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Does Planning Your Training Have To Be a Complex Process?

A lot of the information about planning your training is designed to make it feel like it's a complex process that demands a high level of knowledge.


A couple of weekends ago I was tutoring on a coaching course (again). The very last module of the day was an introduction to “components of fitness”.

Once more I saw just how complex this appears to be, driven no doubt by those who want you to believe that planning training is indeed very complex for whatever reason they need you to believe this.

A Debate about Specifics

Is this flexibility or mobility? Is it the ability to attain and maintain a position on your bike? Or do you need the ability to move continually into & out of the end range of your flexibility?

Is strength expressed in less than 15 seconds or more? What about power? Is aerobic endurance developed in a 20-minute ride/run, or do you need to be out there for 5 hours? Exactly how long should the intervals be? And what about the recovery periods?

On and on go the questions, debate and arguments about terminology and specifics!

When planning your training, do you need strength, or power, or flexibility, or speed? And what exactly are these things? Does it matter?

The truth is that you can implement a process for planning training that will simplify this completely. In a nutshell, you need simply ask yourself this question:

What Does My Event Look Like?

If you need to be able to ride a bike at a set effort level for 5 hours, then guess what, you need to figure out a way to do so.

If you can already ride at that level for a shorter period, then a series of even shorter intervals at that effort level will make a world of difference. Play around with the length of the intervals and the length of the recoveries & voila! No matter what many coaches want to tell you, there is no magic number!

What about racing criterium races? Again, what does it look like?

Criteriums (or circuit races, similar but different) are characterised by short hard accelerations followed by short periods of high speed “cruising”. This is repeated over & over again. What could you do to train for it? You could do exactly that, sprint hard, recover for a similar period while still pedalling and maintaining speed and then repeat.

Do this for a bit, take a longer rest so that you recover as completely as possible and then do it again. You’re successful if the last one is similar to the first one. The length of the intervals only matters inasmuch as they closely mirror what would happen in a race.

The same principles apply to everything to do with planning training: Bike position, cadence, hand position, looking around, position in a bunch and the list really does go on.


When planning your training is made to look very complicated, with graphs containing acute loads, chronic loads, recoveries, stress scores and a myriad of other mathematical models, you can be sure that someone is trying to sell you something.

What's more, most of these models don't actually work for an amateur athlete who lives in the real world. They miss a number of lifestyle stress factors that have a significant impact on your ability to train and recover from that training. They're simply expensive guesswork.

Make your training look like your event and you're most of the way there.

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Will Newton

In over twenty years of coaching, Will has coached everyone from absolute beginners to world champions. His interest in getting the best results for athletes who compete for the love of the sport, rather than as professionals, drives him to find the most effective ways to get results.

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