In the second installment of coach Tom’s blog series on using the FSA Coaching principles to train for the Ironman 70.3 NZ in March, we look at season planning, build up races and structuring the training year.
In the first blogpost in this series, I talked about the 5 principles of the FSA Coaching method.
Those 5 principles, nice and simply, are (in no particular order):
- Training should be fun and purposeful;
- Athletes should understand their goals and the path to achieving them;
- Make the most of your time through intelligent and targeted training;
- Train to race through race simulation; and (most importantly)
- Enjoy the process!
In this post, I’ll talk a bit about how we use the purposeful training and race simulation parts of those principles to plan a training and racing season. As with any season, this year I’ve got major goal races, some other races that I fancy doing, small local races that would probably be fun and heaps of other commitments and plans that everything needs to fit around. This is where season planning comes in. Season planning is important to ensure our training and racing is optimised, to make sure our triathlon lives are realistic and compatible with the rest of our lives, and to ensure we know where we’re going with the season ahead.
I always use the Annual Training Plan (ATP) function in TrainingPeaks to plan out a season. It’s an awesome tool for scheduling races, building a season and focusing on individual weekly training needs for a fully-periodised plan.
With the ATP function, you plug in your A (major goal), B (important build up) and C (just for fun) races, work out want shape you want to be in for your A races, and work backwards from there.
Once you’ve got your ATP nailed, you have a roadmap to your goal race. Each week in the ATP has the areas to focus on clearly set out. You can then start developing and planning the individual weeks to help you on the way. Having this ‘line-of-sight’ from the run session your about to do this morning to your goal race 6 months down the line is the ultimate in understanding your training and making sure it is purposeful and targeted.
Training to race by racing to train
The second part of this blogpost about season planning focuses on the value of lots of racing in the build up to your goal race. Build up races serve a whole heap of purposes:
- Check your current fitness levels in a fun, competitive environment – let’s face it: smashing out a fast aquathlon is waaaay more fun than doing an FTP test in your basement…
- Practice race nutrition through trial and error – you’ve all heard “nothing new on race day” before, but that doesn’t stretch to C-priority build up races. These are exactly the time to try something new and dial in your race nutrition through trial and error.
- Minimise the anxiety and nerves through experience and practice – anything that reduces the fear and anxiety of a big race through familiarity and experience will help you stay focused, level-headed and confident when the goal race comes around. For many, this will be getting more open-water swim experience in a crowded, race-like environment. But it could equally be practicing transitions, running off the bike and anything else.
- Have some fun with your mates – Racing short, inconsequential events is fun. Nuff said.
Too often, I’ve seen Ironman athletes line up on race day having done 1, maybe 2, half in the build-up, almost paralysed by the fear of what’s ahead. Don’t be that guy/girl. Race often, race for fun, race for experience and you will feel more confident, more relaxed and more ready to take on whatever the day is about to throw at you as a result. I guarantee it.
My own approach
So what does this all mean for my own build up to Ironman 70.3 NZ in March? Well, I’ve dialed in my ATP and I know exactly what I need to do in each training block, each week and each session; I’ll use each session for the specific purpose it has been designed towards the goal race; and I’ll be racing often (Rotorua Quarter Ironman, Kinloch Triathlon, as many of the Wellington SplashandDash events as possible, heaps of 5ks and Parkruns) and not worrying too much about the outcome of those races.
In the next blogpost, I’ll look at the need for training to be intelligent and targeted. For many age-group athletes, this means making the most of the time and the tools available to you. You might call it getting the most bang for your buck.
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