Since you’re ready to become a serious triathlete it’s time to train like the pros. Fabulous! In that case you’re going to need to learn all about periodisation.
First, Let’s Define Periodisation
Right, so the conventional approach means splitting a year into sections where you can focus on one specific thing like running or swimming so as to bring your body to peak performance for the race.
Why not just swim, run, weight train and cycle every week throughout the year in preparation for the event? That’s easy – the dreaded plateaus! You don’t want your body to be burned out or suffering from over-use injuries on the big day.
Now, a typical triathlon season has four chunks: the off-season (usually winter), a base training period, a build training period, and a race peak-to-taper period. All the while weight training and eating right in the background. Make sense? Here’s a bit of wisdomfrom Leonstriathlon.com:
“You are prone to experiencing burn out and poor quality weight training benefits if you use the same weight training program all year long. If you make adjustments in your training program for swimming, cycling, and running routine, the same should be done with your weight training routine as the year goes by. You will enable your weight training muscles to perform perfectly on race day if you are able to appropriately reduce sets, increase power, and add explosiveness to your weight training routine.
Check out his breakdown of nutrition periodisation throughout the year, it’s brilliant!
Off-Season: 30-40% carbs, 30-40% protein, and 30-40% fat.
Base: 50% carbs, 20-30% protein, and 20-30% fat.
Build: 55-65% carbs, 20-25% protein, and 15-20% fat.
Peak/Taper: “7-14 days before the race should be 30-40% carbs, 30-40% protein, and 30-40% fat, with a gradual increase to 75-80% carbohydrate, a reduction to 10-15% protein, and 10-15% fat 1-6 days before the race.”
There’s No Universal form of Periodisation
Think about Olympians and how they spread out their periodized training over the span of a couple years leading into the games. How about Iron-man athletes? Once you understand the basics it’s all about curating your regimen for your own body and the specific challenges you face while reaching peak performance.
Yes, it’s good to study the pros and learn from people who’ve been through it and are more experienced. Their guidelines are always going to be somewhat similar and leave you room to do your own thing to suit your own body, fitness goals and your lifestyle leading up to the triathlon.
Cross-training and HIIT
In his incredible explanation of block periodization for advanced athletes, coach, author and exercise psychologist Joe Friel has this to say about the benefits of high intensity training and cross-training for more conditioned folks:
“It’s been well-established by research that while emphasizing the volume of their training produces dramatic improvements in novices, doing so with elite athletes has little or no benefit beyond a certain and easily-achieved point. However, higher-intensity training, especially intervals, has been shown repeatedly to significantly improve the performances of elites in endurance sports. One way of doing this is to use a block periodization model which places an emphasis on intensity of training rather than volume.”
So as you progress from one block to the next, everything is changing: weight training, specific event training, nutrition, intensity vs. volume, rest periods, etc. It gets really complicated! You’ll find all kinds of micro-periods for each of the bigger periods and on and on it goes. In many ways, triathletic training is more challenging than the events themselves! Once you get the training aspect down, the rest is a breeze, reaching for peak performance. Thanks for reading!