An Overview of Season Planning using the Performance Management Chart

Perhaps it’s the weather. As I basked in the sun on the homeward leg of my early morning run I had a thought, “maybe I can race well later this year.” The arrival of an unusually warm spring has broken the negative cycle – my mood is lifted and my desire to train, specifically to run, has returned with full force. And so positive thoughts arrive, the idea that perhaps I can be both fit and capable of racing well enters my head, only compromised by the knowledge that it will take some time and some planning. The path ahead is littered with events, too many to hope to be on top form across them all. I need to take the smart approach, utilising races as part of my development, rather than an end in themselves, stepping stones to greater things.

I suffer from an allergic reaction to strict training schedules, and while there is a strong case – one that made me stop and think – for the benefits having my own coach would bring me, it’s not something I want to pursue right now. But I need something more than loose guidelines to make the longer term transition to greater fitness, something that appreciates the impact of my heavy race season, using those events to build me, not break me. Rather than limiting my use of the Performance Management Chart to retrospective training critiques, I can use it constructively to manage this coming year; utilising my experience of the system to set training targets and a rate of growth for the weeks and months ahead. Perhaps it seems at odds with that desire to train for pleasure, but there are many ways to achieve fitness growth.

I’ve dabbled with the approach before – planning tapers or testing out ideas for a build; manipulating the underlying values of the model to see the effect different work loads are likely to have. It’s a matter of trial and error, adjusting those numbers to produce the pattern I want. At this point I am guided by experience, those times I’ve analysed historical PMC data actually come in useful as I avoid my previous mistakes and attempt to replicate the successes. I tweak until I produce a pattern I like.

Season Planning: 2012 planned run Performance Management Chart

By now a familiar chart, but this time the product of good intentions. Reviewing the last four years of run training showed 2009 to be my most successful season, a race heavy year much like the one ahead. I achieved it through a consistent, moderate training plan, 30 runs of at least 30 minutes in 30 days forming a large part of it; I could take that consistency, without excessive overload, and apply it again. Firstly building up through April – perfect for thirty days of running – then maintaining the run fitness from race to race, my work then being to minimise fitness loss. There isn’t time to chase high peaks of fitness, 2010 has taught me the danger of building too rapidly; the volume of running this pattern suggests is a sufficient challenge after a season out of running.

It sounds like a plan, albeit an abstract one defined by the shape of a curve rather than the details of sessions; and it’s that abstraction that gives me the freedom I desire. The curve is the product of a training load deliverable through whatever (sensible) combination of intensity, duration and frequency I desire and I’ve already indicated my preference for a repeat of the high frequency, mixed duration and intensity approach to run training that worked well in 2009. As long as I accumulate a sufficient training load each week my fitness will progress in line with the chart, within reason further details don’t matter; my training is flexible to match my moods.

Finally I’ve found some much needed direction and – perhaps – a way to guide myself towards this goal without feeling overly restricted by a plan. I may not have written a single session down, but I know the kind of work I need to do; starting in April with thirty days of running at least thirty minutes.

Ironman Training Library

From nutrition to pacing - a collection of CoachCox blog posts focused specifically on Ironman training and racing.