Triathlon training tips

What factors do we need to take into account when designing a periodised training plan?

January is typically a month of planning and preparation if you’re a triathlete. Many of you are probably already looking ahead to the Spring/Summer race season and choosing races to enter.

Here cycling and triathlon coach Mark Whittle, shares his training tips looking at periodisation and why it’s relevant to you.

“Periodisation is a really important aspect of any training plan. I don’t know of any successful athlete (in any sport) who doesn’t periodise their training.

“But, what does periodization actually mean? It’s simply the process of breaking your training down into cycles. Periodised training can incorporate macrocycles, mesocycles and microcycles. Over the next few posts, I’ll share insight on how you can periodise your own training, and what a good periodised training plan look like. For the purposes of these blog posts, we’ll focus on macrocycles: longer periods of training and most applicable to a one- or two-year training plan focusing on a key race.

“The idea of periodisation comes from Hans Selye’s General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) theory which looked at how the body responds to stress. Selye proposed the idea that the body goes through three stages: alarm (the initial response to the stimulus), resistance (adapting to the stress) and exhaustion (function decreases because recovery is inadequate). Physiologist Leo Metveyev and sport scientist Tudor Bompa went on to do more in-depth work on the idea of periodisation and athletic training, and more recently a number of coaches and exercise practitioners have given the basic ideas their own twist.

“Any client of mine will work through a macrocycle consisting of a general preparation phase, a base phase, a build phase, and a peaking phase before the race. Then there’s the all-important recovery and transition phase.

“General preparation and base phases are 60-75% of the macrocycle. These phases include safely and progressively building an aerobic base, working on technique and skills, and adapting the body to specific surfaces and conditions. During the build phase, we will increase the intensity of training by working on speed or volume (or both) and adding in specific skills, drills and technique sessions.

“As the date of your event or race gets closer, it’s time to think about sport-specific tests, trialling kit or components, fine-tuning nutrition strategies, working on sports psychology, paying more attention to recovery and massage, dialling in on sleep and hydration, and tapering.

“Once you’ve done your race, you enter the recovery and transition phase. I am always keen to educate clients about the importance of transition. This surprises some people, as the transition phase is less about physical fitness and more about psychology and life outside triathlon. But that is exactly why I think it’s so important to get it right. In your transition phase you will need to let your body recover, your mind relax and your entire life rediscover a good balance. Support and positive encouragement is key during this phase and, as a coach, I know I have a huge role to play in this (alongside your friends and family).

“What factors do we need to take into account when designing a periodised training plan?

  • the goal race or event
  • your athletic potential
  • your background in similar events or measured training settings
  • any injuries or other considerations
  • the calendar ahead of us (including B and C races and any holidays or time off)

“We’ll look at all this and more in my next blog post on the topic of periodisation for triathletes.”

For more information visit www.WhittleFit.com