Journey, Training

Periodization – structure your training season

Purplepatch coaching introduced me to a well known paradigm in the athletic training world, Periodization. I somehow followed a periodization training approach before but not on a long term basis, it was rather targeted to single races and not on an entire season.

In general terms periodization can be described as:

…the systematic planning of athletic or physical training. The aim is to reach the best possible performance in the most important competition of the year. It involves progressive cycling of various aspects of a training program during a specific period. (Source:

In order to follow such a training model, the first thing I did was to plan my key races and supporting races over the course of the season. In my case the season goes from October 2015 – October 2016. My aim is to reach 2 peak performances over the next 12 months. The first one is end of June 2016 for my Ironman race and the second one is at the end of September for my end of season race.

With this in mind I also scheduled in some supporting races (they are referred to as B races) throughout the early and mid season. I have to be realistic here and know that I won’t have peak performance for these early season races.

That’s a critical thing to remember when approaching the training, as you can’t be firing from all cylinders throughout the whole season and expect outstanding results. Hence why you have your key races, they are planned accordingly to allow specific preparation in the buildup to race day. In my case I have 2 periods where I aim for my best possible fitness and readiness for performance.

The season is structured in 4 phases:

  • Post season
    The focus here is primarily on skill development, foundational fitness, strength and form. This is the phase with the lowest physical stress. The aim is to prepare you for the heavier training in pre-season.
  • Pre season 
    This is where the heavy lifting occurs. It’s a very critical and fundamental phase in training. Focus here is on building muscular endurance and great overall fitness. It’s higher in training load, mixed in with some high power and specific intensity training.
  • Sustainable Power
    The aim in this relative short phase is to progress your endurance to high sustained effort and sharpen your fitness. Also referred to as “above-threshold intervals”. That’s where you do your classic interval based training.
  • Race specific season 
    The emphasis here shifts to become race ready. Primary focus is around race specific intensity and simulations. This phase is specific to your key races.

Splitting the year into different phases makes absolutely sense to reach peak performance for your key events. It allows your body to adapt and transform as you progress through the season. One thing that I noticed in my last season was that you can’t maintain peak performance for too long and it needs to be well planned to reach your full potential on day X.

So far I am well into post season and feeling good. As my main races are still far away, it’s hard to get not too caught up in early season races. As we approach the triathlon season here in Australia, it’s even more tempting. It’s key to stay focused, stick to your training plan and keep the bigger picture in mind.