championships
Receiving Coaching Instructions from Steve Draver a few days before the start of the Team Time Trial at the 1991 Junior World Cycling Championships
In this article I go over step by step what I did and the thought processes that I went through as I created my cycling training plan for the forthcoming season.

The info on this page is compiled from a whole bunch of sources, including coaches, online articles, coaching manuals and even cycling podcasts that I have worked with, used, read and listened to over all the years that I have been cycling. These include my mentor and coach as a junior cyclist, Steve Draver who I owe so much, Joe Friel’s training bible, Training Peaks, TrainerRoad and many more.

Please note: I don’t profess to be a coach, nor do I have any cycling qualifications, but decided to publish it partly to clarify my own thought processes, but also because I thought that it may be of use to other self coached cyclists out there who may be looking to get serious and create a structured training plan for themselves.

Considerations & Preparation

Super Important – Don’t Skim or Skip this Part!
Now I know this part may be boring to some and it is tempting to skim over this planning section because like me you probably want to get right into the part of creating beautiful spreadsheets and charts, but I strongly recommend against it. I say this because if you are going to create a successful training plan that you totally and truly believe in, the foundations have to be rock solid.

Just consider this: When the going gets really tough (say mid January) when the weather outside is terrible, your family members are tucked up in front of the TV and the last thing you feel like doing is getting on the turbo to do a series of killer over under intervals… just because your plan says you must.! It is at the many moments like these that your really cannot have even the tiniest fraction of doubt about your plan and it’s ability to make you a better, faster and stronger cyclist. You simply have to know and truly believe that the training plan that you created for yourself is working and will continue to work, taking you forward towards your goals… just so long as you follow what it says… and in order for this to be true, you have to have been really serious in it’s creation.

Initial Planning

Below are the first steps or points I considered when I began creating my Overall Cycling Training Plan. Note: whilst I have placed them in an ordered list so as to make them easier to read, they really need to be looked at all together as a whole and not in a particular order. Indeed there were many times that I went back and forwards and then back again before I was finished. This is because some parts require other parts and then I discovered that I needed to go back and adjust this and change that and then… (well you get the idea!). The main point is to understand each section and then to take your time and slowly build up your plan.

  1. Create Goals
  2. Select Events
  3. Establish an Overall Training Game Plan (Depending on Your Ability, Events & Goals)
  4. Create Training Targets

1 – Create Goals

Remember the main purpose of creating your training plan is to help you better achieve your goals. Goals also work the other way around in that they help you to focus on and keep up with your training. So this is probably the most important step of all and so I feel that it is very important to spend a good amount of time really looking into yourself and thinking about it.

Good Goals Are:

I have been coached, followed a number of plans and read more than a few coaching books over the years and as such I have the following notes scribbled down which I took from somewhere, but not sure where, so I can’t credit for sure (I think Joe Friel) where I got them from, but I found the following really helpful when trying to properly define my season’s goals:

Each goal must contain each these elements within them:

1. Realistic
I felt that it was important that my goals were not too easy to achieve as this would make training really hard for them almost pointless, but at the same time they needed to be realistic.

Such stuff as dreams are made on – So even though I still dream of turning pro and duking it out with Philippe Gilbert, Michael Mathews and Michał Kwiatkowski on the Cauberg in Amstel Gold Race, this is most certainly not a realistic goal for me .. and least not for the next season anyway ;-)

Cycling Dreams, Not Goals!

Deep down you will know what goal is challenging but at the same time realistic and whilst they should be really hard, you must still be able to possibly achieve it/them.

2. Specific – The more specific you can be with your goal setting the better
3. Actionable – There must be something you need to do in order to achieve it
4. Measurable – Helps with creating milestones (see below) and evaluating success
5. Time Based – Have a timeframe or deadline for your goal(s), this will make it a point in time that get’s closer and closer giving you something to aim for

So putting all these elements above together, below is some Examples of Good Goals:

  • Be in the Final Mix for a Shot of Victory at ‘X’ Race (specific) I will achieve this by losing weight and increasing my 5 second, 1 minute, 5 minute and functional threshold powers (Actionable) to these values: x, y z watts/kg (measurable) and the race is on ‘this particular’ date (time based)
  • Go Under the Hour for a 40km Time Trial (specific) by increasing my threshold power (Actionable) to x watts/kg (measurable) by the start of my first A Priority Event (time based)
  • Complete my first Century Ride (specific) by increasing my endurance (Actionable) and riding 100km (measurable) for the event on X date (time based)


Then you need to think and be honest with yourself and ask the question if this goal that you have just constructed is Realistic, if the answer is yes, then you have your goal!

2 – Select Events

This one is pretty much self explanatory and for me and I guess for most people will be very closely related and probably intertwined with your goal(s).

What I do here is lay out my season on a calendar spreadsheet and mark off the event(s) I plan to compete in. If you are like me, you may have a whole season of events with races almost every weekend and so here it is important to designate each event a level of priority depending on how important they are to you and what kind of form you want to take into them. Obviously if your goal(s) are a particular event, these will be designated as being an A level priority event:

Priority

  • A: 1 – 3 per season – these drive section 4 (Your Training Game Plan) – remember the less peaks that you have in a season, the higher that peak can be, so it is important not to have too many A Priority events
  • B: 4 – 8 per season, are not the main focus, but are events you want to do well. Whilst they may not drive your training plan, they will form an important part of it
  • C: These must be considered part of your training

3 – Overall Training Game Plan

This part of the planning preparation process can seem a little daunting and it took me a good length of time to complete because as you will see, I had a lot to consider and do until I was able to properly establish the type of training or your strategy that I was going to employ in my plan:

Firstly it is important to keep in mind a couple of points during this process: Your current ability (how fit are you) your overall or potential abilities (strengths & weaknesses/limiters) and the type or main demands of the event(s) that you want to excel in (taken from your goal(s)).

  • Current Fitness
  • Requirements of the Goal
  • Your Strengths, Weaknesses and limiters

Get a General Idea
To start with I needed a general idea of where I was at (in terms of fitness) and what I was trying to achieve. So for example if my goal was to win the 40km National Time Trial, the type of training will have been very different to if my plan was to win the Summer Criterium Series.

Then within this general idea of the requirements of the goal, I needed to consider my strengths and weaknesses (or my limiters) and the point of fitness at which I was starting at. So once again if my strength was say for example a really high maximum power and a good sprint (I wish!) and my goal was to win a specific race, but my limiter was perhaps problems in maintaining my threshold over long periods, it is something that I would need to work on in my training as it is no good being the best sprinter in the race if you can’t get to the finish with the front group.

So after taking time to consider and then write down my thoughts on the three points above, I now had a good general idea of what type of training I required and where I really wanted to improve based on my gut feelings, past knowledge of myself and the nature of the type of racing and courses that I was aiming for in my goals. However if possible (if you have a power meter) it is preferable to get much more specific and precise than this:

Create a Power Profile

powerprofileProperly establishing and being really specific regarding your actual strengths and weaknesses is important as I have read that many people incorrectly assume that they are weak or strong in an area, when it is another reason for this perceived strength/weakness.

So whilst I know that I can’t sprint to save my life, I really needed to delve deeper and take the steps required in creating a Power Profile Chart of myself (only possible if you train with power).

Basically once completed this chart plots the maximum amount of power that you can put out over a range of times, then once completed you have a far better understanding of where you currently stand and where your relative strengths and weaknesses currently lie and thus be able to work on them specifically by incorporating complimentary workouts within your plan.

Remember this profiling will also work as a benchmark and is something that you can and should repeat in the coming months as it also makes for a great way for you to track your progress in a range of different areas. I was also going to use it as part of measuring my Goals and Milestones (see above).

For more details on power profiling: Training Peaks have a great article on Power Profiling that I really suggest you take some time to go through and then take a look at the video below presented by Daniel Lloyd from GCN that demonstrates how you can go about profiling yourself, although for accuracy, I do these tests indoors on a turbo trainer, but the idea is the same:

Benefits vs Drawbacks
Also well worth keeping in mind as you start putting together your general Training Game Plan Strategy is weighing up the potential drawbacks to following your intended course of action and establishing if they are worthwhile :

So in my case, I now had a good idea that by following my intended training strategy of improving my all-round ability would involve spending more time than I usually would focusing on increasing my short and very short duration power outputs. This would also mean that I would be spending less training time than I had in the past on longer more sustained efforts.

The benefits of this strategy would include hopefully a better sprint and the ability to react to and then recover from the many short sharp efforts required criteriums and circuit races. Whilst at the same time I knew that my ability in taking on longer climbs and going away in long breakaways where a more measured and constant power output is required would probably diminish.

benefits vs drawbacks

So for me, I thought that this Training Game Plan Strategy was worthwhile as the events that I was targeting in my goal(s) require a high level of these abilities and thus if I were to improve them, I would have a better chance of success.

So perhaps another examples would be someone targeting a longer Time Trial or a sprinter who struggles to keep up with the pack on longer climbs, here perhaps they would be focusing a lot (the time trialist) or a little more (sprinter) on their training of longer more sustained efforts. The main drawback to this would be a slight reduction in their ability to react to short, sharp efforts and sprinting. This may seem like a bad idea for a sprinter, but remember you still need to be with the front group at the end in order to use that sprint. So overall it may be a worthwhile Training Game Plan Strategy for that person.

Skeleton

So whilst still very basic, the main skeleton or framework of my Training Game Plan was starting to take a little shape. Also worth noting is that I found it really helped me focus and rethink my goals and the course of action required by actually writing it all down… well actually typing it into a spreadsheet!

Training Game Plan Strategy

4 – Training Targets

As well as establishing my main goal(s), I felt that it was really important for me to create a number of targets along the way that I could aim for as they help in a number of ways:

  1. Rather than having a very long seemingly never ending and sometimes slow march towards your first goal, training targets break down the training into manageable smaller steps
  2. These Targets will help me establish if my training is on track and working. If I achieved them, great. If not, it is time to re-evaluate and adjust the plan before it’s too late
  3. Can be motivational – Confidence boost if you achieve them, or add focus if you start to miss them

These Training Targets can and will vary depending on your goals and what equipment you are using, but most importantly they must be Measurable so that you can establish conclusively if you are on track with your main goal(s) which you remember should also be measurable:

Distance/Duration
These targets can be related to your training distances or durations, so for example if your goal was to complete a century ride in July. Then perhaps you may have the milestone of completing a 50km training ride in April.

Weight
Perhaps your training target is weight related – so if your goal is to lose X amount of weight by a certain date, then perhaps you would have a number of weight targets to achieve before then to establish if you are on track.

Pace
Pace is another method, probably best used for track cyclists or perhaps time trialists as you need to be careful with conditions and the course when outdoors. But lets say that your goal was to go under 1 hour for a specific 40km TT and your current best was 1h05:min on the same course, you may create a target to get to 1h03min at a certain date before then. Or perhaps you would track your pace over a shorter distance than the goal event knowing that the ‘buzz’ you get from race day will carry your through the extra distance.

Power
For me and my particular goals, my main training targets were going to be based on weight and my power outputs, which I felt were far more accurately measurable and more specific to my actual goals. So for my training targets, I wanted to be able to achieve a certain power output in a range of times (5 second, 1 minute, 5 minute and 20 minute (ftp)) that would work me up towards my final goals.

As you can see this choice of target durations was not random as they directly relate to my Power Profiling that I did in order to establish my traits and which helped me work on my specific training requirements.

Adding Some Meat to the Bones

By adding targets to my overall game plan it also helped me fill it out a little more and become a little more specific as to the actual type of training that I was going to focus on above all the normal stuff. What is more, by adding the targets and the target actions, it suddenly made the process of coming up with a plan for the whole season a little less daunting. So not only do targets help make the training lass overwhelming and daunting, but they have the same effect when creating the plan – genius!

Note whilst the numbers and dates are hypothetical and for demonstration purposes and only includes one main goal, by now the structure of my Training Game Plan was starting to look a little like this (click for full size image):

Training Game Plan

Right that is is regarding the first initial steps I took when putting together my seasons training plan.

In the next section we get to the more fun parts of actually filling out the plan, adding periodisation and then finally a quick re-evaluation that allows us to adjust our goals and the plan incase we have missed anything:

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