Training Periodization

Training plans should not just focus on the immediate needs of “What should I do today?” or even just for the week.   You need to start with the big picture.   A comprehensive training plan can be broken down into several periods each of which will represent a new phase of training.

This is the concept of “periodization”.

Pre-Competition Mid-Competition Peak Rest

Base Period

The first period is a base period.  Its purpose is to ease the athlete back into training alter having rested for two months.  The first weeks are slow and easy, because the training is concentrated primarily on building back the endurance through volume, with very little emphasis on intensity or speed.

Pre-Competition Period

The pre-competition period is an extension of the base, with one or two aerobic interval days breaking up the distance training.

Mid-Competition Period

Then the mid- competition period begins.   Now the training focus shifts slightly by decreasing the training volume and increasing the training intensity.   The training week is composed of alternating hard and easy days with aerobic – anaerobic interval work done on hard days separated by distance work.  In this transition of training periods, the workout quality (intensity) becomes more important than the quantity (volume).

Peak Period

September and October form the Peak period.  The training volume is very low and the intensity is very high.  The triathlete will spend few days on distance training and more days on specific race pace interval training.  The key international distance competitions should take place during this period.

Rest and Recovery Period

Finally, the recovery period is an essential break, both physically and mentally.   Relaxation during this phase is important, so the word “training” should be substituted by the word “exercise”.  Then in January, the cycle begins again.

Any training plan should build upon the base work established early in the season and introduce higher intensity interval training for each event.

Days with dual work outs can be accomplished in a morning and evening session, morning and midday session, midday and evening or all at once.
Within each 4 week cycle the workouts alternate hard and easy training days for the first, second and third weeks.  The fourth week is less intense.  This allows the body to recover then progress to the next 4 week cycle.

Switch it Up

The workouts should be varied from day to day and week to week in an effort to alleviate boredom.  Unless you are doing a specific “brick” training day, your training plan should not include training for all three events in one day.   Instead focus on deconflicting the hard training days for the general muscle groups.

Swimming and cycling make an excellent daily pair since one primarily uses the upper body and the other primarily uses the lower body.  Since cycling and running rely heavily on the leg muscles, their training days are separated.

In any training plan, it will be important to include full time trials in order to gauge progression.  These are much more realistic if it can take place in an actual triathlon competition.  As the times improve from one week to the next, so too should the intensities of the workout.

Good luck!


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