HOW TO PLAN A TRAINING WEEK

Planning a week of training can be a tricky task…

You’ll need to decide on:
  • what workouts you should include
  • how to balance them over the 7-day period
  • how each week should be build on the next to maintain fitness progression

In truth, there are a lot of factors into account. So, in this post, I’ll deconstruct my process of planning a week for myself and coached riders to try to help you to understand how to better structure your own training.

1. DETERMINE WEEK’S GOAL(S)

Firstly, when planning a training week, you’ll need to determine what the goal(s) are for that string of 7 days, i.e. what outcome you’re trying to achieve with it.

The goal(s) will largely be informed by where you are in your overall training plan, your current fitness or how far out from your next target event you are if you’re a competitive cyclist.

For example, you might have the goals of a training week be “maintain aerobic endurance” and “improve threshold power”. Or if it’s a recovery week, perhaps something like “bring down ATL by 6 points” and “work on handling skills”.

2. IDENTIFY NECESSARY WORKOUTS

Once you have a clear purpose set for the week, it’s then important to identify and lay out the necessary workouts that will move you towards those goals.

Creating a workout collection or library for yourself is a really helpful exercise here, since you don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time you come to look for workouts that develop a certain ability or physiological system.

Since there’s always more than one way to stress a particular ability or system, having multiple workouts at the ready to develop these distinct systems or abilities is strongly advised.

If you don’t already have a personal workout library, you can seek out workouts that you’ve used in the past, design a new one or use tools like Strava to search for suitable sessions that will help you achieve your weekly goals.

Each time you do, you can then add these workouts into a library and name them in a way that describes their characteristics or purpose for easy identification.

As an example, if one of the week’s goals is to “improve VO2Max”, you’ll want to select or design a workout that maximises time spent in Zone 5, e.g. 5-6x 4-min intervals, which you could call “4-min VO2Max Intervals”.

3. ORGANISE IDENTIFIED WORKOUTS

Once you’ve identified potential workouts that will help you achieve the week’s goal(s), it’s then a case of organising them in a way that makes best use of your time availability and that allows you to complete each workout to the highest quality.

You might find this quick video I shot on scheduling high intensity workouts useful:

As a best practice for most athletes other than those with very little training time, a “polarised” or 90/10 split between what we might deem ‘low intensity’ and ‘high intensity’ is a good rule to follow (using a time-in-zone approach).

This intensity distribution is what’s most commonly seen in the training of elite and world class cyclists, whether they consciously chose this distribution or not.

What this means is that around 90% of the weekly training time will be below the lactate threshold or Zone 4, and around 10% of the training time will be at or above lactate threshold.

This intensity distribution appears to be an optimal organisational approach that allows for long-term fitness improvement, fostering consistency and allowing enough of a balance between stressful and not-so-stressful but still purposeful training week-to-week.

Click here for a more detailed post I wrote about “polarised intensity distribution”.

Of course, every week will be different depending on the set goal(s), but as a general guideline, including at least 1-2 recovery or rest days, 1-2 high intensity workouts and 3-4 longer, lower intensity workouts per week often proves to be a manageable and consistently achievable organisational approach.

IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS

High intensity

High intensity training should be treated cautiously when planning a training week, even though the temptation might be to make every training day intensive, since it feels like you’re inducing more fatigue and thus improving fitness quicker.

It should be noted that high intensity training (defined here as anything at or above the lactate threshold) can raise fitness quickly but plateau just as fast.

This rapid fitness improvement is great in a taper period when trying to peak for a target event, but doesn’t foster that all important consistency when you’re weeks and months out from a peak.

Two high-quality high intensity sessions per week is sufficient under normal circumstances (i.e. you’re not overtrained and appropriate intensity targets are set) to develop a system or ability without risking burnout or non-functional overreaching (leading into overtraining).

Variety

As mentioned above, try to use different workout designs to develop particular abilities or systems, and try to avoid doing the same workout over and over again, since this can lead to you becoming burnt out with it.

What’s more, you body will get more comfortable performing that one workout and it’s ability to cause stress and signal the body to adapt will gradually reduce, leading to lower fitness benefit.

Flexibility

Understand that planning training sessions ahead of time will always be somewhat speculative.

If you feel too fatigued to complete a planned workout when you arrive on the day, then the plan needs to be adapted on the fly, and more recovery or a different workout is needed.

Trying to constantly learn from experiences like this will allow you to learn what you can and cannot cope with and to better plan future weeks of training.

FINAL NOTE

Whilst I’ve attempted to lay out a 3-stage process for planning a training week here, there’s of course a lot more to say about planning a week.

There are lots of variables that affect what you’ll do in a 7-day period, from what sessions you should lengthen when trying to increase volume, how much volume should vary week to week, what the week’s TSS should be etc, and all need to be considered.

Nevertheless, I hope this article has given you some actionable pointers to help you plan your training weeks and highlighted some good guidelines to follow as well as some pitfalls to avoid.

NEED SOME MORE GUIDANCE?

If you’d like to organise a detailed one-on-one consultation about your training or you have a query about coaching services or training plans, do click here to use the contact form and I’ll be in touch ASAP.

Thanks again, and I’ll catch you on the next post.

Tom