Tag: periodization

Recovering from a broken radius/ ulna and two surgeries this summer has been a challenge for my training, but today’s workout gives me some hope of peaking for the rest of cyclocross season.

Cyclocross is always my main focus during the year, although next year I plan to branch out into some gravel racing and some trail running.

And I had planned peaking in November for the Wisconsin State Championships and try to hang onto some form for USA Cycling Regionals in December.

But this year, due to injury, I’m going to have to accept that peaking will be at a much lower level.

And I’m okay with that.

I miss the racing!

Periodization Prepares Endurance Athletes for Peaking

Periodization in endurance sport training is like a triangle with the long base on the bottom. You build a big base with long endurance rides and some long intervals and a lot of strength training. Then as the season progresses, you do less volume and more intense, shorter intervals.

And when you’re close to your peak event, your volume drops way down and the intensity of very short intervals increases.

So my spring and early summer had a lot of long slow endurance rides with quite a few days of 2×20 or 3×20-minute intervals on the bike at a hard pace. Right before we left for vacation to Boston, I put in 10 days of really hard training with long days and shorter, more intense intervals. I planned a long recovery block with lots of easy walking, eating good food, and drinking good whiskey.

The Best Plans Can Get Derailed. Then What?

I snapped the radius and ulna of my right arm at the beach in Cape Cod while trying to use a skim board.

The next day, I had emergency surgery to release a carpal tunnel block and pin together the radius.

This is my arm after surgery #1. The plate and screws put my radius together, but you can still see pieces of the radius sticking out like a snapped chicken thigh bone.

Yet when I returned to Milwaukee to see my orthopedic surgeon, who has already repaired both shoulders from previous bike crashes, he didn’t like how the arm looked. So he did surgery #2 to fix the problems.

I wasn’t able to ride or do any strength work for nearly three weeks.

That’s a lot of fitness to lose. I tried riding on a trainer in the garage, but the splint prior to surgery #2 was just too unwieldy, even with a pillow on the handlebars.

After I got the cast, and my daughter bedazzled and painted it,

I did start to do very short and easy rides first on the trainer, and then outside. I did some Cycle classes at the Wisconsin Athletic Club in Greenfield where I work as a trainer.

These were pretty effective, and I felt like I was regaining some fitness.

A bedazzled cast was by far the best part of having a cast! Thanks to my daughter Sarah for her art work. It kept me motivated while building up to peaking for cyclocross

When Fitness Falls, the Triangle Becomes “Stout” Isosceles

The point to all of this is that I started off with a strong base and a strong middle in my periodization triangle.

That would mean the point of the triangle is pretty high (my math teacher wife tells me this is like a “tall” isosceles triangle.

And obviously the taller the peak, the stronger I’d be on the bike.

Now, with the big reduction in fitness, my triangle is a little more, well, “stout” with a long base and short sides.

Once a week, I’ve been doing longer over/under intervals by going hard up hills in a local loop, and keeping up the pressure on the downhills and flats.

And once a week, I’ve been doing 60-second hill climb intervals. I’m also getting in at least one endurance ride and one strength session.

Honestly, even that little amount of work wipes me out. My body is clearly still recovering.

The cast is gone now, and I wear a splint with velcro fasteners that I can take off easily. I’m doing a lot of therapy at home, and I can do more strength training at the gym – primarily split squats, single-leg leg presses, and some plyometric jumps.

Finally, a Bit of a Breakthrough

I do the hill repeats on a trail up the Rock Sports Complex hill. It’s a paved trail that is a 6 to 8 percent grade. It’s a good place to return to each week to see if there’s progress.

Tonight, there was some progress.

I got the best one-minute power numbers in several years, and I was able to do more consistently strong efforts up the hill.

I’m beat now, and the arm hurts a bit, but it feels like there is some hope of peaking for the end of the season.

We have a group of new cyclocross racers at the WAC in a class I teach, and our first race – and my first race back – will be in Dousman at the Tough Udder Oct. 20.

My bike handling skills will be terrible since I still can’t lift a bike over the barriers.

But we’re going to have fun.

I’ve taken cyclocross way too seriously for too long, trying to reach a high level.

This year, it’s a chance to come back with better breathing after a year of working with a good asthma doctor.

I’m not going to waste any of that time ruing my “misfortune” this summer.

I’m just going to go out, holler, and ride as fast as I can. Even with a stout isosceles of a peak!

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 [email protected]