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Toolbox: Annual Periodized Planning Part 1

It has been said, “If you fail to plan, you may as well plan to fail.” If you want to get the most out of your training program, you need a plan. Jumping on your bike and riding at random will help for a short time, but without a plan, you’ll eventually plateau out and fail to make gains.


In endurance sports, periodized planning is the most frequently followed format. Periodization is a system of training used to improve peak results, prevent overtraining, and reduce the risk of injury by progressing slowly from one phase to the next. There are three different forms of periodization training: linear, reverse linear, and undulating. Each system has its benefits, but we will focus on linear periodized training throughout this article series.

To get the most out of your plan, you need to develop and follow a solid process. I break mine down into two phases and six steps.

Phase 1 is plan prep:

1. Set a goal.
2. Complete your diagnosis.
3. Develop your needs analysis.

Phase 2 is creating the plan:

4. Create the periodized plan.
5. Implement workouts.
6. Track and tweak results.

So let’s get started!

Trainingstage Milram 2006
Sure the Euro season just ended with Paris-Tours, but the planning for 2016 is already underway for the pros.

Step 1: Set a goal
All goal setting begins with a specific objective (what?) and a deadline (when?). This makes the goal specific, measurable, and time bound, typically focused on success in an event or series of events. This is usually the easy part, but just setting a general goal typically leads to general results. Here are a few tips to improve your goal setting to build an annual periodized plan.

1. Set training goals as well as performance goals. Most endurance athletes plan a goal around an event, such as a state championship or big triathlon. This is a great way to be specific, but now you need some training goals. Training goals are a series of milestones to increase the odds of success in your goal event. Milestones can be things like monthly mileage totals, increasing power test, or just the number of workouts you complete. For example, if you plan to improve your sprint finish, a training goal might be to add two days of sprint training per month. Choose a series of smaller, incremental goals and activities that will help lead to success in your target goal event.

2. Use only positive goals. Too many times I see goals like “don’t miss more than ten riding days” or “don’t let power drop below 300 watts.” Turn it around. Force your thinking into a positive approach to motivate you to success.

3. Write down your goal and post it somewhere you can read it often. This is simple but effective reinforcement. The bathroom or the fridge doors work great, or on your bike stand or storage.

Step 2: Complete your diagnosis
At the core of all successful periodized plans is a process of diagnosis. This process is often ignored or treated too lightly, but it is crucial. Diagnosis should occur as a simple two-part paradigm as follows:

1. The ability of the rider. Begin by understanding your ability. For my athletes, I use a power profile test or historical power profile review to understand their strengths, weaknesses, and limiters. An excellent resource for this is the power profile chart by Dr. Andrew Coggan found on TrainingPeaks.com and in WKO4 that compares your power over a range of times. The key here is to look at the shape of the profile, which reveals where an athlete is stronger or weaker against others. This increases our base understanding of the rider.

You’ll also want to understand your psychological abilities. Do you struggle with race anxiety? Do you take a mentally tough approach toward training?



Classic TrainingPeaks.com power profile on the top figure with lines added to show the shape of the profile compared to WKO4’s strengths and limiters chart (bottom figure). Each clearly show the rider’s profile, strengths, and weaknesses.

You also need to do a deep review of your historical training and performance to develop a clear understanding of historical training load frequency, intensity, and resting patterns.

2. Demands of the event. Now that you know yourself as a rider, you need to understand the demands of the event, both general and specific. General features could be total duration, general terrain, unique challenges, and more. Specific demands are based on the course and how the event plays out. If the target event is completing a gran fondo with four long climbs, you need to train your ability to sustain and repeat long steady power efforts. If the event is a crit, you need to push FTP, anaerobic capacity, and repeatability.

Bring the diagnosis together by looking at all facets of your review.

Step 3: Develop your needs analysis
Now that you’ve completed your diagnosis, the next step is crucial: write it down and create a needs analysis, along with a prescription to the diagnosis. This connects your performance needs to your training needs. For example, if you are focused on a gran fondo with four large climbs but your power profile suggests this is not a strength, you need to do more work on threshold and steady-state climbing; your need is to increase threshold and ability to steady-state climb and repeat. To make this a training goal, think deeper: add one or two long steady climb workouts at sub-threshold/threshold to improve performance on multiple climbs. This is a way to think out what you want to do in advance of writing your plan.

These three steps make up the plan preparation phase of annual periodized planning. Next time we’ll take a look at reviewing, creating, and implementing the plan based on what we’ve learned so far. Stay tuned!

About Tim Cusick
Tim Cusick is a USA Cycling Coach and Master Coach with Peaks Coaching Group. Tim has been coaching for over 10 years, focusing on training and racing with power data. You can reach Tim for comments at [email protected] , and check out Tim and the entire Peaks Coaching Group for more information on coaching services, camps, and products.

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