Four Ways to Understand Periodization to Build Peak Performances

If you want to be ready to bust out a PR or result for your endurance sport priority event, periodization is the tool to get you there.

When you periodize your training, you prepare your body and mind for a specific event by planning to build for a top performance through just the right combination of long, easy training combined with increasingly difficult intervals. 

Periodization to peak for a PR, Strava KOM, specific placing, or just finishing a tough event does not need to be complicated. It just takes a bit of planning, attention to recovery, and awareness of daily training stress. 

Physiologically, to keep it simple, you’re working hard enough in training to create adaptations in your body without breaking down, and then you recover just enough to be fully ready to go on event day.

Here are four ways to understand periodization so planning can help you to a peak performance in your target event.

1. Triangles of Power Bring Peak Performance

Planning to peak for your event requires the right mix of long slow endurance work, short fast speed work, and strength training.

How you mix those together is through periodization.

Periodization for endurance sport is best understood with a triangle that sharpens at the top. At the bottom is your base work. This is the miles and time you put in at an endurance pace. 

The middle is the longer interval workouts you do to build your fitness. 

Short, hard intervals you do prior to the event help bring up your form and fitness so that you are primed and ready to bust out a great performance. 

A lot of endurance sport research supports the idea of doing most of your training at slow endurance pace and adding increasingly difficult intervals as your priority event nears. This is a polarized model: go hard, go easy, or rest. 

2. The Right Mix of Training Builds the Peak

While planning out the triangle is not complicated, there’s a Goldilocks principle at play.

You need to find just the right amount of really hard stress and just the right amount of recovery to create the adaptation demands on your system. 

The actual training load is simple even though the physiology is complicated, and the planning can be a little daunting.

One element is building the base of endurance fitness by going long and easy with time and distance months before your event. 

A second element is building in intensity in the form of longer intervals to build your VO2 capacity and strengthen your aerobic engine. 

A third element is strength training which builds your capacity to go harder and faster.

Then, as the event nears, you will do shorter and more challenging intervals to build your fitness and peak for a top performance. Prior to the event, you’ll rest a bit to fully recover, hit some short, hard intervals, get lots of sleep with good nutrition, and you’ll be ready to break all the records!

3. Periodization Requires Short and Long-Term Planning

You don’t necessarily need a coach to do your best performance in an endurance sport. With the right knowledge and planning, you can set up a workout calendar to help you peak. 

And you can always buy an off-the-shelf training plan that will help you get ready for your event or season. 

The trick – and the magic – comes in planning the right workouts at the right time and with the right amount of recovery. And it’s often simpler to just let someone else do the planning and thinking for you!

Training for an endurance sport event or season is all about building fatigue. Then you recover to allow muscles to adapt to the training stress. 

But if you go too hard, you won’t be able to recover enough for a good performance. Go too easy, and you’ll never reach your potential. 

4. Endurance Sport Training Requires a Long View

Most people who have some level of athletic ability or fitness can finish a 5k or a 10-mile bike ride. 

But if your goal is to break 22 minutes in a 5k, finish a 50 mile ride, or finish your first cyclocross race, you’ll need to think backwards from your key event. And the longer or more difficult your event is, the further out you’ll have to plan for success. 

The right mix of training requires planning and a long view. Building a peak requires a long period of training in just the right dose for adaptation to occur.

Strength training is critical for your endurance sport success, and that too needs to be periodized. I can help you with a strength training routine if you’re a member of the Wisconsin Athletic Club. We can also work on adding strength training to your Simple Endurance Coaching plan.

There is an art of coaching clients to a good performance. If you have questions or comments about periodization send me an email at pwarloski@gmail.com.

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