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The Art Of Peaking - Getting It Right On The Big Day

"I don't understand it. Last month I was absolutely flying... I'm doing exactly the same training as I was a month ago, nothing has changed, but now I'm running like a donkey!! How can that be?"

If you're an endurance athlete, the above statement is something that you can probably relate to. We've all been there and scratched our heads, confused at why our fantastic form in one month doesn't carry over to the next, despite doing exactly the same training. Surely you should just keep improving and geting better every week of every month?

Here's the reality. During some weeks or months of the year, you will feel as though you are flying. On other weeks and months of the year, you'll feel like it's just not clicking. This is the case for everyone, but the thing that we generally fail to do is to control when this happens. The ultimate objective is for you to be able to control and predict when you will be at your best, so you can ensure that it conicides with your major events. There's no point having you major events in June, only to look back and wonder why you were running so well in April?

Here's the basic things you need to know:

1. In last week's blog we discussed planning out the phases of your year and we provided a basic template to use. If you missed that, then read first and download the planner.

2. If you complete a hard block of training, most people will generally reach a peak within 6-8 weeks. After that, your performance will start to plateau and then dip. It's important to understand that fact as many people reach a peak and then continue to push hard for 10+ weeks. They find their performances dipping and wondering why they aren't performing as well as they were 3 weeks beforehand.

3. When the plateau and dip occurs, it's time to end that block of training and you need a change of stimulus. It may not necessarily require you to take a break, you may just need a change of focus such as switching to more mileage at a slower pace.

4. Recovery time is very important. If youn train hard for 4 weeks, an easy week allows you to recover and absorb the training. You can then go forwards for another 4 weeks and continue to progress. If you don't take the easier week, you can often start to feel fatigued at week 5 and then performances drop off over the next wek weeks.

5. Backing off when you feel fatigued is a very difficult thing to do, when most people want to keep training hard. My observation of this is very simple:

"When we feel good, we want to push harder and do more. We feel strong and invincible and smashing our training times provides positivity". When we don't feel good, we NEVER want to go easier, we continue to push hard".

6. Training has to be balanced, consistent and rarely maximal. If you are training 6 days per week, you can't train at 100% on the first 2 days of the week and then miss training on Wednesday because you are exhausted. Your week should be planned to allow recovery and you should complete sessions and an intensity which gives you benefit, but allows you to get up the next morning and start again. When you feel good, this is difficult to do and you fall into the trap on point number 4 above.

7. You can't hold form for more than a few weeks so if you are aiming to peak for a couple of races, your focus should shift from hard training to 'fine tuning'. Taper for your race, then in the following week focus on recovery and then maintaining form. Your sessions may well be very short and sharp, but should not leave you feeling fatigued. Maintenance sessions should energise and prepare, all you are intending to do is hold your current fitness, NOT progress it.

8. It'll take up to 2 weeks to recover from a 'full gas' olympic distance triathlon or half marathon, so bear that in mind when planning your training and also when entering your races!

9. Go back to basics and then build again. If you've just had 6-8 weeks of hard training and then completed a couple of races, drop back to base training and cut the intensity for a few weeks. After that, go back into 6-8 weeks of hard training to build again for your next target.

Q: What if I have 4 important races, over an 8 week period, each 2 weeks apart?

A: Then you've planned your season badly and the likelihood is that by the 3rd / 4th race it'll go pear shaped. That's why we are providing the info now, so you can plan a little more intelligently for 2016.

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.

Marc Laithwaite
The Endurance Store

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