Why you should always have a plan B in training

Professor Greg Whyte explains why it’s imperative to adapt your off-season training plans to cover all eventualities

Cyclist in autumnal woodland

Following the race season, it’s important to reflect back on your performance over the summer months and build in time for some quality recovery.


Making careful notes of those aspects of training and racing that went well, and those that could be improved, will ensure you enter winter training with a plan to strengthen your weaknesses and maintain your strengths.

Adapt your training plans

Goal-setting and planning are the cornerstones of successful training and performance enhancement but, you should also be prepared to adapt plans in response to changing circumstances, including excessive fatigue, injury, illness, weather, family/work commitments etc. etc.

Continually driving forward with a plan despite these changes will only lead to problems, which, at best, set you back, at worst, can be season-ending!

Unfortunately, I often see the end-product of an athlete that refuses to alter their plans and continues to push at a time when they should be adapting their plan to accommodate changing circumstances.

This obsessive drive to complete the sessions laid out in their plan is one of the most common mistakes made by endurance athletes and, sadly, often ends in failure.

Optimise your health and safety

Optimising health (and safety) during the high-volume winter phase is crucial to ensure a consistent and high-quality training stimulus that will lead to optimal performance. To overcome this dilemma, you should consider a Plan B as part of your normal planning process.

Include training alternatives

Having training alternatives pre-prepared to respond to changing circumstances will not only maintain the physiological training stimulus but will also reduce the anxiety linked to the modification of the training plan.

The ‘Plan Bs’ are a collection of different plans to accommodate different issues that may arise through any phase of training. They’re designed to provide alternative training strategies to maintain consistent, high-quality training throughout the off-season.

For example, a ‘Bad Weather Plan B’ considers the potential for bad weather disruption and provides safe alternatives. Pressing ahead with a road bike session in the ice and snow is destined to lead to disaster.

Of note, the ‘Bad Weather Plan B’ is not an excuse to avoid the sessions you dislike! The alternative sessions are for those times when discretion is the better part of valour.

Don’t push on through injury and illness

This approach is of particular importance when it comes to illness and injury. Failing to consider illness and injury and continuing to push on with the existing plan will only lead to an exacerbation of the problem, leading to a protracted reduction in training quality and, ultimately, a performance decrement.

Dealing with illness and injury does not always mean a cessation of training, though. Having a ‘Plan B’ will ensure you optimise recovery and maintain conditioning in preparation for a return to full training.

Bravery is not training through illness and injury – the brave are those that have the strength to adapt training in response to changing circumstances. Plan for the worst and hope for the best… but simply hoping for the best without appropriate planning is a recipe for disaster. Always think, Plan B!

Top image credit: Getty Images