What if intensity and not volume is really the key for unlocking your endurance potential?
The conventional approach for endurance athletes seeking new personal bests is to build an aerobic base using large volumes of low-intensity training, then to sharpen up to build speed and competition fitness. Or so I thought until I recently read a blog by Joe Friel (Training Peaks Founder and The Triathletes Training Bible) and Brett Sutton (Coached multiple Ironman World Champions and renowned greyhound trainer) about Reverse Periodisation and it got me thinking. So after a few more articles and hours of research I have decided to write this one.
Reverse periodisation is all about training to be fast, and unlike
traditional plans there isn’t such an emphasis on long, slow training
miles. You may already know that periodisation involves splitting your
year into separate blocks of time, with each block focused on improving a
specific area of fitness. It’s a proven way of improving your
performance and has traditionally involved spending your winter doing
long, low-intensity workouts and drills before upping the pace and
shortening the distances as race season approaches. These days many coaches and sports scientists argue that if you’re
already capable of completing your race distance, you should focus all
your time on getting faster instead. This new season planning strategy
is called reverse periodisation. You can start a reverse training plan
at any time of the year but if you want to do an entire block of it you
would typically kick off in early winter by focusing on technique-based
workouts and low intensity sessions to find your legs.
Following this adjustment phase you would begin an eight-week period
where you do regular high-intensity sessions that build a solid base of
strength, power and technique. Muscular
strength and perfect high-speed technique are first to benefit from
these short, high-speed efforts but your aerobic system is boosted too.
The rest of the time would then be dedicated to short easy-paced
workouts, which allow recovery and allow you to progress faster, with
TURN UP THE VOLUME. After a couple of months of explosive training, you would spend time teaching your body to sustain a high intensity for
longer periods of time by increasing the length of your efforts. Your
newly built reserves of top-end speed mean that these longer efforts can
be performed at a pace which is right at the limit of your
cardiovascular system. The maximal reps would
be swapped for four-or-five minute reps to develop your muscular
endurance. That just leaves the final training phase which involves
even longer efforts (15 to 30mins) at or near race pace. During this
time you would gradually increase your total training volume as well.
This maintains your power and speed whilst developing your endurance.
Then as you approach your key races you should taper off in the last
10-14 days to allow you to recover in time.
TRAIN LESS IN WINTER. There are many benefits to reverse periodisation, not least that
you’ll spend less time training in the winter, and more in the summer when the weathr is generally better.
That’s not to say it’s an easy ride. High-intensity training can be
tough on your body, so you should ensure hard sessions are only
performed when you’re feeling 100%. And if you’re new to triathlon, or
you’re training for your first Ironman, this speed-focused approach
probably isn’t for you. It’s better suited to improving and experienced
triathletes, who are looking for a new way to boost their speed without
having to spend more and more time in training.
This is not a new concept. It has been around since the 80's. Like all training plans and ideas they will come full revolution and back into fashion once more but not everything needs to make a come back.
Monday, 26 October 2015
Michael is an ITU Continental Technical Official. He is currently a Level 3 British Triathlon, a "Trainee" Level 2 British Cycling Coach and an Open Water Swimming Coach. Michael was one of Triathlons Technical Officials at the London 2012 and Nanjing 2014 Olympics. Still competing at National events he represented GBR at AG long distance triathlon and hopes to return to top level competition soon.