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Building a race season - reverse periodisation

As athletes and coaches think ahead to a summer season, below are some simple guidelines on how we structure our training and racing year. It's important to mention that we use this reverse periodisation approach and structure regardless of distance being raced. Both Nicola Spirig training for the Olympics, and Daniela Ryf training for Kona, follow the same principles:

Part 1: Recovery In this period we do only one easy short session a day to keep body ticking over. This is a physical and mental break from the rigours of training and racing. An example being 2 to 3 weeks over the Christmas and New Year holiday season. Part 2: Lead In Training Here we build the number of sessions back up to normal (usually twice a day) but without the volume or speed. Although returning to twice a day training, the workouts are shorter than normal. This period is generally 2 to 3 weeks duration. Part 3: Stimulus Training Most athletes have a weaker area, which for many triathletes is the swim. However stimulus programs can also focus on improving the bike or the run. We use a focused / stimulus approach on one area at a time, as it is difficult to improve 3 areas simultaneously once we have progressed past our initial 3 to 6 months of training in the sport (when we improve simply by becoming ‘more fit’). While following a stimulus training plan for 3 to 4 weeks to improve one area, the other two areas are maintained. We return to a balanced training plan for 3 to 4 weeks, before we repeat the stimulus period a second time.

Part 4: Short Course Training We then move on to an Olympic distance program where we add speed work. Yes, it is early season and no, no mega miles are used as a base. This phase is at least 8 weeks, and continues up to our first short course training race of the season – Sprint or Olympic distance triathlon. We expect to see an improvement in the discipline that was the focus of our earlier stimulus program. We also expect to feel physically and mentally ready to race well. At this point out short course athletes continue building upon their programs in alignment with their goals and needs. Our athletes looking to excel in Iron distance racing move into Half Iron distance training as their next progression. Part 5: The Half Iron Distance Plan After 3 or 4 days of easy light recovery training, we move into Half Iron / 70.3 training phase. Here we gradually lengthen the bike and run hours, along with the length of efforts. The long run gets longer as does the long bike. Swim workouts stay the same or increase marginally. The ‘over distance’ component is of appropriate duration for the half distance, and we maintain the shorter strength and speed workouts in our plan that we introduced during our stimulus and short course training period. Part 6: Race Preparation Phase As we approach a summer Half Iron / 70.3 race, we have a short race preparation phase. We don’t like to call it a taper as too many people misuse this terminology. Within this phase traditional methodology has everybody cutting their distances and resting. We also rest but we don’t cut any distance of training in any of the three disciplines. We reduce the intensity during race week. The day before the race, we don’t sit and rest but do a light workout on all three disciplines just to move the body. Part 7: Iron Distance Lead In After a week of light training to recover from our Half Iron / 70.3 race, we increase the number of workouts back to normal, with a few added active recovery days, before starting our Iron distance plan. Part 8: The Iron Distance Plan For the first time we will start to do the training that most associate with their early season base work. The longer aerobic bike and runs will be built into the program. As we did during the Half Iron period, we maintain a mix of strength and speed workouts in swim, bike and run. We layer the longer work on top of the shorter. Part 9: Race Preparation Phase The race preparation phase for Iron distance is similar to the Half distance. We reduce intensity, but do not cut the distance of training. This final phase leading into our Iron distance race will include a long run and a long ride - both done with minimal effort i.e. at an easy slow pace. Part 10: Races post Iron Distance After our Iron distance race, we have 1 to 3 weeks of light training, and lead in training similar to parts 1 and 2 described in this schedule. If you plan to race a second Iron distance, count back the number of weeks to your next race, then resume the Iron distance training plan from that week up to race day. If you plan to return to short course or Half distance racing for the remainder of the season, then the same principle applies of returning to the Olympic plan or Half Distance plan up to race day. This approach is applicable for athletes racing short course and Half Iron / 70.3 distance or full Iron distance. Structure your year with recovery, lead in, stimulus, then short course. If racing Half / 70.3 then move into that phase. If your focus is on short course racing, stick with the Olympic training plan. Athletes may also want to repeat a stimulus training period mid-year to continue to work on a weaker area. The key is to remember that we do not overdo the long over distance work at the beginning of our preparation like mainstream triathlon recommends. I hope this example can show you how to get the very best out of your training year using a reverse periodisation approach, and how Trisutto training plans can be used to guide you through each of the periods of the year. Thank you very much for all of your support.


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