You can train haphazardly and hope to have top form on race day or you can follow an organized training plan building up to your peak event. With a proper training plan your probability of success is far greater. The difference between these two training methods is not motivation or amount of work.  It’s all about hitting your peak form on the week of your big event. Without a coach, designing your own training plan for the entire season can be a little overwhelming. To simplify the process Linda Wallenfals has broken it down into a few easy steps (I’ve changed this slightly to make it shorter).

Set Goals: What do you want to accomplish this season? Be specific with the race date and distance. "Get strong" or "Do well at all crits this season" is not a concrete, time-specific goal. "Win club champs on April 20th" is a perfect example of a goal.  Your goal should be both challenging and realistic. The goal must be one you have passion to achieve. Once you have your goals, you have a focus for your training. Spend time and thought on this step as it establishes the foundation for everything else.

Evaluate Race Demands:
Race demands largely dictate the nature your training should take. The majority of your training plan should reflect the specific demands of your chosen goal event. Endurance events will emphasize aerobic fitness and tactical preparation. Short, fast events will require a larger volume of short, fast training.

Establish Calendar: Using a calendar, mark down your A-priority event.  Count back from that date to figure out how many weeks you have available to train. 8-12 weeks is a reasonable amount of time.  Mark on the calendar all other information you have about your schedule between now and race day such as days or weeks you cannot train and lower priority events.

Periodize: Divide the weeks you have available to train into focused periods. The best way to do this is to work backwards from your A-priority race day. Label the week of your A-priority race "race week." Label the one to two weeks prior to that "peak week." Continue working backwards on the calendar and divide the rest of your time up into blocks of 3 or 4 week periods. Ideally you will end up with about 4 3-4 week periods, a couple of peak weeks and a race week. Now you have a basic overview of your season.

Recovery Weeks: Every 3-4 week period should end with a rest and recovery week.  The workouts should be light and short in your recovery week. Training volume should be about half of regular training weeks.

Daily Workouts: Now you’re getting down to the important details about the training you will be doing on a daily basis. Start designing your training week by scheduling two to three key workouts for the week and then fill in the less important sessions as time allows.  This is the most complicated part of the program where paying for some good coaching advice will pay big dividends. See Crowie’s training pyramid

Follow the Plan : The best coach  in the world won’t be successful unless his/her advice is followed. Stick to your plan and you’ll get the results you desire.  Be patient. You don’t need to be flying when everyone else is.  Chances are that they’ll burn out by the time you start to peak.

Keep A Training Diary: Check back on it to make sure you are actually following your plan.  Be accountable to it. It will make you realize how many workouts you actually miss, and how far off the mark they are to the original plan.  Keep watching the data to make sure it is heading in the direction you planned.

Training randomly and doing what you are in the mood for every day can be enjoyable. There should be times of the year that are set aside for this.  If daily enjoyment is your goal then riding based on your mood may be the right plan for you. If you are goal focused and would rather strive to do well during a few parts of the season, then I highly recommend you create a training plan.