3 Steps to Season Planning

Triathlon Coach Chris Kaplanis shares nuggets of advice to help you achieve success in the sport, however that looks to you.

Triathlon Coach Chris Kaplanis shares nuggets of advice to help you achieve success in the sport, however that looks to you

Success in triathlon and life in general, is achieved when you set goals, create a plan and then execute that plan. We refer to this process as season planning and when done correctly, it will help set you up for success.

The fall and early winter is a great time to start planning for next season. Races are beginning to open up so you should act thoughtfully and expeditiously as many popular races sell out FAST.

Below I will outline a simple, but effective, approach to setting yourself up for a super successful year.

1. Establish Goals (and write them down)

First, decide WHAT it is you are setting out to achieve. It’s important to write your goals down and be as specific as possible. Include a date or timeline for your goal, otherwise procrastination (among other things) is inevitable.

A few examples of well written goals:

  1. Finish my first triathlon at the Wyckoff – Franklin Lakes Triathlon in June with a smile on my face.
  2. Finish my first iron-distance triathlon at IRONMAN Lake Placid in July in less that 17 hours.
  3. Earn a new half-iron triathlon PR by finishing faster than 5:30 at IRONMAN 70.3 Atlantic City in September. I’ll do this by swimming 35 min (1:39/100 yds), biking 2 hrs 55 min (19.2 mph) and running 1 hr 50 min (8:23/mi) with a total transition time of 5 min. Total time: 5:25
  4. Swim 40 minutes or faster for 1.2 miles at IRONMAN 70.3 Maine. This will be a 1:53 per 100 yard pace. I will be swimming at this pace by the middle of August.
  5. Lose 20 lbs of fat before the Jersey Man Triathlon in May.

When creating your own goals, add as much detail as possible. It doesn’t mean things are set in stone, but the goal(s) and their specificity will help provide direction and accountability.

Assuming you are hoping to achieve these goals in the upcoming year, ensure they are realistic given your timeframe. A lot can be accomplished in one year, but one year is still considered a “short term” goal. Expectations with short and long term goals need to fall in line with the timeframe you’re working with.

2. Select & Sign Up for Races

Once you have created your goals you’ll want to decide which races you’ll do. You very well may already know what your BIG race will be (it may be included in your goal(s) above), but you’ll want to make sure you sign up for it (or know when registration opens so you don’t miss out).

Additionally, it’s smart to schedule races before your BIG race and potentially after. The races before your “A” priority race will serve as preparatory races and will allow you to get a feel for your current level of fitness, practice nutrition and transition (among other things) – all done in a race situation.

Just as I recommenced doing for your BIG race above, plan to sign up for these races NOW. Once you sign up for a race, you are locked in; this helps prevent laziness or procrastination from creeping in.

Then, of course, once you get yourself in great shape and complete your top priority race, you may want to take advantage of your fitness and have fun racing other events before the season ends. Signing up for these races now is less important.

Below are a few general guidelines to consider when mapping out your season:

General Guidelines for Scheduling Races

  • Sprint triathlon ~ 1-2 weeks before an Olympic
  • Olympic triathlon ~ 2-3 weeks before a half
  • Half triathlon ~ 5-7 weeks before full (IRONMAN)

Please remember, these are only general guidelines. Obviously, every athlete is different and there may not be a ton of races that suit your ideal time frame and/or geographical locations.

The most important thing here is you will want to avoid racing any closer to your priority race than what is suggested above. In other words, I would NOT recommend doing a half two or three weeks before a full if the full is your “A” race.

3. Establish a Plan of Attack

Now it’s time to establish your plan of attack. This is essentially how and what you will do to achieve your goals. Whatever your game plan is, it should be unique to you. Just because your buddy is doing something, doesn’t mean it’s right for you too.

Will you hire a coach? Follow a training plan? Or will you self-coach and create your own training program? Your experience within the sport as well as the caliber of your goals will play a part in making this decision. Other factors include cost, and how busy, complicated and unpredictable your life is.

If you’re new to triathlon, you will likely benefit from working on swimming, cycling and running equally. However, if you really stink at one of the three, or if you just want to make significant improvements in a particular area, maybe you plan a focused block of training on a “limiter” of yours. Doing this will fast-track the improvements you are seeking.

You may also want to incorporate a sport specific strength block of training. This is a great way to help prevent injury come race season, off-set muscular imbalances and boost your durability. It will also add a little extra strength and power to your swim, bike and run ability. Strength training is particularly valuable for athletes racing half and full iron-distance races.

Regardless of what your plan is, keep in mind, it’s only “perfect” on the day you create it. Things change, life is dynamic and family and work demands may increase or decrease month in and month out. With that being said, it’s important for YOU and YOUR PLAN to be FLEXIBLE. How you react and adapt over the weeks and months of training will play a big part in your success or lack thereof.

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Chris Kaplanis is a professional triathlon coach and the co-founder of RTA Triathlon. He has been coaching triathletes full time for 12 years. Follow RTA on Instagram here. @Chris-Kaplanis @RTAtriathlon