I’ve received several suggestions for blog topics from readers recently. Thanks for that. While I really enjoy researching and writing about training-related issues there are often times when I draw a blank. So your ideas are much appreciated. Keep them coming.
The athlete who suggested this topic noted that he and others would have their first A-priority races of the 2011 season in April. And since the Build period typically starts about 12 weeks prior, now is the time to plan for it.
It’s a bit more difficult to describe the details of the Build period than it is the Base period. In Base there is a lot of similarity between training plans regardless of the race distance and sometimes even the sport. Typically, the focus then is on accumulating general fitness by working on the basic abilities of aerobic endurance, muscular force and speed skills along with the advanced ability of muscular endurance. But this isn’t always the case. There are exceptions. The general rule is that the training in Base is not specific to the targeted event. That changes significantly in the Build period.
In the Build period there is a definite training shift. The workouts become increasingly like the race you’re preparing for. This is the underlying theme of all successful periodization.
A common misconception I hear of is the idea that in the Build period the intensity of training must increase while the volume decreases. While that may be the case when training for a bike road race or criterium, or for a sprint or Olympic-distance triathlon, it isn’t always so. If you’re preparing for an Ironman triathlon or ultra-distance race of any sort the volume of training may increase as the intensity decreases in the Build period. There is a trend right now, especially among Ironman triathletes, to refer to this as “reverse” periodization. But it’s really not. Such a training pattern still closely follows the major principle of linear periodization, indeed of all periodization: Training becomes more like the race. By definition reverse periodization would mean that the training is becoming less like the race. That’s essentially detraining. What a disaster that would be on race day!
With this principle in mind then, what should training be like in the Build period? To answer that question you have to first determine what the demands are of the race you are training for and compare them with your known strengths and weaknesses. This is the concept of “limiters” that I describe in my Training Bible books.
In terms of training and racing there are 6 abilities described in the Training Bibles. Four were mentioned above (aerobic endurance, muscular force, speed skills and muscular endurance). The other two are anaerobic endurance and sprint power. I’m not going to go into detail on what each is about here. You can refer to a copy of one of my Training Bible books for your sport for all of the details with examples of workouts in the appendix.
Here are the common abilities by sport to focus on in the Build period. How much of your training is devoted to these abilities depends on the exact nature of your event (primarily duration and course profile) and your limiters (race-specific weaknesses).
Bicycle time trial
If following a standard, “classic” periodization program (I will write about “block” periodization soon) you will also need to do maintenance workouts for those abilities you initially developed in the Base period. For example, doing a speed skills set (such as a bicycle pedaling drill) once a week or so during a warm-up or cool down will help to maintain that ability.
It’s common in the Build period to combine abilities within a single workout. For example, a road cyclist may do a single workout with anaerobic endurance intervals followed by a muscular endurance set and culminating in power sprints. That would be similar to the demands of the race. This follows the underlying theme of all training in Build — race specificity.
One other concept to bear in mind is that many weekly workouts by this time in the season are physically and mentally challenging. If you aren’t frequently tired then you simply aren’t training hard enough. This means that easy days must be just that – easy. A common mistake in Build is to make the “easy” sessions moderately hard thinking this will improve fitness. It won’t. The potential for fitness is improved during the hard workouts. Fitness gains are realized during rest and recovery. So the harder the hard workouts, the easier the easy ones must be. Otherwise everything becomes moderate and progress ceases.
I’ve only touched on the most basic concepts of Build period training here. You probably have lots of unanswered questions. I’d strongly suggest that if so you do an index search in your Training Bible. You can also do a search on the home page of my blog (for those receiving this as an RSS feed the URL is www.joefrielsblog.com). Please start with one of these sources before firing off a detailed question to me in the Comments section below. Just like you I also have very busy days. I wish I could answer everyone’s questions but I also have to pay the mortgage. I’m sure you understand.