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Developing an Annual Training Plan

By Jonathan Mason

After the dust settles this time of year, coaches are often asked, “Now what?”  This is actually one of the common questions I ask my athletes as the first step in developing an annual training plan (ATP). How I handle it is to distance the athlete a few weeks from their last BIG race of the year then broach the subject. This gives them a more deliberate response then the emotional one the day after a late-season grueling race.

There are many critical questions that need to be answered when developing an annual training plan. Focus on revisiting prior goals and setting future goals and training objectives. These questions will help you get started:

  • Prior Goals: Did you achieve your previous goals? What went right and wrong?
  • Future Goals and Training Objectives: What should you do the same? Differently? What training do you need to work on? Where do you see yourself in one, three or five years?
  • Races: What types of races are you looking for that would get more bang for your buck? Are you good at hilly courses? Better keep it flat? Sea level? Are you in need of that illusive podium spot? Need a championship race for your resume? Keep it short this year? Best Kona qualifier? Have a favorite race you love doing by your mother-in-law’s house to save cost?

Once you get these questions answered and the dates of the races, then it’s time to prioritize and build the plan. TrainingPeaks makes this step unbelievably easy with the ATP wizard™. Once I build the plan with my athlete, I let the athlete look it over and see if there are any things we left out (vacations, career changes, school) that could alter how we proceed with the year.

Remember to take a good look at the training blocks and adjust according to your life, or that of the athlete you are coaching. Not every athlete should be prescribed the same ATP, but it makes a great baseline. Also, once you start developing a plan, don’t forget to test sets in each discipline to adjust your training accordingly from the data the test set gives you and make sure you add core strength and conditioning.

Happy planning!

Jonathan Mason is a USA Triathlon Level I Certified Coach, Level III USA Cycling Coach, Training Peaks University Certified, Training Peaks Ambassador, Colorado State University Triathlon Team Head Coach and founder of MP Multisport LLC serving Northern Colorado. He has more than 20 years of endurance running experience and a decade of Age Group Triathlon experience. For more information, please visit: