The winter holidays are upon us and your 2016 season is most likely a wrap. The thought of getting some much needed rest is at the top of your wish list. The principles of Periodization Training don’t change during the "off season" because Recovery is part of the plan. Typically athletes start their plan in January and move forward with optimizing training as the weather gets warmer and daylight grows longer. But what if you want to be at your best for your first few races in May or June? There is good reason for this thinking because if you are at your fittest and others in your age group are only at 75%, you will have a better chance of a course personal record, being ahead of your competition or even being on the podium.
If this is a real thought then you will need to move the Periodization process back a few months so that you’re “A” race is in early spring instead of mid-summer. This can work well if you are also looking to peak again in a late fall race. This is a common method used by elite marathon runners. However, realize that if you go this route, you may be exhausted and burned out by summer when your competition is at its best so a recovery period in the middle the season is probable. So before you get started, you need to fully recover from the previous season and ensure that you take time to heal from any nagging injuries. Winter or the “off season” is ideally the time to sleep more or rebuild from mental and physical fatigue so that you can start off strong.
Periodization training has several key periods that must be followed in order to maximize performance and build to a higher level. Included are: Base, Build, Intensity and Recovery.
This is the foundation of your fitness. Once you are recovered from your previous season and have started a general fitness program; you should look at your future goals and schedule that will allow you to reach them. Base training should support the Periodization plan or Systematic Approach to Training that uses Base, Build, Intensity, Taper, Race, Recover (repeat). With the method you will find that you are able to start your base off at a higher level each time and can add more distance and mileage for another Periodization plan. At this time of year you are done with your first Base block of training and have maintained a level that will allow you to sharpen your speed and intensity for an eventual breakthrough race day performance.
With planning to be at top fitness for an early-in-the-season race, you will need to ensure that you have a solid foundation of training before moving into the build phase. The key will be to and in the build phase for a period of 6-8 weeks. During this build phase you need to ensure that you continue to work on each sport separately to make improvements including: Swim strength and stroke proficiency, cycling strength and endurance, and run speed and lasting power through the length of the run course distance.
The final few weeks prior to your first race of the season you will want to incorporate some shorter speed sessions in all three sports with intensity lasting 20-30 minutes for cycling or running and a sustained effort of half to three-quarters of the course swim distance.
Once you have gone through your Base, Build and Intensity phases, you may need a short recovery period to get ready for more intense training. With a plan to break your season into two parts, this could be considered “in season” maintenance training. It is not meant to be a full suspension of training, moreover, is simply a short period to help regain a feeling of freshness for the upcoming demands of further training. It is really important to repair yourself both physically and mentally from the early season and heal any developing injuries that may be starting.
Then start the process all over again. You will be able to build on the gains from the previous periodization and have a second chance for success!
By Doug Marocco @DouglasMarocco
Doug is a 9X Hawaii Ironman finisher and a 2X US Age Group National Champion.