December 29, 2016

How We Use Season Planning To Improve Performance

A well-structured racing season can help to improve your race results and reduce your injury-risk.

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Two weeks ago, I shared why racing too often can kill performance.

The article talked about how racing regularly can throw out your load / recovery balance and lead you into a state of fatigue that could affect your ability to race to your potential when it really matters to you.

While that article highlighted a common performance limiter for many athletes, it didn’t detail how to plan the races you do each year.

So continuing from that conversation, I’d like to address the question that naturally follows after: how do you optimally plan the races you do each year to maximise your potential and lower your risk of injury?

Today, with the new year fast approaching, I’ll share the tips I give our athletes that help them plan their season in a way that will minimise the risk of injury and burnout.

Bonus: At the end of this article, I’ve included a handy season planning template that we use at Coached to structure the season of the athletes we coach.


Screenshot of an athletes season plan

Selecting Your Races

Let’s set this straight, once and for all: everyone has a different background. Your fitness level, experience, and goals are unique to you. How often you race and how you recover is entirely personal, and this is why a one-size-fits-all approach will not work.

So as you design your season next year, here are some thoughts on how you should consider selecting your races to find the ‘racing recipe’ that works best for you.

Cut Race Times, Not Corners.

Racing at your potential and enjoying training is easy when you’re following the right programme.

Primary Races

‘A’ Priority

Primary, or peak races as they’re commonly known, are your most important races of the year. These are your ‘A’-Races. These races become the ‘anchors’ of your racing and training schedule, and you should build your season to have you in prime condition for these events.

Where these races differ most from secondary races is in the length of the taper. To ensure you are fully recovered and fresh to race fast,  ‘A’-Races should come with a full taper built into your training plan.

Some notes on ‘A’-Races:

  • Select only 2 to 3 ‘A’-Races each year.
  • Aim to have them well spaced.
  • Don’t place long races as part of a build-up to shorter races. For example, a marathon makes a terrible secondary race when planning to run your best in a 10k.
  • A marathon and an Ironman should always be considered ‘A’-Races and limited in their frequency due to the extreme demands they place on your body. Remember, just because you can race more than that doesn’t mean that you should and that it’s good for your health.

Secondary Races

Secondary races are less important races that should complement your preparation for your ‘A’ races. These races allow you to hone your racing skills and dial in your race day processes such as prepping your gear, nutrition, pacing and the like.

Secondary races come in two forms.

  1. ‘B’ priority races.
  2. ‘C’ priority races.

‘B’ Priority

‘B’ Priority races are still important, and you want to run well in these, but they are not as crucial as your ‘A’-Race. As such, you do not plan your training around them. The taper period into and out of the race is shorter, meaning that you may expect to feel less fresh during the secondary races as you’ll hope to.

Some notes on ‘B’-Races.

  • Select a handful of ‘B’-Races each year (these, together with ‘C’-Races, should be no more than twice the number of ‘A’-Races in your season).
  • Aim to participate in ‘B’-Races that compliment your ‘A’-Races in terms of timing (within the year), terrain and conditions.
  • ‘B’-Races have a reduced taper, so don’t be surprised (or disappointed) if you feel heavy during these races.
  • Run these races as you wish. Hard as you can or at your ‘A’-Race pace for practice.

‘C’ Priority

Some notes on ‘C’-Races.

  • Select a handful of ‘C’-Races each year at most.
  • Aim to participate in ‘C’-Races that compliment your ‘A and B’-Races in terms of timing (within the year), terrain and conditions.
  • ‘C’-Races are essentially training and should not come with a taper into the race.
  • If you run hard, you may need to taper out of the race for a day or two.

Season Review

Like training, nutrition and all other performance areas, finding the right recipe for you will take time, trial and error.

To help speed this process up and make improvements year-on-year, it’s useful to set aside some time at the end of each year (now’s a good time) to sit down and do an objective assessment of your year and how you felt things went.

  • How do you feel your overall year went?
  • Did you have any setbacks that affected your ability to race well?
  • Did you get the number of races you participated in right?
  • If no, were there too many or too few? Or did you get the priority balance wrong?
  • What can you do differently for next year to ensure you continue to improve?
  • These are just some of the questions you can ask yourself as part of your annual review. Feel free to build on this and find something that works well for you.


Use our FREE Season Planning Template to layout your year of training and racing.

With that, I wish you a safe, healthy and fast 2017 from all the team here at Coached.

Related Articles

Training Plans: 5 Reasons You Need One

Why Racing Too Often Can Kill Your Performance

New Coached Training Programmes For Running and Triathlon

Ben Pulham

Ben Pulham is the founder of Coached, a personalised training programme that helps runners & triathletes optimise, track and enjoy their training.