Most triathletes have followed the typical model of periodization when training for triathlon without ever questioning its efficacy only becuase it’s just the way its always been done.
However periodization was created many moons ago with much more limited scientific research then there is today and when an athletes life demands were much lower than they are currently today. A full article on periodization may be needed at another time but I wanted to get your mind working and thinking about the use of the traditional easy Monday session for the typical age group triathlete.
For most age group athletes our long aerobic sessions come over the weekend as that is when we have a little more time available. This means our bodies see a significant amount of ‘breakdown’ during this period. Remember every type of training session you do will have some form of catabolic (breaking down) or anabolic (building up) response on the body and aerobic metabolism is catabolic in nature.
Now that is part and parcel of being an endurance athlete, however if we want to enjoy the triathlon lifestyle to it’s fullest by attaining excellent health and of course kick ass performance we need to mitigate the effects these catabolic sessions have upon our bodies.
Lets quickly have a look at how a depressed immune system and overuse injuries come about (for this article I am leaving out, the roles of nutrition, supplmentation, sleep and body maintenance and we can discuss those later).
You do a long bike session on Saturday follwed by a run off the bike. This session will be aerobic in nature and therefor catabolic, if you go hard early you’ll increase the amount of breakdown that occurs. Then on Sunday you do your long run which again is focusing on the same aerobic system.
Athletes then take Monday as an easy or OFF day in the hope that it creates the recovery needed. Doing this will create recovery on the body but it will also mean come Tuesday when many coaches put tolerance type efforts it will potentially aerobically overload your body.
Doing this once is not such a big concern, but since training is cumulative it will catch up with you. Because training too hard when fresh will see you have the ability to push way too hard in the tolerance session. This will recruit way more muscle fibers then we really want and thus take you longer to recover from… but you never allow that aerobic system to properly rest and ‘catch up’.
We bascially end up training ourselves into the ground with the excessive focus aerobic overload and have now stripped the body down. We become very tired, our immune system gets depressed and we keep getting little niggles or full blown injuries.
How do I know this? I used to live it like many of you and I still see it commonly prescribed today. Once we become more aware of the hormonal impacts of training we can structure the trainig much better.
To limit the amount of damage we can do aerobically and also help promote recovery we can advise sessions that mitigate the catabolic effects while help build the body up with an anabolic repsonse. We also can kill too birds with one stone by ‘taxing’ another session while we aerobically rest. One of my favourite sessions is a power interval on the bike. Here we let the aerobic system recover while we push our muscular system.
20′ easy w/u w/6×20″ SPRINTS to wake legs up.
[1′ at 40 cadence HARD RESISTANCE / 1′ VERY EASY recovery]
This should be pushing very hard against a verey high resistance to get the desired effect.
This session really helps develop bike strength and since the intervals are very short we limit the aerobic response. This session creates a building up affect (anaoblic) which will promote recovery of the aerobic system too. Another benefit is we keep what I like to call good fatigue on the body. This is just enough fatigue to stop us being able to do ‘race intensity’ efforts in training. We can still push ALL OUT but this good fatigue will limit the amount of recruitment we get and thus won’t nail us aerobically.
These efforts will feel all out, but on the body they won’t be and this will keep your consistency in training and for long term performance.. Consistency is king.