• Coaches Corner: Designing the Perfect Training Plan

    by  • November 26, 2013 • trainin and tactics

    NathanAbout Coach Nate Dunn: Nate Dunn has always been passionate about understanding human performance.  What started as a fascination with heart rate monitors in high school led to the completion of his Masters Degree in Kinesiology/Exercise Science from CSUS and the founding of his cycling coaching business Data Driven Athlete.  He can typically be found reading exercise physiology research, talking excitedly about athletic performance with clients, or backpacking around the NorCal wilderness with his wife and young daughter.

    November is a great time to begin sketching out a master plan for the upcoming season.  We’re a few months removed from the intensity of the road season but quickly approaching the New Year.  Whether your goals include competing at nationals or completing your first century, taking an objective look at the calendar and creating a road map for 2014 is the first place to start.  In this post I’ll give a rationale for creating an annual training plan, explore the basic concept of training periodization, and give 3 tips to aid in the process of constructing a successful plan.

    The process of creating an annual training plan is about making connections between your long-term athletic goals and your day-to-day behavior.  It’s an opportunity to take an objective look at how the choices you make on a daily basis contribute to your long-term goals.  Waking up at 5AM to sit on the indoor trainer becomes an easier task when you’re able to connect that effort to standing atop the imaginary podium at Snelling or surviving another Death Ride. While there are several different approaches to sketching out an annual training plan, the most commonly used ones are centered on the concept of training periodization.

    Put simply, training periodization is rooted in the belief that “various fitness attributes are best developed in a sequential hierarchy…” [1].  Originating in the former USSR [2], a periodized approach generally follows a high volume/low intensity to high intensity/low volume progression. While many cycling resources espouse this approach [3-5], it’s important to note that periodization is a conceptual framework operating on several assumptions that have yet to be born out in science [1].  With this in mind, here are 3 tips for constructing a great plan for the upcoming season.

    1. Real not ideal
    Start planning your season by first acknowledging what is real for your specific situation.  The quicker you can distance yourself from the “ideal” training plan of a pro, the better.  The shape of your plan will differ greatly if you have 8 hours a week to train as opposed to 25.  Map out how much time you realistically have each week.  The more honest you are in in addressing the reality of your situation, the more productive and successful you’ll be in constructing a great plan.

    2. Measurable goals
    Building off your realistic training time and your past experience, come up with a handful of measurable and specific goals.  These goals can be either performance or training related but you should work hard to make them as specific and objective as possible.  A Velo Promo t-shirt or 340w for 20 minutes by April 1 are great examples.

    3. Use data to shape and revise your plan
    Successful training plans have built-in flexibility.  Whether you monitor your progress using Strava or a laboratory blood lactate test, use whatever feedback you have to adapt and evolve as the season progresses.  Don’t be afraid to mix things up if your training and performance are stagnating.

    Nate Dunn M.S.
    Data Driven Athlete


    1.  Kiely, J., Periodization paradigms in the 21st century: evidence-led or tradition-driven? Int J Sports Physiol Perform, 2012. 7(3): p. 242-50.
    2. Matveev, L.P., Fundamentals of sports training. 1981, Moscow: Progress Publishers. 309 p.
    3. Allen, H. and A. Coggan, Training and racing with a power meter. 2nd ed. 2010, Boulder, Colo.: VeloPress. xviii, 326 p.
    4. Barry, D.D., M. Barry, and S. Sovndal, Fitness Cycling. 2006, Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
    5. Friel, J., The Cyclist’s Training Bible. 4th ed. 2009, Boulder, CO: VeloPress.




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