Periodization: harder to say than do

Credit: Jay Farbman
Periodization is a fancy name for the training cycle. A training cycle consists in a few distinct stages, each with its own purpose, arranged in a special order. Here are six basic rules of periodization for walkers.

1. Set Goals! When are your key races and how fast do you want to walk in those races? Periodization is a very effective way to plan workouts so that all physiological systems are running at 100% on important race days. To map out an effective training schedule, you must have concrete performance goals, and know when those big races are.

2. To begin the periodization process, first count back 7 to 14 days before your goal race or races this is your taper period. The idea is to be rested while maintaining high VO2 and lactate threshold levels. To do so you should cut total mileage and number of intervals by one-third to one-half at least. Intensity should remain high you must continue to walk fast and with excellent technique in the days before your races.

3. Next, count back three to six weeks before your taper. This is your lactate threshold period. Your main focus should be on raising your lactate threshold walking speed the speed beyond which high levels of lactate begin to accumulate in the muscles and blood. Training should consist of two to three LT sessions per week in addition to the usual recovery/technique sessions.

4. The six weeks before the threshold phase comprise the optional VO2 max period. Raising VO2 max will increase your ability to take in oxygen while walking at high speed. Steady-state workouts at 87 to 95% of max heart rate and interval workouts at 95 to 100% of max heart rate should be undertaken two to three times per week during this period. Be Conservative don't even think about using a VO2 max period unless you've been walking competitively for at least two years.

5. Before your VO2 max or threshold period count back as long as you have available 3 to 9 months or more. This is your endurance base buildup/economy period. Your main focus will be building general and racewalking-specific endurance, as well as developing solid economical technique.

Whereas lactate threshold and VO2 max improvements constitute primarily enzymatic changes, improvements in endurance represent structural changes increased capillary supply to the muscles, increases in the size and number of mitochondria within the muscles, and strengthening of ligaments and tendons.

These structural changes take a great deal of time to develop, as does good technique and without these changes lactate threshold and VO2 max work will be counterproductive or damaging.

6. Finally, before the endurance/economy period is the one- to four-week active rest phase. After each hard racing season the body must be given a chance to recover. Racewalking should be cut back significantly or eliminated. Fitness gains will be maintained by pursuing alternative activities such as biking, inline skating, swimming, and hiking.

Choose activities you enjoy that you've neglected during your hard training and racing seasons. Have fun! Give yourself a full physical and mental recovery before embarking on next season's training.

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