Periodization is, in many ways, the pinnacle of advanced training. Taking the steps to periodize graduates you to a professional approach, one with purpose, long-term vision, and organized planning.
But periodization can also be confusing and, frankly, a little scary. Periodizing your training means diving into a world of new concepts, things like training blocks, mesocycles, and training specificity. For those of us with jobs and families, or who have to deal with inclement weather, it’s harder to plan ahead — to know on Monday what we might be able to fit in on Friday, let alone how to plan our next four-week transition phase. Looking at it in that context, it’s hard to fault those who just hop on Zwift and start smashing it when they have an hour to spare.
The question is, does periodization need to be that complicated? And, while it may be a necessity for pros, can it help those of us with only seven or eight hours to train each week?
For answers to those very questions and many more, let’s take a deep dive with the man credited with bringing periodization to cycling back in the 1990s, Joe Friel.
Today we’ll discuss:
- What exactly is periodization? The truth is it’s not as complicated and scary as it may sound. At its simplest, it’s just a way of structuring your season to prepare for your target races. Heard about base training in the winter and top-end work in the spring? That’s periodization.
- The history of periodization from its first use among Soviet athletes to its introduction to cycling.
- The principles of training, including overload, specificity, reversibility, and individualization. These four concepts are at the core of periodization.
- With the principles as our base, we’ll dive into the different forms of periodization, starting with traditional linear periodization. It’s the oldest and most common form, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t effective.
- Next we’ll talk about reverse periodization and why it might not be best for the weekend warrior, even if Chris Froome is doing it.
- Next we’ll talk about non-linear forms of periodization, including undulating periodization and the most recently developed strategy called block periodization.
- Then we’ll finish up with a few tips on how to pick a periodization strategy that’s right for you — assuming you want to use one at all.
Our guest today is legendary coach Joe Friel, who just recently published a new edition of the definitive book on training, The Cyclists Training Bible. The first edition back in the 1990s introduced periodization to cyclists but it only covered traditional periodization. This new edition covers all of the strategies we discuss in this podcast.
Let’s make you fast!
Joe Friel: Elite coach and author of The Cyclist’s Training Bible
Welcome to Fast Talk the Vela news podcast and
everything you need to know to write.
Chris Case 00:08
Hello and welcome to Fast Talk. I’m Chris case managing editor of Bell news joined today by someone who periodically likes to call himself in American Coach Trevor Connor. period as a periodization is in many ways the pinnacle of advanced training. Taking the step to pure design graduates you to a professional approach, one with purpose, long term vision, and organized planning. But periodization can also be confusing and frankly, a little scary. periodized training means diving into a world of new concepts, things like training blocks, mesocycles and increasing specificity. For those of us with jobs, families who have to deal with inclement weather, it’s harder to plan ahead to know on Monday, what we might fit in on Friday, let alone how to plan our next four weeks of transition. Looking at it in that context, it’s hard to fault those who just want to hop on swift and start smashing it when they have a rare spare hour. The question is, does periodization need to be that complicated? And while it may be a necessity for pros, can it help those of us with only seven or eight hours to train each week? for answers to those very questions and many more? Let’s take a deep dive with a man credited with bringing periodization to cycling back in the 1990s Joe Friel. Today will discuss first what exactly is periodization. The truth is it’s not as complicated and scary as it may sound. At its simplest, it’s just a way of structuring your season to prepare for your target races, heard about base training in the winter, top and work in the spring. That’s periodization. We’ll talk about the history of periodization. From its first use among Soviet athletes to its introduction to cycling, we’ll discuss the principles of training, including overload, specificity, reversibility, and individualization. These four concepts are at the core of periodization. With those principles as our base, we’ll dive into the different forms of periodization. Starting with traditional linear periodization. It’s the oldest and most common form, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t effective. Next, we’ll talk about reverse periodization and why it might not be best for the weekend warrior, even if Chris Froome is doing it. Next we’ll talk about nonlinear forms of periodization including undulating periodization, and the most recently developed strategy called block periodization. Then we’ll finish up with a few tips on how to pick a periodization strategy that’s right for you, assuming you want to use one at all. Our guest today is of course, legendary coach, Joe Friel, who just recently published a new edition of the popular cyclist training Bible, first edition back in the 1990s introduced feminization to cyclists, but it only covered traditional periodization. This new edition covers all of the strategies we discuss in this podcast. We’ll also briefly hear from Sep coos of the jumbo visma World Tour team who surprisingly try periodisation for the first time last season as a world tour. Reiner. Next we talk with Paolo, Sarah, among other things, the coach of Mike woods of the EF education first team who has very unique periodisation approaches with both his top pros and the Masters athletes, he coaches. Finally, we’ll hear from Colby Pierce, regular contributor to Fast Talk friend of the show, who will give his opinion on periodization and how to pick an approach for you. So just off your copy of the training Bible, let us let us make it fast.
Trevor Connor 03:49
So I mean, periodization is remarkably complex. And I think a lot of people get really scared away by it when they hear about it. You know that that’s that’s what the pros do. But that’s too complicated for me to do. So I think probably before we get into linear periodization and reverse linear periodization and block periodization. Maybe we take a big picture overview and just start with in one sentence. What would you say periodization? Is?
Joe Friel 04:14
Yeah, that’s a good? That’s a good question. Because I think what’s happened with the topic of periodization over the years, is it’s become very complex to the point that people don’t really understand what is being discussed by sport scientists. When they talk about pronunciation. I would say periodization is simply turning away that prepares the athlete to race by thinking of turning in periods when certain things are done during these periods to improve preparation. The bottom line that is a poor decision is really all about preparing to race.
Trevor Connor 04:41
That’s something people can get their heads around. Because when you’re talking about well, I’m gonna do slow training in the winter. I’m going to do some more race specific work during the season, and then taper for a race. That’s pretty simple to put wrap your head around and that’s a form of periodization
Joe Friel 04:57
it is Yeah, yeah, I would try to keep The simple I’m sure will, this is going to become a much more complex conversation. But for most athletes, if you can just keep it simple, they’ll do quite well. If they’re really into sports science, and all the stuff of appreciation, they can certainly experiment with things and see what works best for them. But the bottom line is we’re talking about very small changes from keeping things simple to making things extremely complex in terms of what the benefits are going to be for the athlete. So it’s coming down to basically seconds instead of minutes.
Chris Case 05:27
Maybe you could start by giving us a quick history of periodization.
Joe Friel 05:32
Yeah, sure. It’s actually kind of came from Eastern Europe, mostly, mostly Russia, was fine tuned by some of the other Soviet Bloc countries back in Oh, gosh, specially 1960s. But I guess we could actually trace it back to the 1920s. There was a Russian back then who was working on some very basic ideas about how to train athletes. And those ideas were just the very early foundations of what we now call periodization. It wasn’t nearly as complex as it is now. But the big the big growth took place in the 1950s and 60s, again, from Eastern European countries. It was kind of a state secret. Nobody was really knew exactly how the Russians, East Germans, so forth, were training, but it was they were doing very, very well. Later on, we found that of course, they were also doping, which had a lot to do with it. But they were, they were their paradise in two, which was something that we now consider to be normal. But back in those days was unheard of outside the Soviet bloc. And in the early 70s, it finally began to leak how the Eastern country Eastern European countries were, were periodized in their their athletes training and the first Western athlete to learn about it and try it was a runner by the name of Laci Viren in 1972, he won gold medals in the Olympics in 10,000 meters and 5000 meters, which is the first time I’ve ever happened. It’s called a double double. And then he kind of disappeared from the radar for the next four years, everybody kind of thought he was done. And the long behold, he comes back again in 1976. He went 5000 10,000 again, and he basically he was periodized. And nobody else in Western society was really doing this. So from the early 70s, the words began to get out what periodisation was all about. And it began to catch hold with elite endurance athletes, runners, especially, it really wasn’t until the 1980s that I began to see anything on it that was related to amateur athletes, it was really quite distinct from what amateurs were, were doing at the time, especially cyclist cyclists the time there, what they did for planning for a race was to find out how many hours the Europeans were putting in the saddle and duplicate that number of hours to settle. And that was that was planning by the 1990s. When I decided to write the first book, the cyclist training Bible was 1995. By that point, it was starting to be seen fairly often in the literature. But it really wasn’t trickling down to the the athlete champ. So when I wrote the first book, first training Bible, I wrote it based on the most common, the most basic form of periodization. So I wouldn’t overwhelm people with ideas on third ization. It’s called linear periodization. And sure, we’ll come back to that later on in this in this interview, but just to
Trevor Connor 08:10
give the listeners a little bit of context here, you have really been credited with bringing periodization to cycling. The first time anybody had really heard of it, and cycling was your first edition of the cyclist training. But
Joe Friel 08:22
yeah, that’s thank you very much for saying that. But basically, that’s why I made the thing simple The first time I wrote it, because there really wasn’t quite as complex as it is right now. But there are more ideas out there than this most basic concept called linear periodization. So in that book, all they all explained is linear periodization, because it really wasn’t a reason to go into all the, the variations on linear. So that’s what I wrote. And then the most recent book, I’ve gone into more detail since it’s becoming more popular now people understand more about it,
Chris Case 08:51
and their their core principles that flow through every type of periodization that are essential.
Joe Friel 08:57
Yeah, there are, there are things that we call the principles of training, that are kind of at the heart of sports science. And they’re real simple concepts. One is this is the idea of progressive overload the load the athlete experiences on over time. In other words, from week to week, those loads need to increase, if they stay the same, there’s going to be a plateau effect, and the athlete is going to experience the benefit. So over time, those loads need to be increasing and the words more intensity or more duration. Those are the only two things the athlete can change in a workout. One or both of those things have to be changing over time to challenge the body so that it adapts to the in the direction you’re trying to go with your training. So that’s the first one is called progressive overload, then the specificity the turning. All that means is the attorney must be like what you’re training for. We can talk about the weight room, for example, in the weight room doing things like there are things you can do in the weight room to improve your performance on the bike. One of those things, for example, might be doing squats with a heavy barbell, because it simulates the movement of pedaling a bicycle. It’s specific Doing curls in the weight room is not going to do anything at all to make you a better cyclist. It’s not specific to the, to the movement of telling the bicycle. So and that’s why all training must be it must become increasingly specific over time. So that by the time you get down to the last few weeks before the race, you’re doing workouts that are very much like the rice. So your your, your journey to becoming increasingly specific to the events you’re training for. If you’re training for events, like a road race, then surely must be like a road race criteria must be have those characteristics of time trial, again, must have those characteristics, the closer you get to the race. So that’s rather simple also, and most people understand that they can’t be doing things that are that are way outside the realm of what the race demands. The third is the concept of reversibility that if you quit training or quit doing those those specific things, you’ll gradually lose the fitness gains decapitations that have taken place, over time you were doing those things. So if I, if I quit doing high intensity workouts, what’s going to happen is I’m going to lose my high intensity fitness over time, and I won’t disappear immediately, but it will be reversed over time. And it will go away, which is basically the idea that if you quit training, if you could train, it’s obvious, you’re going to lose your fitness. And that’s, that’s just reversibility being applied at the highest level. And finally, of these principles that are really kind of at the core of sports science. The last one is individuality. And the bottom line is we’re all unique. We’re not just a bunch of robots that have exactly the same thing happening where people and because of that they’re just lots of things that are different about us. So not only is our physiology different, some people are anaerobic, and some people are highly aerobic, for example, of our lifestyles are different. Also, some people have very stressful lifestyles, and some people have very low stress lifestyles, that stress can be physical or psychological. Again, there’s just a lot of things that go into deciding what works best for the individual athlete, always that must be kept in mind if all that something works for your training partner, doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you. So that’s basically the basic principles that critias ation is based on.
Trevor Connor 12:05
And so I found this really interesting. I went back and looked at his Aaron’s review. So is there on what was I think we can say that he’s been credited as one of the inventors of block periodization, or certainly somebody who, who’s brought it to the forefront. And when I look back at his paper, he started it with essentially the same four principles as yours. And so this is how our physiology works at the heart of any good periodization strategy. You need to bear these principles in mind. And one thing I will say is progressive overload on its own is not a periodization strategy, the whole idea of I’m just going to train more and harder and get stronger doesn’t work.
Joe Friel 12:44
Yeah, we all have limits. And at some point, we’re going to run run up against those limits. And I’m afraid too many athletes trained that way. Exactly. They just they just keep trying to pile on more and more and more. And eventually they can’t do it. They break down and they motivation becomes a little or the overtrained. Lots of problems can develop out that way. Thank you.
Trevor Connor 13:03
So in your book, you had a line that you repeated many times that you said in a one way to describe periodization? Or how to do it. It’s this and I wanted to ask you about that. And the line is basically training should becoming increasingly more like your races. So what did you mean by that?
Joe Friel 13:20
Yeah, increasingly is a key word there, that refers to time, so many weeks, even months away from your, your most important race of the season, the training can be quite general doesn’t have to be specific at all. So now I’m talking about the for one of the four core principles against specificity. And I’m saying that the farther away you are from your race, specificity only is less important. specificity becomes increasingly support and important as you move on the calendar toward your race. So as I mentioned earlier, if you as you get down to the last few weeks before your race, the training must be as close as you can make it like the race that you’re joining for. So that needs to be a critical, that’s a critical idea here that really all period ization is about is divide the year into periods of time, and then turning in ways that prepare us for the specificity of the race that we’re getting ready for.
Trevor Connor 14:17
So just to give a very quick kind of simplified version we’re talking about with the specificity or increasing specificity. If you had somebody who was targeting a crit, what sort of work would you expect them to be doing at the beginning of their base season versus what would they be doing a couple weeks out from the race?
Joe Friel 14:33
Yes, good. That’s a good question. Because that brings it down to the nitty gritty of real situation for real athletes. Bottom line is because when we’re several months away from the race, in the work, the workouts don’t have to be specific. In fact, now being general is quite good. The nonspecific, nonspecific turning could be things like long, slow rides, that would be that would be non specific to criterium if you just do exactly the opposite. Well criterium is all about. So that would be a starting place a starting concept starting idea. And over time what would happen is cherny would be progressed gradually from that starting point. To the point, as you suggested two weeks before the race for the athlete is doing workouts that are exactly like the race. In other words, you’re probably getting involved in lots of group rides, maybe even doing some low priority. criterium races, because those things are much are exactly like the race that you’re preparing for. So that so there hasn’t been there has to be a process, then it takes place between their starting points several months away, or several months out from the race. And as we get down to the last couple of weeks before the race, and this progress must be gradual, as opposed to sudden we’re going to go from all of a sudden going from long, slow distance to extremely high intensity race like workout. So there’s a gradual progression that takes place over time. This is stuff that comes out sports science, it’s really not necessary to understanding pronunciation, but these somebody reads about pronunciation. They’re going to read about the concepts, the overall concepts from Sport Science, or that there’s there are periods of turning called general specificity, which means that they’re, they’re not really exactly like the race, they’re quite general, it’s this turning that is for the criterium racer, which is, it would be something like long, slow distance, as mentioned a while ago. And there’s there’s specific preparation of general preparation, which is many, many weeks out from the race. And then we have jet specific preparation, which is the last few weeks before the race. So we’ve got these two broad categories of training, the specific preparation period is followed by a period of race preparation, which we call peaking, and so that that then leads the athlete up to the race. So that is sports science. Those are the three overriding categories. If I might add one more there after that after the race is over, there’s a parade sport scientists also referred to called a transition period where you transition from more, you’ve just been in the race you just completed to starting to think about the next race. And so there’s things that happen turning during that period of time, also. So that that’s the Sport Science, how this language is used. I try to break that down when I wrote the first book for the cyclist training Bible, in the language that is more like the language that that we use as coaches. And so it’s things like a prep period, which is very, very early in the season. So let’s say an athlete has got their first race in, you know, may 1, high density races is going to be an main criterion. That means some place around November, December, the athlete is starting to think about getting back into, into training again for that race. And so they’re going to start with a period which I basically just call prep, it’s just, we’re gonna prepare to to get ready to train, we’re not really training yet just gonna prepare to get ready to train. And so the athlete is, is just starting to increase workouts again, and they don’t have to be specific at all. don’t even have to be on the bike. The athlete could be running could be cross country skiing, snowshoeing, doing things that are very active, but not necessarily on a bicycle, although that may be done also. But the idea is just to get back into very, very general fitness, again, very gentle aerobic fitness, by doing things that are quite non race like, then the athlete moves into a period I called the base period, which is in what we’re going to discuss I’m sure later on linear periodization is the time when at the athlete is working on on training duration, especially primarily working on longer, slower rides, especially zone two rides, or those rides around the aerobic threshold. The base
Trevor Connor 18:38
is your general nonspecific phase. Yeah,
Joe Friel 18:41
that’s that general preparation period that the sport scientists talk about. So we have preppin base, combined, that would be the general preparation period, then that base period transitions for the end of it in what I call base three numbers are divided. These are called mesocycles. Instead of base one, base two, base three, each one last, typically three, four weeks last of those base mesocycles, base three, the athlete begins to go through a metamorphosis in their training, they begin to change it’s changed things slightly increasing emphasis on intensity, but it’s not highly intense yet, just starting to increase intensity a little bit as they cut back on the volume. That then moves the athlete into the beginning of what sports science is called this specific preparation period was specific to the race. And I broke that down into in my language in the book into the build grid, which is typically going to last for about 689 weeks, something like that, and that’s going to be turning becomes increasingly like the race. So now we’re starting to emphasize for the criterium race are starting to emphasize high intensity training is someplace before the race the athlete is going to begin to taper they’re turning taper means to cut back on, on the volume of turning duration start getting shorter as the intensity means high. And that could last anywhere from from about two weeks, or actually even 10 days out to three weeks. It kind of depends on the athlete and a number of variables there a couple of weeks of taking for the race tapering. And then finally the week of the race, which I consider a separate period of preparation for the race. And that’s typically in my system way of looking at the thing is seven days, the week that week finishes with the race, and then the athlete begins what the sport sign is referred to as a transition period, we’re now starting to think about the next race and taking a break from the routine of having prepared for the previous race.
Trevor Connor 20:36
And that’s what you’ve described, there is probably the way that 70 80% of the athletes out there periodized and very effectively periodized, their their training, particularly love the fact that you’re talking about these, we hear all these big terms that kind of scare people away. But everybody’s heard of a mezzo cycle and probably has wondered what that is, that’s just simply a fancy term for a particular period in your training.
Joe Friel 20:59
That’s right. Yeah. Yeah, so it’s, it’s like the base preaches mesocycle and, or the build period, or whatever, whichever of those periods we’re talking about is a mesocycle. And there’s lots of other language that goes into this periodisation thing, which is really not important for the athlete to understand all, but that’s the term most likely to someone would run across and reading about brutalisation.
It would also say that each period prepares you for the next period,
Joe Friel 21:24
you know, and a good period ization plan, there is a flow, that flow assumes that we’re going to take the next step, we’re not going to try to take, you know, gigantic leaps forward, we’re going to take the next small step toward changing what we’re doing in training. And those small steps are going to lead to greater specificity over the tours over the course of time, several weeks. And so consequently, we want to do is we want to realize where we’re starting from, and where we’re trying to get to race day. And what’s required to get there. You know, I guess my way of seeing the world as a coach has always been that it’s kind of like being a an engineer, engineer basically solves problems. Problem a coach comes up against is you have an athlete who’s training for a certain race. And the athlete has a goal, let’s say is to podium for that race. And we have to assume that right now the athlete can’t podium for that race is not ready to podium for that race. So my job as a coach is decide what’s standing between that athlete and success success being on the podium. And so then I have to measure what the athlete is capable of doing right now. And what they have to be capable of doing on race day, decide with the differences between these two and begin to address those issues of training. So those things become the most specific aspects of training as we get closer and closer to the race.
Trevor Connor 22:45
Chris caught up with pro tour rider Sepp cous who rides with jumbo visma, and was this year’s winner of the tour of Utah set the employee to more traditional periodization strategy this year, which he found helped in many ways. But as you’ll hear, he also discovered the importance of correctly timing the general and specific preparation phases.
Chris Case 23:05
I don’t know if you were following a sort of a traditional periodized training plan or not. But has that period ization that you use, whether linear or otherwise reverse or whatever method you were using? Has it changed since joining lotto yumbo? And if so, how is it changed? And why did it change?
I’d say since Yeah, since joining lotto yumbo. It’s been more and more periodized, I think more traditional. But I think that I almost anticipated I think, yeah, you’re you’re racing so so early in the year, and also late in the year that maybe maybe just from a mental standpoint, you need that just more preparatory phase to last a little bit longer, more basic, not too many, I guess mentally draining intervals and specificity kind of been the December, January months.
Chris Case 24:01
So you anticipated change to a more traditional periodization method. How has that worked for you?
I think in the beginning of the season, it was maybe a bit of a shock to the system, because, you know, you go from really not having that many race specific efforts, and then all of a sudden, you’re you’re racing, and then you know that that feels a bit foreign, you know, those kind of heavier race type efforts that that you maybe wouldn’t do as much in that timeframe within the the periodized type of training. So I think that was the first thing I noticed. And then I felt like within that periodized if you’re if you’re just a little bit on the backfoot then, at least for me, I was going through a lot of races that were really difficult and I just still didn’t have that specificity. In my training, and then it was kind of putting me a bit on the backfoot. So I think, you know, looking back, you could maybe benefit from, or I could benefit from being a bit more prepared for those race efforts. So you’re not digging yourself into a hole, when you have races every every week.
Trevor Connor 25:19
Let’s get back to the show and talk further about the specifics of traditional periodization.
Chris Case 25:24
Let’s dive into some of these linear models and start with the most common the oldest linear periodization. Maybe we we start there, Joe? And I got to ask, why is it the most common,
Joe Friel 25:36
the most common because number one, it was the first one to ever be used. This is when I mentioned Russian Soviet athletes was Eastern Bloc athletes turning back in the 50s. And 60s, this is what they were doing. So it’s been around the longest. It’s referred to as, as classic when your your pronunciation often because it goes back to the earliest models that were used with with athletes is pretty easy to understand it’s quite commonly used, produced some of the best athletes in the history of, of endurance sport, over many, many decades. So it’s quite effective. But as with almost anything else, there are some downsides to it. So basically, all it is, we’re going from a starting with the athlete doing things which are related to volume and duration, and low intensity. So the athlete is doing a lot of long, slow rides, they’re not doing really any high intensity right now at all, when they’re in the very early stages of linear periodization. But over time, through this prep base build so forth that talked about earlier, over time, the athlete is going to introduce more high intensity to their training in small bites, try not to overwhelm them stir their system with with too much stress too early on. So the body of the body just needs time to adapt all these things, intensity is very hard to adapt to for the body. Consequently, we need to be very gentle with how we introduce it, it just can’t be the sort of thing we go from, from zero, high intensity to all of a sudden, gigantic long intervals, you know, eight minute intervals, that above threshold, you know, for for half hour or more, that’s just not gonna work out for almost any athlete that needs this kind of gradual process they have to do to get ready for you ready for. So that’s this whole process that’s we started with linear with doing long, slow distance. And gradually over time turning introduces higher intensity so that by the time we get to the build grid, I intensity is becoming the focus of turning no longer is it the duration, that’s important, or the volume, now it’s the intensity. And that becomes that interest becomes more like the race as they progress through the build period. And that piqued your interest rate. So that it’s a very, very common way of turning. In fact, it’s so common that athletes and even coaches sometimes think it is by definition periodisation I think everything that is pronunciation, when you use the word, you’re referring to that because it’s so commonly done, but the word pronunciation implies, it really encompasses a lot of methodologies for preparing to race. And this is only one of those methodologies that happens to be the oldest and probably the most common. But you did
Trevor Connor 28:12
mention that there are some issues with the what are the concerns about the linear model?
Joe Friel 28:17
Well, one of the concerns is that things do change very slowly. And so for athletes who are who get bored easily, they’ll find this to be a very boring method of training. Because all we’re going to do, for example is in the base for if we’re going to increase the workouts and stay the same every week for a few weeks, all we’re going to do is increase the duration of the workouts, there’s not gonna be much change takes place, they’re never going to get into the, to the build period, they’re going to start off with again, basic levels of the basic ways of training during these interval workouts, for example, and over time, they’ll just simply add more intensity to the workout. So it’s gonna be basically remain the same but but only slightly increase over time in terms of amount of the testing an athlete is doing. So becomes a rather mundane, boring, some athletes would call it way of training, although quite effective. If athletes don’t get bored with trainees, if they enjoy doing those sorts of things, they’ll find this to be a very, very effective method, those who are easily bored, and they want more variety in their training, this is probably not the best option.
Trevor Connor 29:16
There’s also a concern with peaking because with this model, you can only peak what two three times in a season. Yeah, that’s
Joe Friel 29:22
right, that’s gonna hold up for several models, because it has to do with what happens to your fitness when you when you taper I mentioned a while ago, we talked and this is one, one period called the peak period. And during that period, which lasts roughly two weeks, one week to two weeks, the athletes gonna cut back on on training duration, so volume will decrease on testing remains high. And by doing that, what we’re doing essentially is giving away some of the aerobic fitness based fitness that was developed back very early in the season. We’re starting to give that up because we’re not doing nearly as much of it this is the reversibility principle being applied. So if we quit doing that Something eventually goes away. And that’s what’s happening. So that’s why this this protest has to be so short a week to two weeks is about all we’re going to do this because we’re going to cut back on volume and duration a lot for our training, as the emphasis becomes intensity, and therefore, we’re going to start losing some of this aerobic fitness. So consequently, we’ve got to be kind of careful with how many races we do, I get, I had an athlete send me a text message or not text message, but an email not too long ago, and asked why he couldn’t simply be an on race form every week of the year, 52 weeks out, you know, why not being reasonable. And he’s missing the concept or the concept is to be in peak form, you have to rest you have to get rid of the fatigue. That’s what that’s what peak form is all about. And if all you’re doing every day, every week for 52 weeks is reducing your training, you’re gonna wind up doing absolutely nothing by the end, and consequently, you’re not gonna be ready to race at all. So it’s just the opposite. You can’t You can’t do that there’s only so many races we can do in a season, and peak for each one because peaking requires somewhere around two or three weeks of reduced training. And that two or three weeks of reduced churning means a loss of aerobic fitness.
Trevor Connor 31:08
I’ve worked with a couple pros who no choice of their own, their team basically said you’re going to 1213 races in a row like based on pretty much every week and whenever I’ve had to deal with that situation it’s no longer about we’re gonna get you on your best form for all these races, it becomes a how do we get you through this without losing too much fitness and without being completely burnt out? In everybody thinks of Oh, that race every weekend, it can be super, super strong. But no, it’s really not that you really start to decline quite rapidly.
Joe Friel 31:38
Racing is turning also, by the way are both stressful races are the most stressful form of activity an athlete can do in sport, you can only take so much stress, there’s only so much you can handle. And I’ve seen athletes not only completely burnt out, but also become overtrained because all they’re doing is going from one race to another and never getting a chance to take a break and recover not only physically but mentally and it’s just it becomes highly, highly stressful over time for the athlete.
Trevor Connor 32:06
That’s linear periodization. In a nutshell. It might use some fancy terms, but the fact is, it’s really not that complex. Most of us already understand the basics, and it’s effective. So why would you want to do something else or add complexity? Well, we caught up with Paolo Saldana, the owner of power watts and a top Canadian coach who got Michael woods to the podium at Worlds in 2018. Paolo explains why when dealing with regular riders like us, he may not periodized at all, and also why he may flip or reverse the order with some of his athletes. Woods used a very unique periodization strategy. But moving away from a guy who can stand on the podium at World Championships. When we’re talking more about your your masters or your local amateur type rider Do you have particular periodization strategies that you employ? Or is it very individual to the athlete,
it’s extremely individual, I really have a hard time building templates and trying to fit athletes into templates. And the first thing I’m going to tell you, which may actually shock you is that I don’t believe in periodization when it comes to weekend warrior type of athletes who really have between four and 12 hours a week to train. I don’t believe that periodization in the classical form, at least really, it’s just a it’s just a it’s a fancy word for organization in a way that you want to continuously and progressively stress and stimulate the athlete, I don’t really do it in the in the traditional way. Like I don’t believe that we should build this massive yearly plan with someone who’s working at a bank and doing loans all day and and then he’s got an hour and a half to do what he needs to do in the evening after work. You can’t periodize a guy like that because they’re time crunched individuals. And it’s really hard to build any amount of foundational work or even capacity work on an irregular basis. So what I do when it comes to weekend warrior type athletes, I find out what their time constraints are. And then I look at where their gaps are regarding their mean maximal power curve. And then I try and figure out the best strategy to pull up that power curve. Using high intensity interval training for as much of the year as possible. There were a little elements. So for example, I’ll do a six week block of power base training on their weak gaps. And then I’ll give them a Recovery Week. And then we’ll have them do a 10 day block of endurance. And then I’ll repeat that structure. But the next time through instead of maybe a six week block of power development, it might only be four, but we get more pointy on the edge of the sword. And then I might give them only a seven day block of endurance. And then I’ll come back the last round and I’ll say now we’re going to do three weeks of very high intensity interval training. I’m going to give you another recovery block, and then maybe four to six days of some endurance with each endurance phases. Obviously a little bit more intense and you Usually that type of structure works well for that endurance athlete, the weekend warrior cyclist, or even the Masters based cyclists. Now, there are some master based cyclists who train like, like pros, because they’re free and they’re retired. And that would be probably a slightly different approach. But when your time crunched, these are the types of things that I would I would suggest for a periodization perspective.
Trevor Connor 35:23
Now, so one thing I find interesting here is you mentioned this when we talked about woods, and you’re bringing this up, again, how you do the high intensity, and then you do the endurance work, not the other way around, which is the more traditional way of doing it. Is there a reason for that?
Yes. So So think about it, why traditionally, do we do endurance based conditioning? Like, why do we build an endurance base, I mean, we want to try and make sure we have enough blood volume, we want to make sure we have the good, pillory density and all the metabolism that goes on in the muscle, we need to promote fat burning, we need to do a lot of things with endurance that are important for performance. But when you have an athlete who’s 45 years old, are 55 years old, and that athletes have been training for 10 years. Or you have an athlete like Mike woods, who comes from a running background who ran his whole life almost, and has been very active, his whole life was already built the metabolic machinery required for high performance sport, why would you then try and reinvent that metabolic machinery, you just really have to stimulate it to wake it up. It’s like saying, I’m going to build a house, I’m going to start by the foundation. But then next year, I’m going to relay that foundation because I need to relay that foundation, it doesn’t make any sense. So I don’t relay foundation that doesn’t need to be relayed. So the reason I flip that on its head is because it’s way more impactful to use high intensity interval training that addresses the gaps in the mean maximal power curve, to get improvement from a rider than it is to build an aerobic base because building an aerobic base for you to even get the response that you want from your body, you have to encounter things like glycogen depletion, and how do you expect to do that with a guy who lives in Minnesota and has a you know, a copy trainer or whatever in his basement. And you know, he’s not going to ride for four hours on a on a on a set of rollers or turbo trainer, right? So it’s it’s about practicality, it’s about blending practicality with getting the most bang for your buck together. And that’s what i when i whenever I talk to other coaches, I work with a lot of other coaches, but whenever I talk to them about preparation, you have a spectrum of that, that on the left side is pure science. And on the right side is pure art. And what I just described to you is taking both of those extremes and merging them together and coaching essentially, to me, it’s like a cell. The cell has a nucleus of science, with a phospholipid bilayer, or skin of art. And everything that comes through everything that comes through that that cellular membrane is viewed through the layer in the lens of art, and with the athlete gets is the art piece, but it’s rooted in science. So that’s kind of how I approached that thing. I went a little off topic here. But But it’s important concept to grasp when it comes to understanding how to prepare athletes on a wide spectrum of ability.
Trevor Connor 38:39
I love it. And we did tell you you can take a deep dive into the science that was not where I was expecting you to take the deep dive with the talking phospho liquid by layers. But that was great. I love elegy.
Yeah, it’s an interesting approach.
Trevor Connor 38:55
Now that palo is let the cat out of the bag. Let’s get back to the show and talk about reverse periodization with Joe.
Chris Case 39:02
All right, Joe, let’s flip this on its head a little bit. I think a lot of listeners out there have probably heard the term reverse periodization or reverse linear periodization. They might have heard World Tour teams doing this buzzworthy. What exactly are we talking about when we talk about reverse periodization?
Joe Friel 39:20
Yeah, basically all we’re doing is taking the concept I just talked about with linear periodization. Basically, recall linear periodization starts with long slow distance and finishes with last few weeks before the race with very high intensity training. So reverse linear periodization is just the opposite of that. It starts with high intensity training, and over time, reduces amount of high intensity training and increases the amount of volume or basically duration long, slow workouts the athlete is are doing to get ready for their race. So so it’s very unique to the racing. It’s not for everybody. If you’re preparing for some event that requires a lot of long term Slow, slow being on quite relative term realize we’re talking you mentioned pro athletes a little while ago, we’re talking about pro athletes slow is a public great deal different definition for a cat for so slow is relative to the athlete we’re talking about. But basically, we’re cutting back on the high intensity starting to do more volume, as we get closer to the rice, this is going to work for certain type events, doing something like a granfondo, it’d be probably pretty good for that, because it’s got it’s got a lot of possibilities for for that because the athlete is not gonna have to be too worried about a lot of high intensity and maybe some climbing and maybe some some group work that’s been done with the athletics turned bowling or something. But it’s not going to be these things that have to do with like you’re in a two hour road race, it’s going to be decided by what happens on on a hill or what happens in a with a breakaway into the winds, you know, or something like that, which is going to change the situation entirely, the athlete must be prepared for high intensity in that case. But if it’s not going to be a high intensity type event, then this might work quite well for like a grand fondo.
Trevor Connor 41:05
I would even point out here I think, reverse periodization is become somewhat sexy, because people are hearing about Chris Froome, or some of the heroes potentially doing this and thinking well, that’s the better way to train. But just like you said, you think of a race like the Tour de France is as much as that is a huge event that it’s incredibly impressive just to get through it. For these guys going through the tour, you have to understand 95 plus percent of their time in that race. And it’s a lot of time is low intensity.
Joe Friel 41:32
Yeah, exactly right. low intensity by their standards, not by ours, not by hers, so they they are not what’s you’re preparing for is a very, very long, relatively slow event. Now they’re averaging something like 25 miles per hour for three weeks. That’s really quite fast by my standards anyway. But for them, it’s really not that huge challenge, especially riding in a peloton, we’re talking about Chris Froome, Chris has to be protected by his his team. It’s the wealth and the wind until it comes to certain situations, clients, for example, time trials, and now he’s got to be able to apply the high intensity, there’s not going to be like the entire three weeks is very high intensity is going to be extremely high volume is what it’s going to be. So it probably works better for that type of event than it does for the athlete who’s training for for two hour road race. Their situations are entirely different. The athlete train for two hour road race doesn’t need a gigantic amount of duration to get ready for two hours. But does have to have a gigantic amount of intensity, because there’s going to be a lot of a lot of these little breaks that take place throughout the race, these these accelerations that take place that the athlete must deal with. And consequently, it’s got to be paired for a lot of high intensity. So a different situation all together,
Chris Case 42:48
I could see somebody being tempted to want to use reverse periodization because it fits better with seasons. What I mean by that is okay, I start my training in November, December, January, I don’t want to be doing really long, slow rides this time of year, I’ll just flip it around. I’ll do all my shorter high intensity workouts in those times of the year when it’s cold and nasty out and then slowly introduce the long rides. When it gets nicer. What’s the danger in that?
Joe Friel 43:22
Well, the danger net and I certainly understand a lot of athletes do that I am with I can certainly support their thinking on this. Also, they just can’t get outside on the road when it’s snowing or you know, the sun goes down to five o’clock in the afternoon. And I’d rather not spend a lot of time indoors on a trainer. In that case, this probably looks quite quite nice to them. But the downside the danger of it is you wind up on race day being prepared for a long slow distance event but it’s a criterium. And so you’re really not ready for that kind of event. But that then there’s ways of getting around that issue where we could deal with this a little bit i’m sure but we’ll get it we can get into something that has to do with undulating or changing the the way the mix between duration and volume are being done. Or duration and intensity are being done in training to produce higher fitness on race day that matches the needs of the athlete to the to the specific event, but doesn’t require cutting back entirely during the the winter months on longer, slower rides. For example, there hopefully might have someplace where the athlete lives there or breaks in the weather where you don’t have to it’s not going to be always going to be every day. snowing, icy roads. There may be days. There could be places like that that I’m not aware of but most places I’m aware of. There are breaks in the weather, for example on the weekend and the athlete can get out and get in some of these longer rides. So I could see doing some shorter rides during on the trainer indoors during the week. Monday through Friday. Perhaps the sun’s gone down already by the time you’re home from work and then on the weekend getting outside and doing some of these longer slower rise when the weather breaks. You get a chance to get both things done. And then kind of playing around with that thing of how do I blend in intensity versus volume? Or duration? Let’s put it that way, how long is the workout relative to the weather, and sort of wherever we can try to fit in some of the stuff that works with long slow distance, or aerobic fitness training, during the winter months when it’s difficult to get outside on the road, as you’d like to.
Chris Case 45:27
So you said when we were talking about linear periodization, that it’s very hard for the for the body, you don’t want to take Giant Steps between your slow base period and times of high intensity. If you’re starting with high intensity in this reverse periodization model. How does your body cope with that? And is it a little bit of intensity? And then the second week is a little bit more and then a little bit more? And you started that way?
Joe Friel 45:52
Yeah, that’s a good question. Yeah, basically, they have to be balanced to what what the athlete can can manage. And they really can’t start off by doing something like 20 times two minutes at 120% of FTP with one minute recoveries, it’s just not gonna work just aren’t ready to handle that. So basically, the athlete has to work into this somewhat gradually prepare the body for starting with where they are. Now, that’s the hard part is deciding where is the athlete right now. And then adding on to it, as the early part of the base period progresses,
Trevor Connor 46:21
is actually a fascinating study done on this by Dr. Seiler a couple years ago, where they looked at the hormonal effects of high intensity intervals on different periodization schedules. So in one, they had athletes start with very high intensity hard intervals, and then actually reverse periodized and go towards the longer lower intensity intervals. And then they had a group that started with the lower intensity intervals and built up to the the high intensity one. And the group that was started with the high intensity intervals, showed some signs of bigger volume of high intensity, they showed more signs of pushing burnout very early on their bodies just weren’t ready for it. Yeah, I
Joe Friel 47:01
agree that would happen.
Trevor Connor 47:02
You know, the other interesting thing. So that was a series of studies, there was another study where they looked at these periodization schedules, again, starting with lower intensity intervals built into higher intensity intervals, or vice versa, to see which produce greater gains. And the biggest conclusion of the study was they had a third group that just kind of every week, they said, you pick what you want to do, you can do any interval you want. They just mixed it up random. And that third group, they saw the least gains. So the the other two either increasing or decreasing, saw similar gains, though there was a slight, it wasn’t significant, but an indication of the people that started with lower intensity and built towards higher intensity saw the best game.
Joe Friel 47:42
I was on a panel on this last week with Dr. Seiler, UK, these topics came up, it’s intriguing conversation, we start talking sports scientists position, they’ve got lots of doubts about the concept. But typically the research supports the concepts that that we’ve been that we’re using, but not 100% of down down the down the line. There’s some research showing that transition is no better than than random training. So really depends on what what study you look at and how they organize the study. But Siler stuff is pretty good, he really is very, very good at taking topics that are unique to athletes, things that athletes are really concerned about. And then trying to find the answers to those questions. He’s He’s really good. This Sport Science is some of the best
Trevor Connor 48:23
that’s actually brings up a really good question, because essentially, that third group was doing a form of nonlinear, correct, right.
Chris Case 48:30
So yeah, let’s turn our attention to those nonlinear models. Something we sort of started to allude to with mixing volume and intensity into different weeks to try to find that balance. And this is called undulating periodization, if I’m not mistaken, so maybe we dive in there.
Joe Friel 48:48
Yeah, this is one I mentioned, we talked a little while ago about linear periodization. And one of the downsides, being that there may be boring for some athletes, because things don’t change much from week to week. undulating periodization is actually somewhat the opposite of that things change quite regularly from week to week. So for example, in in week one of training, an athlete may do high intensity training, and the next week to high volume turning with a low intensity. And so these mixing of these two concepts on on a weekly basis, can change throughout the season. So the athlete has a lot of variation from one week to the next. And it becomes kind of stimulating way of training because you’re looking forward to doing something different in the next few days to what you did in the last few days. Consequently, you don’t get bored at all if you kind of look forward to the change taking place. So it’s very good for athletes being mentally fresh to train that way. And something an athlete could play around with this. I sort of mentioned this a while ago when the weather situation where an athlete could change this from from week to week based on what they’re seeing the weather do. When they get an opportunity to get outside and train. They could no longer slower rides during the winter and when they’re forced to be inside the be doing higher intensity training. And so that’s kind of undulating. But in this case, this kind of on demand is kind of like what whatever the weather allows is what we do. So you know, it could work. And there’s many other ways that this undulating concepts could work. Also, the most common way for endurance athletes is to vary churning weekly blocks by either duration, or intensity, that’s the most common way of doing it.
Trevor Connor 50:22
So it sounds a little bit like you’re saying, There’s probably a little more science behind linear periodization being very, very effective, but we got to factor in life, we’ve got to factor in, you want to enjoy this, the whole mental side, and maybe getting a little bit of undulation in there makes it more enjoyable, more tolerable. And, well, physiological gains might not be as perfect, you’re gonna come into the season a little more mentally fresh.
Joe Friel 50:49
Yeah, this is that individualization thing, we’re not all the same, when it comes to being able to put up with routines, some people don’t like routines that change very little from week to week, and other people are, you know, highly stimulated by the idea of being able to see small changes taking place over the course of time. So the athlete and the coach have to decide what is appropriate and do whatever works best for that given athlete.
Chris Case 51:13
Okay, so now let’s move our attention to something that may be also a little bit buzzworthy, new, pretty advanced, block periodization. Joe, what is block periodization? First of all,
Joe Friel 51:26
a block proposition is very interesting. It’s really, it’s got a start by for working with elite athletes, especially salt road cyclists, what was the whole premise of it is that athletes at this level, are very close to their upper limits. As far as whatever the upper limit were top physiological optimum may be, for example, we could be talking about aerobic capacities, elite athletes are at a very high level, even before beginning to train, they’re already very high level for their aerobic capacity, or whatever the topic may be physiologically, so they haven’t got much room to, to improve, to get to their highest level. And whatever the metric may be, we’re looking at. And so with a linear prediction, basically, the week involves working on two or three different things every week, that has to do with fitness, only one of which may be something that would improve the athletes aerobic capacity. So if an elite athlete is doing linear periodization, they’re probably only doing high intensity training that would improve their view to max once a week. And yet, they’re so close to what their Max is that they’ll not be able to achieve it by doing it once a week, they won’t be able to get there because they’re not stressing put enough stress on the body, within this one unique area of physiology. So block periodization says, okay, for this period of time, this block, which may be two, three weeks long, we’ll say, for this block, we’re going to emphasize only one thing we’re going to work on, in this case, the previous athletes aerobic capacity, that’s going to be the focus of Chinese aerobic capacity. And all we’re gonna do besides that, is maintain any things we’ve done up until this point in training. So there are only two types of workouts being done one type is, is called dominant. It’s the primary focus of churning for this, this athlete at this point in time. And we’re going to do many, many workouts like that throughout the week. And the other is the secondary workout or maintenance where as training, maintenance form of training, which is being done on those things which had been achieved already, in prior blocks of training, to only have two things going on the entire week. And so consequently, athletes, we wanted to do a lot of aerobic capacity training, and therefore bump up their aerobic capacity to a much higher faster rate than they could have possibly done by following a linear periodization plan. So works great with that in mind that athletes are very high levels of fitness, elite athletes, it works very well for them, it’s unlikely to be nearly as effective for athletes who are much lower down the totem pole when it comes to race performance, how fit they are to begin with, they’ve probably got a lot of room to improve, for example, there will be capacities, and they can work on it once a week and see the change take place over time, if they just simply allow enough weeks, but the elite athlete is so close at the end to their upper limits, that they can’t accomplish that because there’s just too much time between those workouts. So that’s that’s the bottom line for this form of training. It’s quite interesting, but I would not recommend it for most athletes.
Trevor Connor 54:26
There’s it goes back to what you were saying about the overload principle as somebody who’s much lower level, it doesn’t take that big an overload to improve a system so they can overload multiple systems at once where once you’re getting close to your peak when you’re talking about your pro athletes, they need a huge overload and they’re trying to overload multiple systems at that sort of level. They’re just gonna burn themselves out so they have to break
Joe Friel 54:47
well said yes, exactly right.
Trevor Connor 54:49
The other interesting thing I’m just looking at is runs a diagram of block periodization is it essentially takes the linear periodization model and repeats that six seven times over the course of a season. And so you do your general prep, you do your specific, then you do your transition. But you might do all that in four or five weeks, and then you repeat it again. And then you repeat it again, which I found fascinating.
Joe Friel 55:10
Yeah, he keeps coming back to these. So we can we could vary several times throughout the year. By doing that he every, every few weeks, the athlete can be ready to race again. And so they could do more than typically what’s done during a linear periodization plan, which is usually around three per year.
Chris Case 55:25
Does it help for an athlete to understand such a complex system? Or would you say that most people training this method are relying on their coach to understand the complexities and the science behind it?
Joe Friel 55:39
Yeah, a good point, if the if the athlete has a coach, this is the sort of thing that the coach should be aware of. And using in the preparation of this athlete for the race. In that case, the athlete doesn’t have to do anything more than follow the plan that the coach has come up with. But if the athlete is self coached, this starts becoming a rather complex topic, and how do I prepare for race what works best for me, in the book, I talk about these upsides and downsides of the various ways of training and the athlete can decide based on that, which is perhaps better for them, which system is better for them to use. But the bottom line is, it doesn’t really have to be all that complex, the linear position plan works extremely well for most athletes. And I would suggest something like probably 90% of road cyclists could follow a linear periodization plan, and do extremely well, that upper 10% may have to kind of look at things like you know, I’ve talked about so far, like having more than three races in a season and boredom, and all these other being elite athletes, and all these things that come into the to the mix also. But that’s a rather small group of people, most people can just simply use the linear periodization. Even even if that seems like it’s more than they want to deal with, all they really need to come up with is a standard training week. And if they can just simply repeat that week, week after week after week, and just make small changes in it over time. For some of the workouts that we’re starting out being high volume, gradually over time become high intensity, if they can make those changes and just follow such a pattern, making sure the workouts become like the race, the closer they get to the race on the calendar, they’re going to do quite well, they don’t really need to make it all this complex with all these possibilities of methods. So I’m in fact, I think keeping it simple is probably most athletes the way to go.
Trevor Connor 57:23
And something just to quickly add to that, because a lot of people look at what the top pros are doing and saying, you know, that’s what I should be doing. Because that’s the most advanced form of training a lot of your top pros now they start racing in late January, and they’re racing through October. So for them a linear periodization model actually is tough, because they basically have a month and a half for the general preparation phase, and then their specific training phase will be nine months long. And that doesn’t work. So for them, they have to do something more advanced just to survive the season. But the rest of us that’s not an issue. And this is a good proven simpler model.
Joe Friel 57:57
Yes, I agree. Just the fact I think most athletes, it’s just keep it as simple as they can not get involved in all the dirty details, they’ll they’ll do much better than they would otherwise.
Chris Case 58:05
That being said, suppose someone out there is tempted to try something a little bit more complex. Or maybe they’re an advanced rider. And they know that straight up linear periodization is okay for them. But they want to try something new. What’s your recommendation in terms of how long they need to try a new model before they can judge whether it’s working for them or not? I mean, we’re talking on an annual timeline, for the most part in all of these, that’s a long time to commit to something that you’re unsure of if it’s going to bring about the gains you’re looking for.
Joe Friel 58:41
Yeah, well, the starting point for answering that question has to do with measuring something we have to be able to see, if we’re trying to come up with the answer of which is the best system for me, then we have to know what is the word best based upon if, for example, we can measure, let’s take one example, we measure the athletes functional threshold power, that’s a very common way of putting a number to fitness. And we can try over the course of quite a bit of time, try several methodologies to see what produces the best FTP, then we can as an individual come up with what is best for me. So I could I could measure my FTP and I can try a minimum I would say of six weeks of training to see what what works, which the systems works best for me which of these methodologies but it becomes rather tedious after a while if all you’re doing is you know is linear periodization for six weeks and working on trying to improve your FTP and then you go to undulating periodization for six weeks and try to see what happens to your FTP. This will become an experiment one subject and overall, it’s probably the best way of doing it. But in the big picture, it’s getting ready for for a given race on a given day. It’s not gonna work out too well. making too many changes over time basically means we’re not going to make any progress over time. So basically, I think what has to happen is the athlete has to pick one way of training of all these methods I mentioned down that that path, see how it goes? By the time they get through the complete base mesocycle, for example, you decide at that point, is this still the best thing for me? Or should I be changing over now to undulating periodization, because I haven’t seen much change in my FTP or whatever measured in terms of the base prints. So now I can take a look at it in terms of two blocks of training, and see how that goes. And that then has to be, you can’t keep making changes every few weeks, as you’re going to the last through the build period, getting ready for your race, you need to stick with one thing to get you ready for the race. But you’ve now got two big picture views of types of turning. And you can decide how does that work for me psychologically, mentally? Am I it doesn’t work out? Well, with my level of boredom? Can I put up with linear polarization? Or do I really prefer the other way of turning because I tried also undulating, and then the next year, you say, Okay, now what am I going to do this next year, I’m going to use what I use last year, I’m going to try something different. Or maybe it isn’t. Next year, maybe we’ve got for the second race of the season first races in May. And the next a priority races in late July. So now I decide, okay, am I going to do the same thing I did to prepare for the first race? If I can do that repeat portions of that again? Or am I gonna change this around and try something else to see how that works for me. So we can do a lot of change here. But you got to give it a chance. You can’t change it just every couple of weeks and expect know what it’s better for the athlete, I would suggest it takes at least six weeks and to train one way to find out how that’s going. And then you get to compare it with something else you did for another six weeks, which is based on trying to establish the same improvement. So it’s not an easy question to answer. In terms of racing. If it wasn’t for races, you can figure it out quite easily. But when you have a race coming up, you don’t wanna be experimenting too much to find out what works right now for you, you want to get on with training for the race.
Trevor Connor 1:01:51
But now, you know, we love getting local coaching legend and our record superstar Colby Pierce on the show. So before we give our final suggestions, let’s check in quickly a Colby and get his thoughts and picking periodization strategies.
Colby Pearce 1:02:05
The undercurrent of all my coaching prescriptions comes in context of the individuality of the client. So it’s like I could make a general statement like oh, I you know, usually, if a client’s had a proper break in the fall meaning a month or two and they’re not acclimated to cycling, you start off with easy miles and make sure they’re conditioned and go to the gym, and dah, dah and all, that’s fine. But the reality is I’ve almost no clients who fit that mold. I’ve got people who live in warm weather year round climates, I have riders who refuse to ride outside when it’s below 40 degrees, who ride rollers for six months a year, literally. And I’ve got a lot of stuff in between. So for me, it’s about, it’s hard to make a general statement on that, honestly. And I don’t want to not answer the question. But the fact is, you have to look at the individual needs of the client and say, where’s this client coming from? Where are they going, I’m not afraid to apply very stringent blocks of training. Even in the winter, if I think that it’s really what the client needs, if they have a gross deficiency that’s just so out of wine, that it’s going to be a rate limiting factor, then we need to take this time to work on it and get it up to at least par so that then we can start a program that rotates through different energy systems and different training intensities and volumes, so that then we can get them to be more complete athlete. And I do find that from time to time.
Trevor Connor 1:03:17
So there seems to be this trend right now of all these new and fancy types of periodization. So you hear about reverse periodization. And, you know, a bunch of different terms, What’s your feeling about that? Is? Is that a good direction? Or is that just trying to put terms on the individualization or, um,
Colby Pearce 1:03:37
I think it can be a good direction in the sense that I mean, all we really are doing is challenging the organism so that homeostasis changes, so you get a response. And you know, someone’s hideously out of shape and you start you reverse periodized them and start them doing vo twos or even shorter intervals. Are they going to adapt to that? Well, yeah, is it gonna suck? Probably. I’ve done it, you know, I went into one season years ago, really out of shape. And you said I’m gonna focus on co2 and man, it’s just like getting root canals endlessly, you and it comes at a high price, you have to be very, very motivated to make it through those intervals when you’re out of shape, because they’re way worse to do than when you have a good baseline condition. But you can do it and I ultimately end up being quite good that season. So now, people always asking, well, what’s best? I don’t know, I don’t have a parallel hypothetical identical Colby. I can compare from that year in the same universe and give them on two different training paths and see which one won more races or which ones suck born or whatever. So it’s kind of a meaningless question. Did the athlete get results? Did they progress? Did they get stronger? In my case? The answer was yes. If you apply reverse periodization to someone I mean, from my perspective, the potential pros and cons are, if someone’s really out of shape, and you give them a bunch of intensity, there’s a good chance they’re gonna drill themselves in a hole pretty quickly or there’s a good chance they’re gonna get injured unless they’re very highly functional off the couch and their bike setups perfect. And also there’s some athletes who whose form degenerate Very, very rapidly under load. So you have these athletes who look really tidy, and then you give them one load and they’re out of shape, and then they’re just all over the place, right? Well, there’s a good chance they’re gonna end up with back pain or, or there’s a reason why technique usually comes before high level enter efforts. So is reverse periodization a bad thing for someone like in the classic examples Wiggins, he’s talking about how he did this year and, or not this year, but whatever year it was, they were training for Team pursuit. Also, keep in mind, like Wiggins has already been racing this bike for 30 years. At that point, you know, he can jump off the couch and do a 4k pursuit or a bunch of two K’s on the track, probably be just fine. That doesn’t mean that some guy who’s got three years of racing cat fours to cat threes should get off the couch and try the same thing and expect the same results.
Trevor Connor 1:05:42
Let’s get back to the show.
Chris Case 1:05:44
All right, Joe, you’re on the clock, you’ve got one minute, we want you to take all of this great discussion about periodization and wrap it into 60 seconds of take homes. For the listeners out there. What are the most important things that people should know about periodisation
Joe Friel 1:06:01
the very most important thing is that the whole idea is to prepare for a race. So turning these to become as much like the race as possible over time. And that usually involves something like about roughly 12 weeks of training. So that’s the time period over that time for training becomes much like the race. So that’s the bottom line of turning the bottom line of critias ation. And I would suggest the only thing besides that the athlete needs to be concerned with is keeping it as simple as they possibly can. So it doesn’t become overly complex.
Trevor, what do you think?
Trevor Connor 1:06:31
So I think I have two things. One is periodization is one of these things that gets really sexy, and people hear about something like reverse periodization or block periodization and thinks that’s what they have to do. My biggest advice is basically to reiterate what Joe just said, it’s keep it simple. And just because it’s old, doesn’t mean it isn’t proven and effective. The second point I have is we obviously just touched on the surface of this we didn’t go into how long should your mesocycles be? What should you be? How should you be mapping out your week? Should all your weeks be exactly the same? There’s dozens of questions we didn’t address. And so Joe didn’t do this, I will give him the plug. This is all covered very, very well in the newest edition of the cyclist training Bible. So if you’re interested, you want to learn more, I highly recommend picking it up and reading the three chapters he has on periodization
Chris Case 1:07:21
I think my take home would be to not be intimidated by this, it can be very simple. You know, I remember the first time I picked up an older edition of the training Bible and it’s really something you can work your way through step wise. It helps you think about the season. It helps you understand who you are, as a racer, it helps you understand your goals. And then you can you know, the periodization model helps you create that map. Like Joe was saying like an engineer or coach tries to get you from where you are to where you need to be build that bridge to get to get you there or a staircase however you want. Whatever analogy you want to look at. Don’t be intimidated and work your way through the method and it actually can be quite simple. And as as we talked about today, very effective.
Trevor Connor 1:08:07
All right, thanks, Joe was great talking with
Joe Friel 1:08:09
you sure guys enjoyed it.
Chris Case 1:08:11
That was another episode of Fast Talk. As always, we love your feedback. Email us at Fast Talk@velonews.com Subscribe to Fast Talk on iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud and Google Play. Be sure to leave us a rating and a comment. We love your comments. Become a fan of Fast Talk on firstname.lastname@example.org slash velonews and on email@example.com slash velonews. Fast talk is joint production between velonews and counter coaching. The thoughts and opinions expressed on fast dock are those of the individual for Trevor Connor jophiel Sep coos polos, Adana called the piers I’m Chris case. Thanks for listening