In two weeks’ time we move back to Saturday mornings for our main swim and run sessions (Sat 13 April) and you may see a bit of a change in the sets we’re swimming/running.  This goes the same across the sessions across the week.  The intensity is going to increase and the distances (of each rep) will be coming down.  But why?  Can any of you really say why you do a certain amount/type of training?

Hopefully I want to show you why we’re doing what we’re doing and how it’ll help you achieve the results you’re looking for.

We break down our year using a concept known as periodisation.  Periodisation is simply the splitting of training into defined periods.  Back in the 60’s the Russians knew what periodisation was, and Tudor Bompa, the ‘Father of Periodisation’ refined the ideas of the Russian sports scientists.  Before the 60’s the idea was to maintain the same volume and intensity of training all year.  Could you imagine sprint training 52 weeks a year?  Periodisation allows us to have some periods of training that are easier than others to allow the body to rest, recover and grow stronger.

 Periodisation includes a number of variables including:

  • Frequency – how often you train
  • Volume – how much you train (either in a single session or across the week)
  • Intensity – how hard you train (again either in a single session or over the week)
  • Duration – how long each session is.

Working with these 4 variables, we can plan the individual session, phases across the year and the year as a whole.

While an Olympic athlete may have a periodization plan that covers 4 years, we have a 1 year plan.  This should allow us to peak in the summer for the main races and recover across winter.  This big plan is called the Macrocycle.  As it’s impossible to plan 52 weeks in advance, we break the year down into smaller ‘mesocycle’ chunks, usually of a few months in duration.  Clearly we can’t plan everyone’s individual year, so we plan a theoretical race year where we have an extended peak through August and September.  What we have for this year is:

Dec-Mar – Base phase – this is where we have been laying down the foundations for the year, and we’re just coming to the end of this, finishing the phase with the London Fields Aquathlon (I hope you’ve all entered or are down to marshall?)

This is mostly working on aerobic fitness, muscular endurance and skills training 

April – July – Build or Pre-Comp phase – This is where we start to build on the fitness gained in the base period and starts to include more ‘race simulation’ sessions, so start to expect race starts in the pool, more open water skills training, run sprint sessions, more hill reps, etc, but equally a reduction in the high volume, low intensity sets.

In terms of energy systems, we’re starting to work on your anaerobic fitness, this is the training where you go above your lactate threshold, and your legs and lungs start to burn.  We also start to looks at speed skills and introducing brick sessions.

You should start to see the volume of each session starting to drop, but the intensity of each rep and of the entire set will start to increase.  If you can talk at the end of a rep, then you probably need to push a little harder.  For the swim sessions, we’ll have many more sprint sets, and race starts while for the run, we’ll be bringing back the ParkRun either at Hackney Marshes or Mile End.

Aug – Sep – Peak – As the name suggests this is the time of year when you’re at peak fitness for your major race.  If we were doing this for an individual athlete we would have a shorter duration peak where your target is 1, perhaps 2 races.  As a large group we have to plan across a bigger time frame.

During the peak we’ll have lots more race specific training, so some race intensity specific training, and lots of higher intensity, short sharp shock efforts.

Tapering – This is the time immediately before a race where your volume of training drops but the intensity remains high.  Again, as we’re planning for a group, tapering is something that we have to leave to the individual.  (Check back later for a Blog on Tapering)

Oct – Nov – Recovery – After the race season has ended, you’ll need to rest your body.  The length of the recovery phase depends greatly on the individual, but we put in around 2 months of recovery before hitting the base phase in December again.

Recovery is my personal favourite mesocycle, rest and active recovery!  Think easy sessions, trying to bring in non-triathlon type events, and even more games for some fun.

I’d like to put some more sports science style Blogs together over the next few months, so let me know if you’ve got any burning science questions (  I think tapering is going to be my first target, but happy to answer any Q’s.