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Guest Blog: Improve Your Run Speed With Reverse Periodisation This Winter

TriBlogsby TriBlogsOct 15th 2012
The Intelligent Triathlon Training website aims to give you all the knowledge and understanding you need to make your triathlon training effective and your racing successful.

It is run by husband and wife team Rhona and Mark Pearce. Both have undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in sports physiology and 12+ years of working with triathletes. Mark is coach for the British Triathlon Olympic Development Squad which includes Lucy Hall 2012 Olympian. Rhona is a sports scientist providing physiology testing and support to triathletes of all levels.
Guest Blog: Improve Your Run Speed With Reverse Periodisation This Winter

Improve Your Run Speed With Reverse Periodisation This Winter

Mark gives us a novel idea of improving running speed, a tactic he is taking with his squad this winter:

The last couple of years with my British Triathlon squad has been about improving the swim to get people in the race. Now that that has been achieved, despite the fact that most of the guys are running sub 30 minutes for 10K, they need to increase their run speed even further to progress their race results.

One of the things I have been looking at is how to periodise training to achieve this. So this winter, we are going to try ¬'reverse periodisation¬' (although I hate that term!).

We will be aiming to introduce high top end run speed into the programme at the start of winter training. So running at velocity at VO2max pace or faster, but not in high load sessions.

So they will have lots of recovery, and be focusing on good technique. Hill sprints will be part of the programme at this stage, as will drills and strength work in the gym focusing on foot and lower limb strength. These sessions will be combined with a high volume of low intensity running.

By the time we go into the race season we will be doing big long endurance sessions - eg 4 x 3K at race pace.

The idea behind this is to develop power, strength and form at high speeds, combined with a large aerobic volume of low intensity running.

As we gradually bring the duration of reps up and the speeds down, the athletes will be better able to hold that form and get better adaptation to the sessions.

It also means when we are trying to maintain form for long periods during the race season they have a better aerobic base and are not trying to squeeze in too many fast sessions amongst races. Races themselves are those long hard aerobic training sessions. They should just need a short top of up speed periodically during the season.

Effectively, we want to raise the second lactate threshold as high as possible and over condition the athletes. In many ways 4 x 3K session is more a half marathon session, and that is exactly what we are looking at: half marathon performance for a 10K race off the bike when the athletes are highly fatigued already and have used much of their anaerobic energy stores and so don't have the capacity to go far over the second lactate threshold for long. 

This is a peak session that we would build towards with other sessions such as 6 x 2K alternating 2K at 21km/h and 2K at 19.5km/h i.e. just below and just above the second lactate threshold (assuming it's about 20.5km/h). 

This is designed to drive threshold up, with periods of time running above and below. This could be started as 1km above, 2km below and developed.

The distances are guides as if you run slower the distances would be shorter.

Also remember that this is built upon low intensity volume - for these guys we are looking at 100-130km a week total with extensive endurance runs (ie long easy miles) at ~12-13km/h.

I would not suggest these distances and sessions for non elites (or even some elites), however I believe the principles of learning to run fast at race pace or above and then over time bringing this speed down to desired race pace with a suitable level of aerobic conditioning would benefit many non elites.

So this is an approach worth considering if you are looking to increase your run speed, particularly if you feel you have plateaued in this area and aren¬'t progressing.

If you give this a go we¬'d be interested to hear how you get on ¬- you can contact us.
Guest Blog: Improve Your Run Speed With Reverse Periodisation This Winter
AndyBby member: AndyB, Oct 15th 2012 12:20
Hey Mark

Thanks a lot for sharing your ideas with us. I'm not a big fan of the term 'reverse periodisation' either however, I have found this process to be beneficial. Working with athletes who have a good history of training and an established base fitness I have found that being able to maintain fast run sessions through the winter really brings on run speed well for the following year; as long as it is part of a balanced programme.

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