How to Get Off to a Running Start With a New Coach, New Plan or New Season.
I created this quick start guide as a resource for myself and to share with clients. I thought I’d share it since it might have some value for a self coached athlete looking to plan a season or begin structured training. It’s not 100% comprehensive, but it covers many of the important issues related to getting started. Each of these steps deserves a blog post of their own, but they are covered briefly here.
Here are 8 key steps to getting started with a new coach, new plan or new season:
- Evaluation.We have a conversation to determine (a) where you are at right now in terms of your fitness, your strengths and weaknesses, and what training training load you can absorb right now; (b) what your goals are; and (c) what you willing and able to do in terms of workouts and training. We’ll also look at your previous training and evaluate what worked or did not work.
- Big Picture Planning. Next we map out a season (or multi season) plan to get from point a to point b, within the confines of c. There are many paths that can have you fit and ready to go on race day, but a good plan will have to address: (1) making sure you have an effective strategy to address your weaknesses; (2) being sure to be ready to hit it big & specific in the couple of months before your taper; (3) and (especially for the iron distances) to make sure you have built a massive, efficient, and powerful aerobic engine. Your big picture plan will build your training around your key races and events, and your plans for work and family.
- Determine Your Local Resources and Circumstances. Do you have a local masters swim team? Access to open water swimming? Local club rides? Are you a member of a gym? Do you have trails available for running? Do you own a treadmill? Do you own a bike trainer? Do you have flat rides or runs available? Hills? Is bike commuting a possibility? Do you have extremely hot summers or cold snowy winters? Do you have to travel frequently for work? The ability to take all of these factors into account is one big advantage of having a custom designed training plan as opposed to a generic training plan.
- Integrating the Plan Into Your Day to Day Life. We’ll create a “basic week” that integrates your training into your everyday week. You basic week needs to be sustainable physically and mentally and must also make sure you have enough time and energy for your career and family. To keep it mentally sustainable you’ll need to find a balance between the workouts you like to do and what you need to do. Often we like to do higher intensity training with other people. We usually need to do sustained steady training on our own.
- Establishing Your Training Zones. Shortly after starting up we’ll determine your training zones. For a good description of training zones, read this article at Endurance Corner.
- Creating Your First Block of Training. I give you your training in 3 week blocks: 16 days of buildup and 5 days of unloading. Each training block will target certain specific adaptations. I’ll create your first 3 weeks of training based on our initial talks, but we’ll monitor and adjust your training as we see how it is going (see below).
- Executing Your Training Plan. The goal is to gradually accumulate fatigue as a training block goes on, and to try to time it so that you feel pretty fatigued just in time for your scheduled unloading block. Think of “pacing” your 3 week training block like a race- don’t go out too hard in your first few sessions and hit the wall half way through your block. Save your effort so you can finish strong. The same thing goes for individual workouts. Build into your workouts. The goal of most sessions is to have a “solid” session that targets a specific adaptation, not to test your limits. If you are too fatigued to do a session, just do a short recovery session and move on. (See my upcoming article on when to abort a session).
- Continual Fine Tuning. We’ll continually adjust your training based on how well you are handling the training load and how well the training is fitting into your life. You should keep detailed notes of your feelings in your training log so we can get a sense of what level of fatigue you are carrying. Are you too fatigued or are you handling the training load just fine? Does it fit well into your life, or are your boss and significant other getting disgruntled? Did we accurately determine your zones?
By following each of these 8 steps we’ll quickly get you set up to win and achieve your goals for the upcoming season.