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Tip of the Week -- "Reverse Periodization

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Tip of the Week -- "Reverse Periodization

Postby natellerandi » Mon Oct 01, 2012 2:44 pm

"Reverse Periodization" is based on maintaining intensity closer to that of the demands of competition, recognizing that initially an athlete’s capacity to perform this will be low. The goal then becomes to increase the volume progressively, without sacrificing the intensity. In summary, the goal is for the athlete to learn how to cover a distance intensely, then increasing the distance at that intensity.

This differs from the traditional model of Periodization which begins with higher volume and lower intensity (capacity) before shifting toward power (intensity). Effectively, "Reverse Periodization" begins with power and shifts toward capacity. For those who have been regular followers of the ToW series, this is similar to the Trickle Down training about which I've written.

I put quotations around Reverse Periodization because, to me, it's a misnomer. Periodization is periodization, regardless of how you construct it. For the sake of this post, I will continue to use the term for differentiation. In a little more depth, Reverse Periodization can start with very short, very intense intervals (i.e., Tabata protocol as an example). The purpose is to force the body to adapt to supplying O2 to the working muscles and to get a major boost to VO2max first. Then, over time, gradually extend the duration of the intervals while also gradually lowering their intensity so you hit race-specific work close to your race season and key races.

By trickling down the intensity ladder rather than climbing up it, the contention is that you will better set yourself up for success in your races. And I tend to agree. I studied my training logs from the past 7 years. What I noticed is that when I tended to focus on VO2max+ intervals in the fall/winter, I raced a lot stronger and/or faster -- on hill climbs, as a worker bee for the team's sprinters in crits, making all the selections (or forcing the selections) on long road races, and being the strongest teammate in a TTT. When I rode longer in the off-season or focused more on L3 Tempo work or LT-specific work only, and save the VO2max+ stuff for the racing season, I found I didn't have as many matches to burn in a race. And, I had to spread them out more. My body was simply feeling overloaded more quickly. I felt gassed more quickly.

"Reverse Periodization" can be used regardless of your race distances. If you're an Ironman athlete or any sort of Ultra-athlete, completing a training cycle of 10-20sec intervals at 200%+ of FTP power may not make sense. There's probably no downside, but it may not be overly relevant, either. However, completing VO2max intervals lasting 30sec to 3min would certainly be a great place to start. Then, phase into LT-specific intervals of 8-20min in duration, followed by 40-90min extended Tempo work as you get closer to your actual ultra race.

If you've never tried this approach, it's definitely worth a go. The intervals can be sheer hell, but the body will adapt quickly and you will feel stronger quite literally from one interval workout to the next.

Happy Training,
Nate Llerandi
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