Why periodised training is out – and training through constant monitoring, tinkering and planning is in. – By Mark Carroll
So, you bought a training book packed with information and graphs showing you how to periodise your training through the year.
The first thing you notice is how complex it all looks, especially the annual training-plan spreadsheets. So in terms of training, if it’s complex it must be good, right? It’s arguable that actually, a classic periodisation plan is useless – it may look scientific, but there is in fact little science to validate it. Your body is a complex organism, and the training effects of volume and intensity are not as predictable as the book might suggest.
You also can’t simply follow it verbatim. Any approach to training has to suit your objectives, your training response and your lifestyle.
Planning to the following criteria is indispensable: what are your season goals, your important races, how does training impact family and work commitments, how can you manipulate time to fit in training, and how will you assess and modify training to suit these criteria?
There is an over-emphasis on volume loading in classic periodisation. For example: you’re in week three of a four-week training cycle, the ‘plan’ calls for a bigger week than the previous two – but for various reasons, you’re already in a non-functionally over-reached state. Do you still follow the ‘plan’? The answer is ‘no’.
The ‘off-season’ doesn’t exist for recreational cyclists. Races can fall early in the new year, and if you’ve been following a periodised LSD programme for the past three months as the book suggests, then I’ll give you two guesses where your performance will be.
Be Your Own Coach
If you are not being coached, then be your own coach. Do the session – Evaluate it – Revise it – Redesign it.
Forget about planning so far in advance that you’re volume-loading two months from now. Far too many factors impact a session, especially the effect of yesterday’s one: was it too easy? Too hard? How’s your recovery? How did it affect today’s training? How can you design sessions better, to suit your circumstances and training response?
Planning and design should have a goal in mind – but with the focus on a micro-cycle and single sessions, in order to continually adapt training to achieve that goal.
Phases Of Training
Follow a process rather than a plan, and keep it simple. As an example, training can be organised into three phases:
1. Prepare for training
Introduce High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), but at a low volume. Build endurance with volume rides, especially if basic aerobic conditioning is lacking. Develop basic bike-handling skills and off-the-bike physical conditioning, make smart nutrition choices, and monitor recovery.
2. Adapt to training
Increase the volume of HIIT and endurance training (as aerobic condition improves). Develop more advanced bike-handling skills and off-the-bike physical conditioning, make smart nutrition choices, and monitor recovery.
3. Apply training (race)
Maintain HIIT. Prepare for your race with tapering. After the race, evaluate your performance to adjust future training, recovery and tapering. Reduce but continue off-the-bike conditioning, developing more advanced bike-handling skills while maintaining endurance sessions. Make smart nutrition choices, and monitor recovery.
NB! Novices may spend more time in the preparation phase.