Last week we discussed the benefits of the traditional pyramid (slow base in winter, getting faster into the summer), compared to the inverse pyramid (higher intensity in the winter, going longer into the summer). To carry on that theme, I'd like to discuss a few other issue relating to the traditional pyramid / periodisation, which often leads to athletes falling short in the summer months of racing.
1. It's never too early to start
There is a common consencus that endurance athletes really shouldn't be doing that much at all during the winter. This misconception comes from the focus on 'base training' which is wrongly referred to as 'easy training' and in many cases it generally ends up as 'not a lot of training'. Summer will be here before you know if and starting your training 20-24 weeks before you major event is not early enough, no matter what the plan that you downloaded from the internet states. You really don't have as much time as you think...
2. It's getting intense
The traditional pyramid will start with longer and slower training sessions and then become more intense as the season approaches with shorter and faster training. The issue with this is that high intensity training creates a lot of fatigue, so if you're planning to increase the intensity in the final phases of the training plan, this is going to happen just at the time when you start racing. Trying to add high intensity work at the same time as you start your racing programme, is not the best recipe for success!
3. You need to get it, then hold it
As you enter the racing season, you really need to somewhere close to your peak level of fitness and then you should try to 'hold it' and perhaps 'refine it'. It can take 1-2 weeks to fully recover from an olympic distance triathlon or half marathon race. If you are racing every 1-2 weeks, any attempt to fit in your high intensity training or peak phase of your plan will simply lead to overload and a potential 'crash and burn'. If you have 2 races, 2 weeks apart, your focus should be recovery, fine tuning and holding your form. If you're trying to train hard during this time to move your fitness forwards, you started your plan too late.
4. You can't hold form for 4 months
It's all fine and well to hit your peak fitness (or close to it) at the start of the season and then hold it, but the season can be 4 months long, that's a long time to hold your fitness! For that reason, your season should be planned correctly with A/B/C races. You can't perform well at every event, so some need to be more important that others. Here's some simple guidelines:
- Don't fill your season with races every weekend, you'll burnout and your performances and your enthusiasm will disappear by August!
- Plan some mini-breaks where you recover and refresh, then go again towards your next event of importance.
- If it's not categorised as an 'A' race, then it's not important. I commonly hear people state that an event is just a 'C' race so they're 'training through' and not tapering. On the day they race 100%, get wiped out, perform badly and are really disappointed with the performance.
- Allow training time and racing time. If you have a major target event, allow 6 weeks beforehand to get a solid block of training and preparation. It's ok to add some 'C' races so long as they don't disrupt your training block.
- If you have 2-3 races in quick succession, your focus should be recovery and refining for the next race. YOU CAN'T TRAIN HARD during this period, plan your weeks accordingly or be disappointed with your performances.
5. Plan it out
Your next step is to plan it out. You can download a sample template which gives you and example of how this should be done by CLICKING HERE.
One of the things which might shock you is how little time there is to your summer events. Carefully plan your races and rate them as A - C in terms of importance. You should then add the purpose of the training block, which may be to build / train hard or to simply maintain fitness and recover between races.
If you'd like a more accurate assessment of your personal strengths and weaknesses, you can book a sports science assessment. We can put together a plan which will be specific to you, the cost for sports science assessment is £75 and you can BOOK HERE.
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