In general, every endurance athlete has goals that he or she would like to accomplish each year. Some people set their sights too low, some set them too high. It’s tough to set them just right. To help, here are six of the most important aspects of setting your goals and developing a plan to achieve them.
After sitting down and determining in which races you are going to compete, you have to determine the relative priority of each race (A, B and C). “A” races are the races at which you want to have the absolute best day—i.e., set a new PR. “B” races are the ones that you would like to do well in, but are not as important as the “A” races. “C” races are generally considered to be training days. Each athlete must decide for him/herself which races are important and why. After assigning priorities, the key is to predict your times.
In order to plan your physical preparation (that is, your training plan), you have to make an honest assessment of your current physical fitness. Once you have identified your current physical abilities, it is highly recommended that you use the periodization theory of developing your training plan throughout the year. Take advantage of a preparatory phase, base phase, build phase and peak/race phase.
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Testing And Benchmarks
Throughout the year, your training plan should have testing built in so you are able to assess your level of fitness and compare it to earlier results to judge the effectiveness of your training. Another aspect of endurance sports that needs to be tested is nutrition. As the distance of the event increases, the importance of nutrition increases, too. Each athlete has different tastes and tolerances for different brands of nutrition. Taste and tolerance need to be tested and understood in training.
The technical side of the picture involves selecting the right equipment, making sure your biomechanics are not hindering what you are trying to accomplish, making sure you are in a good aerodynamic position on the bike and finding an efficient stride, to name a few. Nutrition also fits into the technical preparation, as knowing how many calories and liters of liquid you will require becomes more and more important as the distance of the race increases.
Making sure that your mental skills are where they need to be on race day is the goal of psychological preparation. First, you have to have a serious conversation with yourself to identify your mental strengths and weaknesses. What will happen on race day if your legs just don’t feel great? How is that going to effect your race? What if you end up with a flat tire halfway through the bike portion? These are questions that need answers prior to race day.
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Tactical preparation includes: pre-running the race course, having a solid race plan, performing pre-race activities such as stretching and warming up, making equipment choices, looking at the weather forecast and knowing the current course conditions. Taking all of this information into consideration equals tactical preparation that will set you up for success.
If you can put all six of these pieces of the puzzle together, be prepared for new PRs later this year.
Ryan Riell is a USA Triathlon and USA Cycling certified coach and the founder and head coach of BreakThrough Multisport, Inc.