Creating an annual training plan is the first step in effective program design for the year and/or preparation for a single specific event. Periodization is breaks the year down into periods of around 4 weeks (mesocycles). Following a structured training program helps athletes prepare for the unpredictable nature of the mountain environment.
Step 1: Decide On Your “A” Events For The Year
The first step in creating an annual training plan is to decide on your “A” events. An athlete can usually only perform at their best or “peak” 2-3 times per year. In an Annual Training Plan (ATP) these are your “A” priority events that are a culmination of months of progressive training. A events require a full tapering phase of 2-3 weeks to absorb the months of intense training and insure you show up for your adventure rested and ready. I always encourage my athletes (and myself) to pick A events that scare them at least a little bit. This provides strong motivation to train and prepare for the trip. A events also usually require a few weeks of recovery afterwards
Step 2: Pick “B” Events to Serve As Benchmarks For Your “A” Events
“B” Priority Events are intermediate goals that serve as benchmarks in preparation for you primary goal. They serve as a test to see if your training is properly preparing you for your A Event. B Events usually involve a shorter taper (4-7 days). It can also serve as an assessment to identify any weaknesses that need to be addressed in upcoming training phases.
Step 3: Pick “C” Events that help to build towards your A and B events
“C” events are usually the weekly long endurance training sessions that don’t require a structured taper or need a long recovery period after. These workouts also serve as the framework for the short term training plan (12 weeks or less).
“A goal without a plan is just a wish” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Setting long term goals is a power tool that can help to motivate and focus your energy. The first step in goal setting is to sit down and take some time to think about your long term goals. This helps to create a long range plan with adventures to work towards in a logical progression. Long term goals are divided into three categories.
Dream Adventures Or Bucket List Trips
Set aside some time to relax and think about what your dream adventures or bucket list trips are. Where would you want to go if time and money were not limiting factors? Maybe you want to summit Kilimanjaro, trek the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu or climb the Lower and Upper Exum Ridge of the Grand Teton in a day. It is ok if some of these change over time as you add years to your adventure resume.
5 Year Goals
5 year goals help to develop a progression of trips increasing in length and difficulty. This progression builds fitness, experience and confidence. An example of 5 year goals with progressions for non-technical mountaineering would look like this:
First Year: One Day Climb Mount Hood
Second Year: Two Day Climb Mount Rainier Disappointment Cleaver Route
Third Year: Four Day Climb Mount Rainier Kautz Glacier Route
Fourth Year: Seven Day Mount Kilimanjaro Climb
Fifth Year: Twenty One Day Denali West Buttress Climb
1 Year Goals
1 year goals set the focus for the upcoming 12 months. An athlete can usually only perform at their best or “peak” 2-3 times per year. In an Annual Training Plan (ATP) these are your “A” priority events that are a culmination of months of progressive training. I always encourage my athletes (and myself) to pick A events that scare them at least a little bit. This provides strong motivation to train and prepare for the trip. Once you have decided on your A events, it is time to develop an Annual Training Plan or ATP.