Developing Your Annual Training Plan
For cyclists in the Northern Hemisphere, November marks that time of year when the cycling season is coming to a close and you should be getting some rest in preparation for your off-season training regimen. So it's the perfect time for you to develop an annual training plan. To develop your training plan, you need to take two basic steps:
Firstly develop SMART Goals – These are your objectives for the upcoming season that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. Your goals should embody what you most want to accomplish as a cyclist. SMART goal development includes two steps: evaluating your performance from the season that just ended, and identifying objectives based on this evaluation. Hopefully you have kept a weekly training record describing the performance metrics of each of your workouts. This will provide you with a first-hand look at how a training program progresses week-after-week and month-after-month.
Secondly create a Periodised Training Program – The training program describes the specific steps you will take to achieve your SMART goals. As you start drafting your training program, it is important to understand the structure upon which periodised training programs are built. This structure includes the three cycles: macrocycles, mesocycles and microcycles.
The macrocycle consists of all 52 weeks of your annual plan and therefore includes all four stages of a periodised training program (endurance, intensity, competition and recovery). Because of its length, you will almost certainly make changes to it throughout the year. Think of the macrocycle as a “birds-eye” view of your annual training plan.
The mesocycle represents a specific block of training that is designed to accomplish a particular goal. For example, during the endurance phase, you might develop a mesocycle that is specifically designed to enhance your muscular endurance (the ability to pedal relatively big gears at a moderate cadence). This mesocycle might consist of 3 weeks of strength training and big gear spinning, and one week of recovery. Mesocycles are typically 3 to 4 weeks in length but can be a bit longer. Two very common mesocycles are 21 and 28-day training blocks.
A microcycle is the shortest training cycle, typically consisting of a single week or two with the goal of facilitating a focused block of training. An example of this is an endurance block where a cyclist strings three or four long rides together within one week to progressively overload training volume (with the objective of improving aerobic endurance). Generally speaking, two or three microcycles are tied together to create a mesocycle.
Depending on the time of the year, the various cycles will make up part of 4 phases: endurance, intensity, competition and recovery.
The endurance phase will last from 12 to 16 weeks and is designed to enhance your aerobic and muscular endurance.
The intensity phase, which also lasts from 12 to 16 weeks, is just what it sounds like, intense! The purpose of this phase is to enhance your lactate threshold and aerobic capacity (VO2max) in advance of the third stage the competition phase.
The competition phase, whatever your cycling goals may be, you want to be ready to achieve them during this crucial phase, which will last for months.
The recovery phase, finally this is your chance to rest and recuperate after all the hard work you have done during the first three phases. The recovery phase lasts for 2 to 4 weeks, for most this will be some time during October or November.