The Peak Mesocycle
The Peak mesocycle will typically begin about two to three weeks before the competition. The length will vary based on each sport, the athlete’s fitness level and the nature of event.
Activities that are orthopedically stressful, like running, will require a longer period of tapering. Reducing the frequency and duration starting three or more weeks out before the event is not uncommon for runners.
An activity like swimming where there is no hard surface pounding associated with it will do better with a shorter taper period. Swimmers can usually use between 7 and 14 days for tapering.
Then other activities like rowing or cycling will fall anywhere between the two extremes. The triathlete will taper each of the activities at different rates.
Your fitness level will determine the length of your taper. If you have a better fitness level you will have a longer taper than someone whose fitness is poor due to a late start in preparing for the race, as you need as much time as possible to build your fitness level.
So the peak period will be shortened so a longer build period is possible. You may only taper for 10 days. The length of the event is will determine the length of training and taper should be.
An example would be that a runner preparing for a marathon might taper for three weeks while only taper for ten days for a 5km race. The longer the race will usually mean a greater training load and emphasis on a long duration.
The longer workouts will have a great toll on your body than a shorter workout and more time will be needed for the body to recover and rebuild the reserves.
It is during the Peak mesocycle that you will want to reduce the training volume between 20 – 30% every 3 – 4 days.
When the taper length is shorter you will want to reduce at a greater level. You don’t want to decrease the intensity which includes the heart rate, power, pace and effort of the workout, only shorten the duration.
The frequency of the workouts, which is how often an athlete trains, can also be decreased slightly while tapering, as long as you are still doing at least five or six workouts in a sport during a normal week preceding the Build mesocycle.
A triathlete who is only doing three swims, three runs and three bike rides a week really shouldn’t decrease the frequency of the sessions as the sessions are already pretty marginal.
If the frequency of the training gets low you can experience a loss of economy which is how efficiently you will move. You don’t want your movements to become sloppy, which is when the muscles forget how to move right. Swimmers will call this losing their “feel” for the water.
The basic idea of a training structure during the peak period is to be able to simulate the intensity of a portion of the targeted event every 72 – 96 hours until about seven days before the event.
A simulation workout is when you select a segment of the event that will play an important role to the success of the race and practice it exactly how you will gauge the output, the power or pace, and the input, the effort and heart rate, for that particular segment.
An example would be finding a hill that will be similar to the one in the race and do a warm up and simulate the intensity you are planning on using for the race.
It could be that the course of the race is going to be flat and you want to make sure you are maintaining certain intensity in order to reach your goal.
Rehearse the intensity in each of the workout simulations. The intensity may be based upon a heart rate or pace, the power or perceived exertion as compared to the heart rate.
You need to decide what portion of the race is critical and then make the simulation the dress rehearsal as many different ways as possible.
This may need to include dress, mental approach, equipment, refueling or anything else that makes up a part of the race day strategy. You may even use one or two of the imulation workouts during the peak period as a Cpriority race, which is done as a tune up.
It is important to note that even though intensity of the simulation is critical to your success during the peak period, going beyond the targeted race intensity is not going to be helping you out, it will only be counterproductive.
A good example would be that a marathon runner who has a goal of running a 7 minute pace in Zone 3 should do a simulation that is only this intensity, not a 6 minute pace in Zone 5.
If you will do a race simulation every 72 – 96 hours during the peak period, what should you be doing the 2 – 3 days between the workouts? You are going to be doing short, easy, recovery workouts or taking a day to rest.
The idea behind this is to make sure that you are fully ready and recovered to go at it again during the next simulation.