It’s that time of year… yes… Christmas, but also planning time for next season. You’re picking races and starting to plan your training. I’ve noticed a bit of hustle and bustle around the interwebs about one topic surrounding annual training plans… reverse periodization vs. traditional periodization. I wanted to give you my take on the subject.
First of all, we need to get a little base knowledge so we know what exactly each term is referring to. Traditional Periodization, first widely instituted in Soviet Bloc Countries and then adopted by western athletes in the last 20-30 years, is all focused on the idea of dividing the training year into periods where training can progress towards the goal race. The basic skills and abilities are developed early in the season (known as building a base or the “Base Period”) and then building advanced abilities as race day got closer (aka: the “Build Period”). The concept is rooted in the idea that the closer you get to race day, the more race like your workouts should be.
The concept of Reverse Periodization came about in trying to find a better way to build the Base Phase for the shorter daylight hours of winter and also for time crunched athletes. The thought is that an athlete can build power and strength in the off season and then work on longer endurance during the spring and summer. This is most widely popular with long distance athletes.
With these two thoughts in mind, I’ll give you my take. Traditional Periodization works because it is a slow build over a long time with the workouts getting more and more like the race as race day approaches. Obviously you don’t want to be doing long, slow rides and runs the week before a sprint triathlon. You want to build that endurance in the Base period and pick up the intensity as you get closer to the race.
Now, this doesn’t mean training will be like that for everyone. That is actually where the mistake is made in the naming of “Reverse Periodization.” It assumes that all base training is long slow distance and all build training is high intensity and short duration efforts. But that’s not really correct. Following a traditional approach for a long course athlete will have them building that strength and power in the base phase and switching to more moderate, race like workouts as race day approaches.
In other words, if you are a long course athlete, reverse periodization is actually traditional. It would only be “reverse” if you were a short course athlete, and then it wouldn’t be helpful at all.
So that’s my two cents. I am focusing on long course racing this year, so I am following a traditional plan to build strength and form in the pre-season, and pile on the miles as race day approaches. I will break it down this way:
Base 1- 4 weeks- Form, Strength, Endurance
Base 2- 4 weeks- Strength, Power
Base 3- 4 weeks- Power, VO2 Max
Build 1- 4 weeks- Muscular Endurance
Build 2- 4 weeks- Transitions, Muscular Endurance
Taper/Race- 2 weeks- Recovery, transitions
So there you have it. My basic outline for the first A race- Long Course Duathlon Nationals! What is your training going to be like? Let me know in the comments or hit me up on Twitter!
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