3/29/17

Train smarter with a new approach to triathlon periodization



For many triathletes, training looks similar to this above model.
 Base, build, peak, taper, race, recover. 
But what happens after race day? Can the athlete who is racing in May continue on with training and still improve and peak again? Is the athlete strong enough to withstand another 6 months of training and racing? What if an athlete races in November - can the athlete start training in May and still achieve peak fitness in November?
Want to learn more? Read on. 
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When you think about training for a triathlon, it may appear to be a complicated sport - Swim, bike and run.
Training for a triathlon is much more than simply checking off swim, bike and run workouts because the sport of triathlon is one sport - SWIMBIKERUN and this sport requires great skills, endurance, resilience and strength, as you transition your body from swimming to biking to running.

Although you may feel overwhelmed with the thought of training for a triathlon, it is important to not make triathlon training too overwhelming. Understanding that a huge component of triathlon success is development, it's important to not overcomplicate the sport in the first few years of triathlon training as this can lead to burnout, health issues and/or injuries.

For all triathletes, swimbikerun training should fit in your life. You should find yourself gradually improving your fitness and skills throughout the season and improving, season after season. Unlike a single sport, we can not look for fitness gains to happen quickly as each sport brings a different stressor to the body. Ultimately, consistency as a triathlete will allow you to gain great confidence and fitness, with less setbacks due to injury, health issues and overtraining.

Creating a smart training plan can be challenging as there is no one periodized approach that will work for every athlete. Every athlete lives a different life, with a different physiology, mental capacity, health status and fitness abilities. Simply put, a periodized triathlon training plan should be based on the current emotional, physical and mental state of an athlete, with a well-designed strategy to help the athlete develop throughout the season, without major setbacks, in order to be emotionally, physically and mentally prepared for race day.

Once upon a time, periodized training was all about volume and intensity. These two things have not gone away but we no longer focus on slowly building an endurance base and then slowly increasing intensity throughout the season in order to get faster. As it relates to endurance triathletes, what we now know is that triathletes need to be very strong in order to adapt well to training stress. And a strong body will best achieve results on race day because it can handle the training demands that occur in swimbikerun. By creating a very durable foundation with the body, while establishing basic skills and retraining skills and movements before advancing volume and intensity, a triathlete will find that this periodized approach best suits endurance triathlon training and racing. Ultimately, this approach places training stress on the body all season long but, the physical stress is manageable, even in the biggest training load, simply because the body was trained to be strong. In other words, starting off the season with high volume or intense training will load the body with too much stress and this overload may risk injury, burnout or health issues. Furthermore, as mentioned above, a huge component to smart racing is smart training and when it comes down to executing well on race day, triathletes need great open water, bike handling and running skills and strength, in order to manage the terrain and obstacles that occur on race day.

Hopefully, by now, endurance triathletes recognize that being lean and fast are not primary goals of a periodized approach to training. Yet far too many endurance triathletes are chasing these variables and risking injury, health issues and burnout.

An important component to periodized training is understanding that you are accumulating fitness throughout an entire season. Thus, you can only reach peak fitness but just once or twice, maybe three times in a year. Therefore, your training needs to be designed in a way that you are gradually overloading the body throughout an entire season, with sessions of rebuilding and recovery so that you can continue to experience a higher level of fitness than when you started.

With too much intensity or volume early season, especially with a fragile/weak body, there's a good chance that your body won't be able to handle training as the volume/intensity becomes more race specific.

To learn more about a (somewhat) new approach to periodization, I was interviewed by the Daily Burn on my take on periodized triathlon training. Below is the article to help you learn more about breaking down your triathlon season to achieve peak fitness on race day.

Train Smarter with this 6-month periodization plan
Please note that I was asked to provide a 6-month periodized plan for an Olympic distance triathlete so I don't feel this strategy, of training 6 months, is ideal for an endurance triathlete but hopefully, the article will help you make sense of periodized training, regardless of race distance. 

If you are interested in a Trimarni 20-week olympic distance, half ironman or ironman training plan or joining our educational team, check out our plans on our website here. 
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