“We overestimate what we can accomplish in a year and underestimate what we can accomplish in a decade”
The above quote may be a strange way to begin a chapter on *annual* planning, but it represents a sufficiently important reminder that endurance adaptations are not a one-week, one-month, or even one-year proposition. They are a multi-year, sometimes multi-decade proposition! We covered this in significant depth in the last chapter on long-term planning, and I want to begin this chapter with a reminder that the long term should never be at the mercy of the short term, i.e. our long-term goal of adding ~10% per year to the training load over many years should not be sacrificed in the name of a “fancy” annual periodized plan.
All too often, overambitious load ramps, either in the form of volume or intensity, overambitious competitive schedules or just “shiny new” training methodologies put the long-term plan in jeopardy. A good annual plan will support the long-term plan. Scratch that, a good annual plan is absolutely integral to a good long-term plan!
So, with the above in mind, what are the key ingredients to crafting an annual plan that won’t compromise, and will support, the long-term plan?
Let’s begin answering that question by looking at the key ingredients present in any good annual training plan.
Continued Development of General and Specific Functional Capacities
Development of Race Abilities
Restoration of Energy Reserves
Taking a deeper look at each of these one by one…
1. Continued Development of General and Specific Functional Capacities
Functional capacities can be broadly broken down into 2 categories:
a) General Work Capacity
b) Specific Race Capacity
The primary difference between the two is that the former is concerned with improving the ability to handle the training for the specific limiter of the event, while the latter is concerned with the actual training for the specific physiological limiter of the event, i.e. returning to the terms of our last chapter…
General Preparation is concerned with “Training to Train”, while specific preparation is concerned with improving the specific physiological limiters of the event, i.e. “Training to Race”.
Without a sufficient General Preparation “Base’, the athlete’s ability to handle large amounts of Specific training will be very limited.
Therefore, we split the amount of the year that we have to focus on the athlete’s preparation into a General Preparation and a Specific Preparation phase…
The primary aim of the General Preparation phase is to build the athlete’s general work capacity. That is, to address those limiters that will prevent an athlete from accumulating a lot of specific work. This means focusing the training (and the greater life) on improving things like
The proportion of energy coming from fat oxidation at rest and during low-intensity activity.
The strength of the parasympathetic (recovery) branch of the autonomic nervous system.
The durability of muscles and tendons to handle high levels of repetitive work without damage.
Figure 11.1: General Preparation “Work Capacity” training is the base of your pyramid!
Photo 137005453 / Pyramid © Witthayap | Dreamstime.com
At this point, it is trite to say, but Work Capacity truly is the base of your pyramid. By building a broader, bigger bottom level, the levels of specific training that you are able to stack on top will be similarly larger. Small base, smaller amounts, and duration of specific training tolerated. Larger base, larger amounts. We will see the real world proof of this in some of the case studies later in the chapter.
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