5 Steps to Create an Annual Training Plan

It’s daunting to think about creating an entire year’s worth of daily workouts. My first time creating an Annual Training Plan (ATP) was confusing, frustrating, and felt like it took forever. I researched, read, analyzed, procrastinated, and swore a lot.

My biggest problem was not having specific goals. Also, add that I had no idea what I was doing. At the time, I thought, “I want to get fit.” Well, what does that even mean? “Fit” to me is different than “fit” to say, a body builder.

1. Realize Your (Specific) Goals

If you don’t have any goals, then you don’t need a plan. But that’s not you. You’re reading this because you have something in mind you want achieve.

Now, you need specific goals. Ambiguous goals are going to get you ambiguous results. How many times has it worked out in someone’s favor that they went with whatever shit stuck to the wall?

Specific goals don’t have to be one of those “big hairy and scary goals” we talk about. It can be if you’re an overachiever, but you also want realistic goals.

So how do you find a specific goal?

Make a list and whittle it down.

Come up with AT LEAST ten SPECIFIC goals you want to achieve in the next year. For example, “shave 30 seconds off your 5K PR” or “Increase your functional threshold power by 5%.” It could even be, “Stay in the pack 90% of the time during a race” or hell, “Win first place at such and such race.”

Now, make a list of ten. Really dig deep and specify.

I’ll wait.

Now, I want you to cut it down to your top three. The best route for this is to take #1 and compare it to #2. Ask yourself “which goal excites me more?” Take that winner and compare it to #3. Go all the way to #10. That winner goes off to the Top Three List and out of the original list of ten.

Do this two more times to determine the other two goals.

2. Pick a Date or Three

When do you want to have achieved your goals? Keep in mind, it has to be within the next year and it also has to be realistic. Increasing your FTP isn’t going to happen in a week.

I suggest three dates for three goals. This gives you focus. If you know your goal is to increase your FTP by 5% by March, then you know you have roughly six months to do that.

Say you want to win first place in your favorite Crit that’s scheduled August of next year, then you know you have eleven months to make that happen.

Hell, it could even be weight loss. If you want to lose twenty pounds by the start of race season next year, you know you have to stop eating crap and track your food. You know that realistically you could lose one pound a week and be 20 pounds lighter by your first race.

Giving yourself dates makes the ATP easier because we end up working backwards (and forwards and side-to-side).

3. Find an App/Tracking Tool/Develop a System

You’re not going to be efficient if you don’t plan out and track what you’re doing. There are so many freaking apps, it’s hard to know which one is best to choose.

Personally, I use the TrainingPeaks app and I pay Premium pricing. This gives me a lot of functionality and it’s super easy to use. When you’re first starting out – just like I did – the basic (free) account is great to get used to tracking and monitoring your stats.

Whether you use a free account, paid account, or an Excel spreadsheet, you’ll set yourself up for success if you track your training. If you don’t track your workouts, you’re not going to know wtf you’re going to do and what you have done.

4. Break it into sections

Let’s go back to our examples:
Goal #1: Increase FTP by 5% by May 1, 2018
Goal #2: Lose 20 pounds by April 1, 2018
Goal #3: Win First Place in Crit on August 1, 2018

Realistically, you can’t go HAAM (hard as a motherfucker) starting now until you’ve reached your goals. You’ll wipe yourself out before the New Year.

What you need to do is work backwards from your goals, ensuring you plan out the effective training and rest you need to peak come Goal Day.

That means looking at April 1 on the calendar and counting how many weeks back you have to lose 20 pounds. Same goes for the other two.

Make monthly and weekly check-in goals to ensure you’re on the path to meeting your goals.

For example, you want to lose one pound a week. Okay, that’s simple and specific enough to start.

How about the other two goals we’ve been using as examples? Start by breaking it down by the month. You can check to see if your FTP is increasing by setting a smaller goal by the month. You can focus on increasing it by 1% a month and comparing the previous month’s FTP Score with the current month’s score.

Breaking it down weekly would be comparing similar workouts from week to week to see how much faster (or slower) you completed a training session.

So, we’ve gone from months to weeks.

This is where having a coach or personal trainer comes in handy because they have the training to balance intensity with rest. Again, if you schedule too much intensity without incorporating enough rest, your ass is going to be burnt out by January. Opposite to that, if you rest too much and don’t stress your body enough to the point where it’s forced to adapt, then you’ll be right where you are now a year from today.

This is where Step 5 can go in two directions. You’re either ready to call up a coach and get to planning or you’re ready to develop weekly and daily workouts.

If you choose the latter…

5. Research Resources That Will Help You Achieve Your Goals

This is the route I took when I first started developing my ATP. I read books, articles, and blogs. I talked to friends, coaches, and athletes. I started listening to podcasts.

I found workouts that will help increase my FTP. I found exercises to strengthen my muscles specific to cyclin. I learned the best way to train, the food to eat, the stats to measure, and then I studied to become a personal trainer.

Once I knew the strength training exercises and the cycling or cross training workouts, I evenly distributed them over a week. I did this for a month and then I tweaked it enough to continually challenge my body.

And that’s what you’ll do to make your Annual Training Plan.

Sure, life will throw curve balls and your goals will change. And it’s totally okay to change your ATP.

But starting with specific goals and creating a plan to reach them will get you on that path quicker and much more efficiently.

And if any of this had you tossing your phone, laptop, or whatever gadget you’re reading this on, email me. I would love to help.

Email me here.


I talk to myself out loud.

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