Training do’s and don’ts #6: planning (a.k.a the prediction addiction)

I learned very early in my coaching and teaching career the importance of planning. For my first ten years coaching I suffered from severe “prediction addiction,” thinking that like the oracles of ancient times that I could predict the future. After some resounding failures, I learned to write the plans in pencil because seldom if ever was a plan executed as written. Nor were the competition results as predictable as I thought.

Over the course of my career, the importance of planning has not diminished. Now fifty plus years into this journey my emphasis in planning has shifted from very rigid linear detailed long-term planning to very detailed session and microcycle plans that focus on the individual athlete without ever losing sight of the big picture. No longer am I fixated on predicting future performance, I am more invested in the process. The end is always in sight, sometimes it is clearly in focus and other it is blurry.

Planning gives direction and purpose to the training but It is not meant to predict the future. It also provides a context to evaluate performance aside from wins and losses or personal records by establishing incremental steps in pursuit of best performance. There is little “hard science” to substantiate what has come to be known as periodization. It is based on scientific inferences rather than hard scientific evidence. However, there is an immense body of coaching evidence reaching into the early twentieth century that underscores the key elements of what eventually became known as periodization. The issue with this is being able to separate fact from fiction and the mythology that surrounds the former Eastern Bloc systems. Therefore, I prefer to call it Planned Performance Training (PPT), not to add another term to the lexicon, but to clarify what we are really doing.

The key elements of PPT are:

  1. Systematic approach
  2. A strategy to distribute training loads in relation to competition goals
  3. A defined structure for progression
  4. A sequential building block approach
  5. A set time frame for execution of the plan
  6. A system to address all components of training in a systematic manner
  7. Preparation for specific competition goals
  8. Training that reflects the undulatory nature of the adaptive process and individual variation
  9. Systematic manipulation of the variables of volume, intensity, and density
  10. A systematic method for monitoring training and evaluating competition results
  11. A method for evaluation of competition and training results