Whether you are a beginner athlete looking to first dip your toes into endurance sports with your first 5k run or sprint triathlon, or if you are a seasoned athlete looking for a year of PRs and podiums, there’s one thing that is most common among us all; and that’s the annual training calendar!
Also known as Annual Training Plan, or ATP, it’s the schedule of events you plan on competing in during the course of the year. Even if your goal is only to complete in one race this year, you should still complete an ATP. This plan, will allow you to properly schedule your training load and periodization, allowing you to focus your training on the demands of your race, continuously build up your strength and endurance, and ultimately be prepared for your big race day!
There are many ways to build an ATP. You can easily use a spreadsheet, outlook or Google Calendar, or more sophisticated software like TrainingPeaks. I’ve written previously on using TrainingPeaks to manage the calendar as that’s something I use for myself and my athletes.
This article however, is more about how to you even get started. I wanted to write this article and share it on Trifind.com, as this is pretty much the first place I go whenever I go to build an ATP! I thought it was pretty appropriate to share it on this site as it really is a good resource to get started, find which races you are looking for in the year, and sign up and commit to your goals!
Here are a few steps to get you started on your annual training plan:
-> Figure out which tool you are going to use, either a spreadsheet, piece of paper, online calendar or performance software such as trainingpeaks. Whatever it is, make sure you write it down somewhere so you can hold yourself accountable!
-> Write down any major dates in your calendar, such as any vacation trips, work related travel, etc. that may interfere with your training.
-> Figure out how many hours you have to devote to training each day and each week, and write it in. This doesn’t include all the additional time such as stretching, foam rolling, extra showers, etc. Just active training time, so keep that in mind, and be realistic given your personal and professional commitments so you don’t overdo it!
-> Look up what your race(s) are for the year – use TriFind.com! Search for what events you want to go, register, and write down your races in your calendar.
-> Categorize your races. Most use the A,B,C categories, meaning A races are your top races for the year, B race are those that you want to be good at, but not at 100% and C races are fun races you want to do but train thru. Aim for 1 – 3 A races, with at least 6 weeks separating them. This, to allow for the most benefit from training and recovery.
-> Once your races are in, work backwards. The week prior to your race should be lower volume to allow to recover, known as the taper week. Sometimes depending on training load and fitness the 2 weeks before can be taper. But for most people one week is enough.
-> Slowly build in the rest of your training plan working backwards. I like to use the 3 – 1 method, where 3 weeks you are building in fitness – for example, 6 hours, 8 hours and 10 hour weeks – followed by 1 easy week of recovery for 4- 6 hours; before repeating the 3-1 cycle. It tends to work well for athletes to build fitness, and not completely burn out. For fitter athletes, 4 – 1 is also a good option.
-> Have fun and race! Once your schedule is done, then you can get into the nitty gritty of the details of each training day and week. There are numerous articles and places of inspiration for this, or, work with a coach! A coach would be able to create these details along with your ATP. If you prefer to go at it alone, that’s great as well! I offer a $20 for 20 minute coaching consultation for self-coached athletes. Just to bounce ideas off and to help guide them on their ATP or training schedules so that’s a great affordable resource as well.
But most of all, enjoy the training and the racing! The endurance lifestyle and community is great. You’ll meet great friends, have fun in the competition and strive to get on those podiums or set personal records. It’s a lifestyle I’ve been a part of for 20 years and continue to enjoy it every day!