All great performances start with a good plan. If you want a good performance, you need a good plan. Of course this does not only in apply in sport. From this article I hope you think about what training you do, why you do it, and either be sure in your mind that what you are doing is correct, or plan some changes!

Setting goals.

The first step is to set a few goals. Usually you have one race in a season that you really want to do well in – that is your Primary goal. You may have a few other races that you also want to compete well in, but those are secondary goals. The primary goal is what you are focused on and the secondary goals are usually stepping stones to the primary goal. When you set goals, they should be based on things you are in control of. For example, “10:30 in Ironman in reasonable conditions”, is better than “top5 in my age group” – as you cannot control the performances of others! You may also want to set a number of training goals throughout a build up. These may be quite simple, such as “to consistently run 4 times per week”, or “to have run at least 2hrs by June 30”.

Your goals need to be both challenging and achievable. The more challenging the goal, the more rewarding the success is when you achieve that goal. However, if you set a very difficult goal (perhaps unrealistic and/or unachievable), you will be somewhat demoralised if you fall well short of achieving that goal. Thus your goals need to be realistic. If you have done a 12 hour Ironman, an 11 hour to 11:30 Ironman may be quite achievable, however 8:10 maybe somewhat unrealistic for next years event (It maybe achievable in the future – probably not this coming year though!).


The next step is to analyse where you are now. How fit are you, how much training can you cope with (what is your “training age”), what are your strengths and weaknesses, and what is preventing you achieving your goals at present? What resources do you have at your disposal? You can look at your “fitness” in each discipline and break it down into components. These may include your: · Endurance. · Strength. · Lactate threshold. · Anaerobic capacity. · Technique. · Speed.

It may well be that you can achieve what you want – but you don’t have the resources to reach your goal at present (eg the time to train!!!). So you may need to re-adjust your goals.

If you take a good look at your past performances, particularly your big races from last season. Compare these to what you believe your potentials are, in each discipline, and overall. There are usually a few areas where a little extra effort will reap far more rewards than the same effort in other areas. For example, if you are a good swimmer and a poor runner, spending another 2 hours per week swimming may make you 15-20 seconds faster, whereas the same amount of extra effort added to your run training may reap several minutes improvement. This maybe somewhat different if you race tactically. Swimming 15-20 seconds faster may mean you get in a better “group” on the bike, and can go faster with less effort – potentially resulting in far more gains than the swim performance alone. You need to look at the big picture as well as each little piece.

Setting up the plan.

From the analysis you may have come up with a number of conclusions, particularly when looking at what is stopping you achieving your goals at present. You may need to work on your weak discipline, your running, your nutrition, lose weight, train more (or less!), or a combination of a number of items. This is where an independent person, such as a coach can be valuable. They can look objectively at your analysis and conclusions. They may also be good to bounce your ideas off, or have a few different ideas for you to think about.

There are many different types of training available to the athlete. Within each type of training, various parameters can also be altered (duration, intensity, technique etc). There are different phases in a build up to consider as well. These include; the base, specific preparation, and taper/racing phases. Training within each of these phases should have different objectives. Initially you will be concentrating on improving your endurance and technique, and in the later phases you can concentrate on strength and speed. If you and/or your coach sit down and work out what you want to achieve at each step along the way, and compare that to your present status, planning an effective training schedule becomes little easier and much more purposeful.

As everyone is different, a training program needs to be individualised – it is generally not a good idea to copy someone else’s program (unless they have the same goals, same strengths and weaknesses, same training history, etc). As I said previously, there are many type of training, and how these are effectively put together is part science and part art. As a result, there are many different opinions on what constitutes a good training program! Many articles and books have been written of various training programs and ideas. I certainly do not have space to begin giving any details here! I will say however, that if you think about what you are trying to achieve, the training that you need to do is a little more obvious.

Training is fairly specific. If you run, you get better at running. If you swim, you get better at swimming and so on. There is some cross over between sports (ie cross training benefit), and other activities such as weight training can also help. Specificity also applies to the types of training you do. If you do sprint training – you get better at sprinting, and endurance training results in improved endurance. From your analysis, you should have an idea of what you need to concentrate your efforts on (both the discipline and the type of training).

The most common training error is if a little is good, a lot is better. The body can only adapt to so much, after which it breaks down! It is no good writing a world champion training program if you are a beginner. The training load needs to be incremental, and allow the body to adapt (that is what you are trying to achieve with the training!).

At the end of the day, if you have done your homework properly, you (and/or your coach) should have a plan that you are extremely confident in. If you are not confident in your plan – why not? If you have faith in your plan, you are more likely to be committed to following it through (ie. doing the training!). I hope this has given you at least some food for thought.