Climbing to the top of Mount Everest and then repeating it all over again: how to double peak in a season
When preparing for your season one important area to consider is whether you are looking to peak and produce a top performance more than once within the same season. It is definitely possible to peak twice in the year and as an age grouper looking to qualify for the World Championships of any distance a double peak is an inevitable part of your season planning. Whether it is your first year competing in a World Championship event or you are a seasoned World Championship attendee, a mid-season break is needed for most athletes, particularly those who have really put their heads down and made a lot of sacrifices to get through the qualification race.
Ultimately a season is broken down into base, build, competition and recovery phases and all of these are important elements to your development as an athlete. These phases will not necessarily only occur once in the year, by having two peaks in your season you will have to repeat up to two of these phases again to ensure that you are ready to race. However, it is important to remember that the phases that you repeat will be progressive from the phases that you have already done due to the fact that you are building from where you left off, not returning to the place you started at the beginning of the year. Let’s use the ITU Olympic Distance World Championships as an example, for most individuals (those who have not pre-qualified from the year before) the season kicks off with your first main race ‘the dreaded qualifier’. In the months leading up to this event you should have gone through a base phase, build phase and competition phase ready for you to be race fit. Your race goes to plan and you pull a storming performance out of the bag, fantastic, on to the next one you might be saying to yourself… Well actually no, if this race has given you your qualification slot then you should now be turning your focus to that event and that doesn’t mean getting straight back into training. Remember you have just sacrificed the first part of your year committing yourself for this race just gone, what have you given up in order to do that, do you owe your partner the commitment to a few social occasions, the list goes on. This is the time in your season where you take a step back, appreciate what you have achieved so far, consider any areas that you can improve on but most importantly, spend a week or two prioritising things other than triathlon. It is time for a mid-season break.
In a mid-season break we are not advocating that you do no training at all during this time but this is when you should be giving yourself that psychological break from being a ‘triathlete’. You need not worry that you will lose your ability as an athlete over this time as you should find it relatively easy to slip back into training after your mid-season break albeit the first couple of bike interval sessions biting your legs a bit. Even more important than this is that with a rested fresh mind you should be motivated and ready to get going on the training front again! Remember this is not a time to get carried away with training, stick to a schedule where you are building strength whilst keeping the endurance there. For the last month before the race when you enter the second competition phase of your training in the year, your focus then very much needs to be on the race. Get the short sharp sessions in and give yourself the best chance of an awesome performance!
Base Phase - period where the focus is on building aerobic base and strength training. The majority of training sessions should be done at a low intensity with high volume.
Build Phase – period where the focus is on strength, aerobic and building in anaerobic bursts of training. The training sessions will change to that of a slightly higher intensity with a similar sort of volume as that completed in the base phase. This will include sessions such as bike intervals and more fartlek and track sessions.
Competition Phase - Race focus, high intensity and lower volume compared to the previous two phases. Really focusing on power in this phase and zoning in your 'race pace'.
Recovery Phase - Take the opportunity to enjoy other sports and things in life. Indulge a little and really give yourself a break from training. This is a time in your year to sort out any mechanical imbalances you may have, see physiotherapists, nutritionists and any other professional who may be able to help you improve your performance from this year in the years to come.
In August there will be an article in this same series on the topic of preparing for World Championship racing and ways to overcome jetlag to be ready to race.