Reverse Periodised Training

I’ve decided to try something completely different this year with my training and do everything back to front as far as the periodisation is concerned. My training has been a little lacking lately anyway and I just don’t seem to have had any ‘oomph’ during training sessions. There’s been nothing in particular, but I just don’t seem to have been on top of it and sessions have been a little lack lustre.

Now, I know that that’s the way things often feel at this time of year. The days are short, it’s dark, the weather is terrible, your body is in winter mode and races are quite a way off yet so there’s no need to be fast. Now is the time to be patient and stick with the plan. A traditional periodised training plan would have you doing longer, slower sessions and ‘base training’ in order to prepare your body for more intense sessions as race season approaches. You’d then move into a ‘build’ phase where you would work on increasing strength and endurance before a ‘speed’ phase ready for racing. As well as increasing the intensity and speed of sessions as you move closer to races, you also work on making training sessions more specific too. For me as a sprint distance triathlete that has always meant shorter, faster sessions as I approach races with distances more akin to those I’d be doing in a race, and lots of brick sessions to get me used to running off the bike too.

The trouble is, this year, although it is only January I feel as though I’ve been doing Base Training ever since July when I cycled from John O’Groats to Lands End. I feel as though I need to do something different and although I should probably be more patient, stick with a traditional training periodisation and save the build and speed work for later in the year I think I’m going to turn things on their head. There is some thought behind this mind and I do have some reasons for it too.

  1. I’ve already been doing Base Level Training for the past 4-5 months
  2. I seem to have stagnated, sessions are lack-lustre and motivation isn’t very high
  3. I need to lose some weight
  4. I don’t have much time at the moment
  5. My race calendar this year is a little different to previous years
  6. This is all supposed to be fun and I fancy doing something different to keep it so

As far as already having done Base Level training goes, then hopefully I have a good enough foundation to work on. I’m certainly not as sharp as I could be, but general fitness and stamina is probably OK. The lack of motivation and general lack lustre performances in training sessions may benefit from a change as well. They say a change is as good as a rest so hopefully doing something different will see me rejuvenated.

Weight management is a constant battle for me, I just like my food too much! Long slow base training should be quite good from this point of view, but some higher intensity interval training works wonders for weight loss too – as long as I can avoid the cakes and sweets afterwards.

Time wise, I’m fairly busy at the moment thanks to working in a proper job these days, still running my business as a website designer and all of the other things that life throws at us. School swimming galas, Scouts, keeping the house up and running, washing, laundry, cleaning, vacuuming and all of the other daily chores that I have to do. Decorating, gardening, blogging, all take time and I just don’t seem to be able to fit long training sessions in at the moment. Higher intensity sessions are usually shorter in duration than long slow base miles so hopefully swapping things around a bit will help here too. Although it won’t make a huge difference.

As far as my race calendar goes, then I’m going to be doing a few sprint races in the first half of the year and then might do a half-Ironman later in the year. It’s quite a big jump from sprint to half-Ironman I know, but I just fancy giving it a go to see if I enjoy them. I won’t be competing in these longer events, just completing them but even so it means that I’ll be having to start working on longer distance training sessions towards the second half of the year.

I hoping that I can address all of these things by swapping things around now. If I do something of a build over the next 12 weeks with some speed work thrown in too I might manage to lose some weight, speed up and sharpen myself up ready for the sprint races earlier in the year. I can then transition over to longer distance, lower intensity sessions in the summer ready for half-ironman racing later in the year. It’s a little back to front I know, but I’ll be basing my training plan on specificity rather than  a traditional periodisation and if nothing else, it might just improve my motivation and give me the little boost that I need now.

The main risk with this is that I’m starting the higher intensity stuff far too soon. I may peak too early and be burnt out by the time to more important races come around. But from a logistical point of view it seems to make sense. I can fit the higher intensity, shorter workouts in now while the days are short and the turbo training seems to be the best bike training I can get, and then when the long summer days roll around I can spend hours out in the hills of West Wales in the sunshine.

More importantly, it ‘feels’ as though I need a bit of a change, and a change in intensity may be just what I need to stop my fitness going downhill anymore than it already has done. Talking of hills, with this change of intensity in mind, that’s exactly what I did on my Sunday morning run – some hill reps on my usual 2 minute hill climb.

It was a cold , windy morning so I drove into Borth and then warmed up by running through the back lanes to Dolybont where I started my hill reps. I start this particular hill at the junction and usually make it up to or just beyond a certain driveway. The first rep was OK, I was just short of the driveway after 2 minutes but hadn’t expected to be able to get close to my usual times on the climb. I turned around, headed back down the hill and started the 2nd rep. All went well and I made it to the driveway. I now started to doubt myself. Either I was doing better than I thought I would be as I hadn’t expected to make it to the driveway, or I’d forgotten how long these hill reps usually are and they were usually 90secs hill reps not 2 minute reps. I continued anyway as I was now beginning to enjoy myself.

Rep 3 was good, just beyond the driveway and I was going well. Rep 4 started to hurt, I could feel the burn in my legs but I still made it a little further along the road than the driveway. My heart rate was up as high as it’ll go too. Just one more rep to go and once again, I fought through the burn and made it just a little bit further again. Five, 2 minute hill reps down and time to jog back to the car.

Once home I checked my stats from previous sessions here and they were indeed 2 minute reps usually. I’d only done 5 of them but I’d actually done better than I had expected on them and I felt pretty good. Looking at the calendar today I’m sure I am starting all of this higher intensity stuff far too early, but I enjoyed the hill reps on Sunday and that’s what it is all about. So, it might not work and I may not peak at the right time for my races but for now it’s all about having fun and if that means doing things the wrong way round, then so be it.

3 Responses

  1. mum says:

    Quite agree with you Al it’s all about enjoying it
    You’re already proved you’re a champ x

  1. Monday, January 19th, 2015

    […] to my word of upping the intensity with my training, I did some more hills reps during my Sunday morning run. I had planned to do 6x 2 minute hill […]

  2. Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

    […] well as my large scale annual periodisation in which I’m trying something new, I also have a meso-scale pattern within my training where I do a 3 week cycle. This consists of a […]

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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography…. The list goes on.