As discussed in the recent article Should You Hire a Triathlon or Endurance Coach?, no matter how your training is coached you should always have a plan to your season.
When designing your season there are many variables you need to consider such as your race distance, time to train, experience, and so on. However you customize your season to you and your goals, I recommend all endurance athletes follow the training phases discussed below to truly maximize potential. Skipping one entire phase can cause a loss in performance and even cause injury.
The topic of planning an endurance-racing season is so in depth that there are literally dozens of books dedicated to planning an endurance season. However, if you’re like me and just want the “cliff notes” on how to plan your season, follow the shortened guidelines below to have an awesome season. When planning your season its best to work backwards from your most important “A” race, however for the sake of order I have listed the phases in order to your race.
PREPARATION PHASE (1-4 weeks):
I like to think of the “prep” phase as a way of reminding your body about the endurance sport you love. All workouts in this phase should be very low intensity and enjoyable. For example an easy bike ride with some friends or a jog in the park with your wife. This is also a good time to start trying new equipment if you would like. The prep phase is needed to prepare you for the base phase.
BASE PHASE (8-12 weeks):
Typically the Base phase falls somewhere between December and April for athletes in the western hemisphere. This phase typically is where the endurance foundation or base is developed. Of all the phases of a proper endurance season, base is by far the most important. During the base phase the goal is to build sport specific economy (drills), strength (weights), and aerobic endurance (long aerobic workouts). Before you “Build” a house, you have to lay the base.
The build phase is where you build your speed. The overall workout volume comes down from the base phase and intensity goes up. The focus of the build period is find your race pace and build your speed. Workouts typically involve intervals and race pace efforts.
PEAK PHASE (1-3 weeks):
The peak phase is where you begin to reduce volume even more. This is a time when your body is recovering from all the hard work you did in the base and build phase. Also you begin to “sharpen the sword” for your race, dialing in all the minor details.
RACE PHASE (1 week):
This phase is only 1 week and is your race week. At this point in the season your training is done. All you have to do here is short intense workouts to keep your body race ready, and it allows for a rest day.
TRANSITION PHASE (1-8 weeks):
This is the phase after your race where you take some time completely off of training. Maybe you just finished your last race of the season and want to take 6 weeks off before you return your prep phase? Or you just finished a half-ironman but have another one in 8 weeks? In either case taking sometime off can be very beneficially physically and mentally.