What the best do to constantly improve. Are you planning for 2023 now?

Success loves preparation, and it’s not uncommon to see athletes heading into the last months of the year, without a clear goal for the next year, and an understanding of what they need to do to achieve their goals. With the off season in Europe and America and with at least 6-months to racing in most of the world, we have an opportunity, to reflect on results from 2022, what went well and what can be improved for next year. Question is, will you take time to reflect and plan?

I thought I’d share the approach I use, along with the approaches from super successful masters athletes and coaches, with the intention of inspiring and even challenging you, in your approach to setting up, and preparing for the year ahead.

First, take some time off

Many rowers feel that they shouldn’t take a break at the end of the season. I like to take at least 3-weeks off, and sometimes 4-weeks. Rest the body and mind. Build up an appetite to get back in the boat, gym and ergo, to train through the off season. I use this time to build up my reserves, and to reflect what I need to do to go faster next year.

Review the year

Take some time to reflect on the year to date. What did you do this year, and how has it worked out?

What I review

  • Total training hours vs. prior year
  • Total annual training stress score (TSS) and total TSS in the last 8-weeks leading to a target race vs. plan vs. prior year
  • Percentage of time spent in high vs. low intensity vs. target
  • Number of strength sessions and progression in power to weight
  • Online and actual regattas, how’d you go? What were your results?
  • What blocked you and what would you do differently in hindsight?
  • New things you tried out during the year. Technique or equipment, how’d it go?
S Seiler & E Tonnessen (2009)

Some points to consider in reviewing the year

  • How did you do on the basics; sleep, nutrition and training consistency?
  • Did you complete all the sessions you planned, or did you miss some due to injury, fatigue or work etc…
  • Did you advance your technique (ergo & boat) to go faster? It’s noticeable at all intensities/power output, when rowers improve their technique. How’d you go? Are you getting the right advice? Have you consulted someone to help you? Are you focusing on the improvement or did you just go through the motions.
  • Did your aerobic efficiency improve over time? e.g. more power (watts) at your aerobic threshold. Did you measure this?
  • Did you improve your power at your anaerobic threshold?
  • Did your power and strength improve with training? Is this something you track and manage?

So What! Identify areas for improvement

Now that you have the what identified, i.e. data points from the season, a good question to consider is, so what? With good data from the year, you can start making informed decisions, on where to focus in the year ahead.

In my interview with multiple HOCR winner, Greg Benning, this is what he had to say about planning the year.

Goal #1: Do it better every year

Accretive:  Start with prior year, try new stuff, keep best ideas

Incremental Gains: Keeping a list of strengths, weaknesses, measuring

Faster podcast interview with Greg Benning (2020)
  • If your power fades and you can’t last in a race, you may need to spend time building your aerobic base?
  • If you find that your power to weight has decreased, it will be time to get into the gym and build the strength over the months of Nov – Jan.
  • You have good times on the ergo yet this doesn’t translate to speed on the water in comparison to your peers. Time to get some technical advice and engage a coach.

Use the off season to invest

I use the time now to plan forward for next year, with a strong focus on what I need to do in the off season, to be ready for the base training in 4-months time.

  • Systems and tools to help me track and analyse performance
  • Getting crystal clear on the main target events, and how these fit around family and work
  • Identify clearly the gaps I need to close and the plan to close them
  • Planning out the main training phases.
  • Complete a strength and power block. Targeting an increase in lean muscle mass, before the high volume endurance work starts
  • Close the gaps in weak areas. For example, I may want to work on a specific area for strength improvement or flexibility.

Review and Plan are key aspects of success in life, business and sport. I hope that some of the points I have raised, challenge and inspire you, to review what you have done, and identify areas that will help you to go faster.

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