I hate to say it, but we are in the final weeks of the triathlon race season in the UK. Anyone wanting to continue racing will have to chase the Sun and travel abroad. If you’re now beginning to look towards the future then it may be useful to consider the concept of TRAINING PERIODISATION.
In simple terms this means varying your training routine over a certain time period in order to reap greater rewards come competition time. By structuring your training into periods, or cycles, its possible to develop greater fitness, prevent injuries and ensure enjoyment and motivation remain high.
Know your cycles:
MACROcycle – a longer time period such as a year or even perhaps a 4 year period between Olympics.
MESOcycle – medium length; possibly a few months in length. *discussed further below
MICROcycle – typically a week but could be 10 days in length.
Each of these periods will have a goal; something to achieve and signify you’re heading the right direction or perhaps identify areas to work on.
So, if we were to begin the planning process over the next few weeks we could consider the various phases (mesocycles) that we will move through over the coming year (macrocycle).
Personally, I like to think along these lines:
Post-season: Lasting a few weeks to couple of months this is a period of down-time, allowing physical and mental recovery from the racing season past. It’s a great time to reflect and consider what went well and what needs further consideration or improvement? What did you enjoy or find rewarding? Most people will continue to exercise during this period but I encourage them to do so with no particular goal and as often as possible to go naked (avoiding the use of any metrics) and to try new things unrelated to triathlon. This is a very suitable time to prioritise injury rehabilitation; the demands of competition are far away and the aerobic load will be at its lowest which makes for a higher likelihood of you getting rid of those niggles.
Off-season: The return to more structured training begins in the off-season. Training at this time is often referred to a base building and the standard model is to begin with general aerobic training that progresses by time rather than intensity (note reverse periodisation is outside the scope of this blog). Building your base should provide the foundations for you to layer on more specific and more intense work later, so in addition to aerobic endurance work we also include technique focussed drills, a focus on each individual athlete’s limiters (weaknesses) and place a greater emphasis on strength and conditioning work. All of these should provide a stronger base and allow for a higher peak!
Pre-season: As the weather begins to improve, the days get longer and races get nearer we begin the specific preparation phase or pre-season. Now training becomes more specific to the race goals. We consider factors such as race distance/duration, intensity level, kit choices, nutrition and many other things besides. This is the usual home of the brick session, in which triathletes will perform a bike ride and then transition quickly to running. Whilst bike and run sessions can often be more productive when undertaken in a fresh and rested state, nothing prepares you for those jelly legs better than a brick session.
In-season: Once we begin to race and the season has started then the focus is on aiming to peak and recover before going again. A peak in fitness is usually found when months of chronic training stress/load has been banked and a short period of reduced training load allows the athlete to freshen up (known as tapering). The season may contain many small mesocycles of race, recover, peak, taper….repeat. However, when viewing the bigger picture, it can be decided not to prioritise certain ‘B’ races in favour of continued consistent training which means very little lost training time (taper/recover) either side of the race.
I hope you find this useful when planning out your future training and racing calendars. Consider using a template such as above to help you plan out your next season and achieve better race results.