Periodisation and Testing

I’m a few days into my eight days of no training, and the 8th day seems a long, LONG way away. I wonder how I will feel when the baby gets close and I shutdown training for six WEEKS! (although I’m sure I’ll be able to nip out for the odd ride or run so that won’t be quite as desolate as this period of total abstinence!). I expect there might be a few days of struggle to get back into it, come next Wednesday.

So with this recovery week stuck in the middle of my 15 week training block, I figured I might as well introduce some periodisation into my schedule. Periodisation is the principle of progressive overload combined with a recovery period. In my case, where the goal is to build my volume, I will increase volume step-by-step for 3-4 weeks and then take a recovery week; then I’ll start again a little under where I finished off and start stepping it up again; and so on… There are theoretically some physiological reasons to do this, but I want to use it as motivation to consistently build my training, rather than having my typical one or two binge training weeks followed by droughts. Bike binges are still OK, but I need to back it up the next week. I figure that every kilometre I can wring out on the bike, before the baby arrives, will make that Ironman day just a little bit easier (less hard?).


So (plucking some magical numbers out of the air) I’ll start at 5 hours biking next week, and increase 2 hours per week up to 11 hours, and then have a recovery week. And then start again at 9 hours and build to 13 hours before my recovery month. Nothing set in stone, but some good targets to motivate me. I’ll swim when I can be bothered, and I’ll maintain my run.

The other benefit of a monthly recovery week is that I can use it to do some testing (which I’ve shown on the pic above). Testing is where you do some repeatable exercise and compare how you did to last time to get an idea of how your fitness is progressing. I’ve been reading “Going Long” and they recommend monthly testing. Ahem. I last tested over three months ago!

My three tests (each performed on separate days) are:

  • Swim: a 2km time trial in a 50m pool,
  • Bike: the climb up Springbrook (7.7km at 5% which takes me from 23-26 mins),
  • Run: a 3km time trial on a grass track.

“Going Long” suggests a whole battery of different tests but I prefer to keep things simple. However, in the future I might review these tests because, while they fitted alright for Olympic distance racing, they don’t seem appropriate to measure Ironman readiness.

The other important use for testing is to generate my TSS (Training Stress Score) values. As I mentioned last time, I am using the WKO+ software to track my fitness, and WKO+ works best with recent threshold test values. If my test values are too low, for example, then WKO+ will think I was working considerably harder than I actually was, so it will generate a larger TSS value and therefore indicate that I am getting fitter than I actually am. I know these values can change pretty rapidly, because my bike FTP dropped from 280W to 250W (> 10%) between December and february after I tore my calf.

I’m hoping incorrect test values can account for this Performance Management Chart showing my run fitness over the past 18 months. Apparently I am now fitter than I have ever been for running!

Run Fitness to June 2010

Perhaps I should head out this weekend and knock off a 1:25 half marathon PB at the Gold Coast Marathon? (that might be a struggle pushing two kids in a pram). You have a feel for your own fitness and I know I am nowhere near last years level where I was able to comfortably run long intervals at under 4:20min/km pace. My last 3km run TT was 17 March, so probably some more recent tests would have flattened the slope of this graph out somewhat as my fitness progressed. It does remind me that the WKO+ software is just another tool which can both help and hinder. The only thing that really matters is how you go on race day.

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