Things you should know before training for a big race/goal in mind

With the start of another year fast approaching, many of us would have already started thinking about our big targets and goals for the upcoming year. Training for a race might seem daunting, but with the right planning, it goes a long way.

These ‘big’ targets and goals are not exclusive to super-human feats like completing an Ironman in the middle of the Pacific Ocean or participating in a 5-day cycling race in the north of Thailand but instead are all relative to your current fitness.

It can even be clocking a consistent cycling mileage of 200km/week or beating your personal best (PB) for that sprint triathlon that you did this year.

Whatever the event or goal is, it is at the top of your priority and you intend to bring your A-game to it. So how should you plan such that you are ready for it when the time comes?


Fail to plan, plan to fail


I was brought up with my dad constantly drilling this into me, and it certainly does hold true when it comes to training. Not planning and just going by feeling is a poor recipe for success.

Start with a blank piece of paper and label the events that you wish to participate in or target you wish to achieve according to priority (E.g: ‘A’, ‘B’, and ‘C’ races), assuming you have more than one event or target.

Next, write the goals specific to that event/target. It can range from being a finisher, achieving a new PB, or coming in first place!


Your goals can consist of the following:

  • Outcome-based (E.g: Finish 1st in an event)
  • Performance-based (E.g: Improve lactate threshold to 250 watts)
  • Process-based (E.g: Weekly mileage of 300km)


You would want to be realistic about how many ‘A’ races and goals you have in each time frame because not many of us can hold peak form for too long. You would also want to work out a rough estimate of how much time you have for training and base your goals on them.

A common mistake that many of us make is to over-estimate how much we can give into this pursuit. All of us have family commitments, busy periods at work, and even other leisure activities that we might like to participate in. Bear in mind that training not only takes time but also energy.

Whatever your goal and event may be, be sure to write them down and feel strongly about it. This not only helps you to commit to them – but also provides motivation when life gets tough.


Be specific with objectives


Do you know of someone who seems to spend a lot of time training but never seems to get much stronger and faster? Perhaps you are guilty of this too.

This is due to the nature of how most cyclists ride. Many of us enjoy doing group rides, myself included, and while it is an important social aspect of the sport, it is at times wiser to train on your own.

We are often not in control of the pace and route of the group (we, of course, try to join one that is best suited to us), and it can be tempting to always join a fast group ride (relatively speaking) because that’s where the excitement and fun is! In fact, there is a fast group ride almost every day here in Singapore!

We spend most of our time near threshold during these group rides and while it improves our ability to last longer to a certain extent, it creates a lot of fatigue without improving the other areas and weaknesses.


Be smart about your training 


Structure your workouts such that you know what exactly it is you are improving each time you do them. Structured workouts are not just limited to the popularised high-intensity intervals that have taken over the sporting world by storm.

It could be seated hill repeats at a low cadence with moderate power if you are taking part in a hilly race, 20-minute moderate efforts on your time-trial bike if you are participating in a time trial, or even consecutive days of long hard rides if you are participating in a stage race. In fact, group rides can also be part of your structured workouts.

While it was mentioned earlier how always joining group rides may not be wise for achieving your goals, you should also not swing to the other extreme and stay away from them completely!

Group rides are fantastic for honing racing skills and tactical prowess and are part of your structured workouts as well!

Plan to join a group ride with a session objective in mind. It could be using it as recovery, improving a racing skill (e.g: sprinting), or even practicing your tactical abilities.

The idea is to always go into a session knowing how it will benefit and aid you in achieving your goals. Be specific about the timing and type of training you do and you are guaranteed the most effective use of your time. Time is precious, let’s not waste it!


Plan for recovery


The positive effects of training do not take place if we do not allow our bodies to heal and repair itself. We may be able to plan our training well, but that is useless if we forget to plan and budget enough time for recovery.

Going hard for 5 days every week is a sure way to high levels of fatigue and is detrimental to performance and more importantly, your general mood and immunity system.

Plan for hard weeks and recovery weeks, off days and easy days so that you can not only reap the full benefits of your hard work but also be a healthy and happy person.


Do not neglect nutrition

Planning for recovery also means being watchful of other factors that contribute to recovery like nutrition and sleep. This is especially so if you have consecutive days of training or a busy daily schedule.

Plan what you eat based on the day’s training, you do not need a meal very high in carbohydrate if you’re only going to do a recovery ride, nor do you need to down that recovery drink/protein shake if you are going to have your lunch/dinner 30 minutes after training.

While you can be very detailed with your nutrition and count calories, I usually recommend going by close estimates coupled with sound nutritional guidelines (more on this in another upcoming article) especially if you are a foodie like me!


Putting it all together

Achieving your goals is all about applying training principles and concepts in a practical and individualized manner. Be smart about your training through realistic planning, being specific in what you do, and allow yourself time to recover!


Article and advice contributed by Lemuel Lee, Coach at Crank Smart

More tips from Lemuel:
What you should know about motorpacing
Differences in training for women cyclists


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