November is a great time to begin sketching out a master plan.  We’re a few months removed from the intensity of the road season but quickly approaching the New Year.  Whether your goals include competing at nationals or surviving your first century, now’s the time to take an objective look at the calendar and create a road map for the upcoming season.


The process of creating an annual training plan (ATP) is about making connections between your long-term athletic goals and your day-to-day behavior.

Waking up at 5AM to crush the trainer becomes a bit easier when you connect that effort to standing atop a podium in May. While there are different approaches to designing an ATP, the most commonly used ones are centered on the concept of training periodization.


Simply put, training periodization is rooted in the belief that “various fitness attributes are best developed in a sequential hierarchy…” [1].  Originating in the former USSR [2], periodization typically follows a high volume/low intensity to high intensity/low volume progression.  Think slow base miles in the winter progressing toward race pace intervals in the summer.

While many coaches espouse this approach [3-5], it’s important to note that periodization is a conceptual framework operating on several assumptions that have yet to be born out in science [1].

Is an “intensity hierarchy” vital to building peak fitness later in a season? It doesn’t look like it.  Make your training sufficiently varied and your ATP will turn out great.  With this in mind, here are 3 tips for constructing a great plan for the upcoming season.

1. Real not ideal

Start planning your season by first acknowledging what is real for your specific training situation. The quicker you can distance yourself from the “ideal” training plan of a pro, the better.

The shape of your plan will differ greatly if you have 8 hours a week to train as opposed to 25. Map out exactly how much time you have. The more honest you are, the more usable your plan will be.

2. Measurable goals

Building off your realistic training time and your past experience, identify several measurable performance and training related goals.   Make them specific. A local crit podium or 340w for 20 minutes by April 1 are great examples.

3. Use data to shape and revise your plan

Successful training plans have built-in flexibility. Whether you monitor your progress using Strava or a laboratory blood lactate test, use whatever feedback you have to adapt and evolve as the season progresses. Don’t be afraid to mix things up if your training and performance are stagnating.


  1. Training periodization is only a framework [1].  Don’t worry about “winter intensity” rules.  Focus on variety as you progress through the season.
  2. Forget the “ideal” annual training plan.  Identify what is real for your specific situation.
  3. Create measurable goals.  Be as specific as possible.
  4. Actively track your progress.  Don’t be afraid to mix things up if you’re not getting results.

Be the first to know about new blog posts while getting inside training tips delivered to your inbox.  No spam, ever, I promise.

To learn why my cycling coaching is different click here

For a complete archive of my blog posts click here

Nate Dunn, M.S.
Data Driven Athlete


1. Kiely, J., Periodization paradigms in the 21st century: evidence-led or tradition-driven? Int J Sports Physiol Perform, 2012. 7(3): p. 242-50.
2. Matveev, L.P., Fundamentals of sports training. 1981, Moscow: Progress Publishers. 309 p.
3. Allen, H. and A. Coggan, Training and racing with a power meter. 2nd ed. 2010, Boulder, Colo.: VeloPress. xviii, 326 p.
4. Barry, D.D., M. Barry, and S. Sovndal, Fitness Cycling. 2006, Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
5. Friel, J., The Cyclist’s Training Bible. 4th ed. 2009, Boulder, CO: VeloPress.