That is an obvious title. For most competitive athletes, there is no doubt in their minds that they will be training and racing in the next season and beyond. There is also little doubt in the minds of competitive athletes about the need to improve from year to year. However, very little is said by most triathlon training gurus about the need for a multi-year plan. Instead, we get narrow views of athlete development, like the one-size-fits-all 24-week plans for Ironman training, or the athletes and/or coaches that see multi-year development kind of like “Groundhog Year”, with every season starting at the tune of Sonny and Cher.
The first requirement for a continuous performance improvement over several years is to establish at an early stage a multi-year plan. This plan should delineate, in broad terms, the building-up of conditioning over several years.
In order to elaborate the multi-year plan, it is essential to access:
- a profile of the athlete’s weak and strong characteristics
- the athlete’s ability to adapt to the various training methods
The multi-year plan sparingly needs to readjusted according to the physiological development of the athlete. This requires an ongoing observation of the evolution of the athlete’s conditioning level, based on training feedback, test results and racing. In order to benefit from the long-term guidelines that the multi-year plan contains, not too many changes should be made to it.
So what training information should be stated in a multi-year plan?
- Long-term racing objectives (e.g. win a determined race).
- Long-term motivational goals (e.g. participate at a competitive training camp).
- Long-term training load goals (e.g. achieve a determined training load necessary to achieve the long-term racing goals).
- Laboratory and field tests to evaluate the evolution of conditioning.
In order for us to achieve our goal, it is not sufficient to just have a clear picture of the goal. It is also necessary to have a picture of the path to the goal. Only through the clear picture for athlete development that the multi-year plan provides, we can expect for the continuous performance improvement we all want to achieve.