Beginning athletes can make time and distance improvements over 20 percent within a year. Improvements for athletes that have been consistently training and racing for over two years are typically in the four to ten percent per year range.
Elite athletes that have been competitive for many years are looking at annual improvements as small as the one to two percent range, sometimes less. It doesn't take a large percentage of improvement to break a world record--sometimes less than a hundredth of a second; but it takes years of work to achieve that record.
Having a good understanding of your current and recent-past capabilities is essential to future performance planning. Setting challenging yet achievable goals helps you get out of bed at 5:00 am to get that workout accomplished.
If your times stop improving, it may be an indicator that you need to change your training. Competitive athletes will often decide to train more, when in fact they need to back off and rest. How do you know what action you need to take? The first step is to review the data and take an objective look rather than an emotional look.
If you want to make calculated improvements to your performances, you must collect data. If you have not been collecting data--begin now.
If you haven't started, now is the time to set the stage for this season. The three suggestions here are a good start. If you are really looking to optimize your potential, achieving that goal takes more than a few weeks.
It also takes a careful examination of several areas, such as: job stress, school, family obligations, sleep hours, late night social habits and, in general, your overall lifestyle.
Is your lifestyle conducive to achieving your goals? When evaluating your athletic goals, you need to decide now just how competitive you want to be and what you're willing to give up to get what you want. How bad do you want it?