The Roman god Janus was often depicted with two faces because he could look forward and backward at the same time. His role in Roman society was as a household deity who presided over gates, openings, and doorways, able to see the future and the past, and has lived on in our culture as a symbol of new beginnings. The month of January is thought to be named in his honor.
Janus is an important image here because many of us are about to embark or perhaps have just started our training for the upcoming season. I've written articles here before about how to periodize and plan for the new year. What Janus reminds us is that while we're looking ahead and making a new start, we also have to look back and consider what has come before. Prior to making our schedule for the next season, it's an easily forgotten but incredibly important thing to review and evaluate the year that's behind you.
There is a list of questions you'll need to ask yourself as you plan for the season to come. When will the weather allow you to train outdoors if you're in a colder climate? When do you plan to start racing? When do you want to peak and be in top form? In order to answer these questions with authority and confidence, you not only need to take a look at next season's calendar, but review your training and racing data from the year previous. Take note of how you tried to address these issues last season, and how much success you had with your approach.
This of course should lead you to a second set of questions: What did you do well last season, and what did you do poorly? Now that the new season is approaching, what would you do again from last year, and what would you do differently? Let's look at some specific areas to evaluate:
Strengths and Weaknesses
Last season, did you take a particular approach to your strengths and weaknesses? Did you decide to improve your weaknesses, maximize your strengths, or go with a more all around approach? If you chose one of these paths, how effective was it? Did you improve your weaknesses and see an improvement in results? Or did it come at a cost to your strengths, leaving you with nothing to show for your improvement. A good example is someone who is a great field sprinter and tries to improve their overall form, finding themselves in a winning position more often, but lacking the speed to win. In this case the change in form was successful, but the end result was not. It's important to find out why that was the case and if the change was a positive one, or needs to be readdressed when planning for the new year.
When did you start your training last year, and did it leave you fit enough when the racing started, peaking for your big events, or perhaps already burnt out and needing a vacation by the time your targets came around? Try to take a look at last season, and see just how many weeks of training it took before you really felt on top of things, and when you started to have your best performances, both in racing and training. Also, take a look at how long your good form lasted once it started. Another important consideration is how many weeks before a big target you found you needed to rest. Did you taper right into your races with good results? Did you need to take a full easy week one or two weeks before and then open back up with hard training leading into the event? Along those same lines, at what point in the season were you due for a real vacation and perhaps a mid-year week completely off the bike to regroup for the remainder of the season.
Race Schedule and Goals
When looking at the race schedule for next season and planning your big targets as well as your filler races, take a good look at how successful or realistic your target events were for the year before. Did you get the results you wanted in your target races last season? If not, why not? Is there something in your preparation that needs to change? Should you reassess those targets in the first place? Or did you have exactly the form you wanted, and plan to take exactly the same approach again? You might find that you simply need a change of pace in order to give yourself new challenges and keep yourself interested. If you took a week's vacation in Florida last year for training and early season racing, maybe this year it would be a great experience to go to Arizona, Texas, or California instead, and keep things fresh.
Even with all this planning and your best effort to take an educated approach, in the end you'll still find the need to be flexible as you go. It's important to be able to react to the way things develop and perhaps make new goals or change your goals based on how your form develops. It's frustrating but true that you could do exactly the same training in exactly the same conditions two seasons in a row and get exactly opposite results. There are many variables that will be beyond your control along the way, so part of your plan should be to expect them and ready to react to them as they come up.