Season Planning – “Okay Go, Adam Sadowsky, and the Yearly Training Plan”

By Sean Scott

You may have heard of the immensely popular music video This Too Shall Pass, which has had nearly 24 million hits on YouTube. Believe it or not, the creation of this video by the group Okay Go and entrepreneur Adam Sadowsky has a lot in common with the preparation for a racing season. If you haven’t seen the video, take a few moments to watch it here; then go over to and see entrepreneur’s talk he gave at TEDx USC, about how the video was put together.

Sadowsky’s speech broken down goes something like this and actually overlaps really well with creating a yearly plan:

  1. What do you want?
  2. Defining your season/Know what you want!
  3. 85 takes to get 3 successful runs….(trial and error or how to measure success.)
  4. Small stuff stinks but is often the most critical.
  5. No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.
  6. Put reliable stuff last.
  7. Life can be messy – deal with it. It will pass.
  8. Play the part of the fool. Translated: take risks, have fun, and you’ll learn faster.

In this analogy the coach is Sadaowsky, the band is the athlete and the Rube Goldberg machine is the season (unwieldy, chaotic and often unpredictable).

1. What do you want for the season?

These are simply goals you state for the season that can be sport specific, lifestyle specific or simply intentions.

Any cycling coach who has plotted and planned a yearly training plan can relate to what Sadowsky is going through when he lists what the band wants to get out of this video.  When I meet with an athlete who has set lofty goals my first reaction is to respect their ambition and to do my best to foster a can do attitude.

(eg. Win State Cross Championships, raise X amount of funds for a charity ride, lose weight, and so on.)

2. Define your season/Know what you want.

This is simply the process of refining your goals and objectives where you state the hows and whys of what you’re doing. This is the place where you build the armature for a successful approach to your season.

(eg. Choosing priority races, setting up fund raising activities, starting a food journal, etc. )

3. Trial and Error can lead to success.

Sadowsky and his crew had 3 workable takes in 85. That is a lot of trial and error.  Said another way, if you only measure success through winning it’s going to be a disappointing season. Races that perhaps do not suit your abilities are places to hone things like drafting better, hiding from the wind, learning to sit in if you always try to get a break going or doing the opposite if you’re the proverbial wall flower of the pack.

Challenge yourself to change up your habits and learn something new. It can be shocking how predictably people race. Take a moment and reflect on your habits and what you want to try differently this year that will lead to a more successful season. Creating a pre-race plan and a debrief 30 to 60 minutes after a race can be a critical tool for immediate and future success.

Further, the off season is the time when you can rehearse these scenarios in your mind and visualize how you will change your approach or tactics in different situations.

4. Small stuff stinks.

As anyone who has had the pleasure of standing at the top of the podium will tell you, it is taking care of all the small stuff that will get you there. What is the small stuff? For most of us, the small stuff is what we take for granted like making sure your bag is packed the day before a race, good diet, good support, the equipment is in working order, no glass or cuts in the tires, are my cleats tight, and a million other little things.

The thing about the small stuff is that it really is small and if managed daily will go a long way toward creating a successful training and racing environment. To me the small stuff is really all about creating the psychological framework for success.  A good coach will help you to identify the small stuff and make it a priority at the right time of the year.

For example, how many times have you left your preparation for a race to the last minute? Why not practice packing your racing kit in the off season when there are little consequences if you forget to pack your helmet. Everything can become a dress rehearsal for race day, and if you do it often enough it really does become second nature.

Treating the small stuff with as much care and consideration as you give to doing intervals is critical to success and ultimately to the amount of fun you have with your sport.

Finally, create the habit of setting an intention before every training session that puts you in the right frame of mind. Muhammed Ali began every training session declaring it harder than any fight he ever had to do so that when he got in the ring all he had to do was “dance under the lights.”

5. No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.

A yearly training plan is probably the smartest thing you and your coach can do in a year to make you faster or help you reach your seasons objectives and yet it will constantly be in flux. A YTP is an organic tool and needs to remain flexible. Sadowsky himself says, “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” Enemy in this case is a metaphor for limiters you have to overcome.

You and your coach need to dialog about what is working and what needs to change.  Take a moment and ponder what your “enemy” or limiters are. Are you the enemy, the business of life getting in the way? Do your goals need to be re-framed? Is there a particular race that trips you up every season, an opponent or a mental block that is preventing you from reaching your objective?  How will you deal with illness, injury or a crash? Flexibility is the key to success because life has a habit of getting in the way.

Tease things out in the off season and begin to address them so you can hit the ground running. Sometimes these things can be resolved quickly and other times they can take a season or two to overcome.

6. Put reliable stuff last/ Work on your weaknesses first.

Okay, if you’re fast in the time trial but sprint like a Winnebego, and you don’t work on either your acceleration or your ability to ride away from your opponents, are you really going to be surprised if you get your rear handed to you in a three up sprint? Not really.

If you are cagey, use your head and outflank your opponents and take the race to them, will you win? Well, the odds are in your favour. The question is have you and your coach done your homework to prepare for that scenario and others?

Said another way, know yourself. Truly this is where a coach can be most useful because we’re here to help you see your blind spots. We all have blind spots and we all have people in our lives that call us out to help us improve.

Work with your coach to tease these things out so that you can progress as a rider. It’s definitely not all about heart rate zones and wattage.

7. Life gets in the way…

Whatever our obligations are to the bike, we all have obligations in other areas on our life wheel. Balancing these things is definitely more of an art than science, and I believe the key to success here lies not in pedaling the bike but in improving communication skills.

This is another area where working out a YTP can be extremely useful. Having a general schedule for time on the bike is a powerful tool to help balance life, work and play. No matter where you are in the food chain from pro to recreational rider, being able to state your needs and negotiate is critical to a successful season.

8. Play the part of the fool.

Translated: take risks, have fun and you’ll learn faster. There are few places in life where you can experiment and learn new things as well as with sport. Don’t be afraid to play the fool. Try something. Change it a few degrees if necessary and try again. Playing the fool means being calculated and systematic in your approach. There is little room to be reckless but lots of room to play and experiment.

As my mentor once told me, “You have to think of the year before you can plan the day.” A solid YTP is the way to go.