How to Periodize Your Training

For example, some athletes and coaches like to focus on four phases. The following chart is commonly used as a template when building a training plan.


Time Spent




Or Transition

4-8 weeks




12-24 weeks


Moderate to High


4-8 weeks




3-5 weeks



History has shown this strategy to be effective but it lacks specificity. In addition, many triathletes enjoy competing in running events or Masters swimming events in their offseason. The above chart does not give guidance on how to incorporate some of those offseason racing goals, when to improve upon self-defined physiological or psychological limiters, or when it is OK to indulge in some well-deserved time with friends, drinking beer instead of hitting the pillow at 8 p.m. so that you're fresh for the early morning workout. 

How to Get Specific With Periodized Training

First and foremost, get back to the basics. On a piece of notebook paper, write out every race you plan to enter in that calendar year and rate its importance as "for fun" or "to compete". List any vacations, work responsibilities or other excursions that might affect your training. 

Now, focus on your strengths and limiters: What worked well for you last year and what do you feel you need to improve upon. 

Lastly, list all of those goals you have outside of your sport and when you plan to enjoy activities outside of swimming, biking, and running. The chart above helps as you prepare for your most important race--the race where you want to be the most fit. However, if you are one of those people that enjoy an extended post-race vacation, or perhaps are keen on mastering the art of micro-brewing or Nordic skiing in your down time, you should probably extend the transition phase to between 8 and 12 weeks. 

By understanding the concept behind each phase, you can determine how to incorporate those workouts that develop each aspect of your fitness. Below, you'll find a chart offering some suggestions regarding what to focus on during each phase. It's important to know what you want and develop a plan. Maintain detailed training logs from year to year and watch your performances improve as you implement periodized training.



Type of Workout


Recovery, technique work, improving sport-specific limiters, flexibility

Yoga, private sport lessons, drill work in each sport to improve technique, enjoying hobbies


Improving endurance, one-sport training block, increasing strength, maintaining flexibility, incorporating minimal tempo and speed sessions, improving sport-specific limiters

Aerobic workouts, strength training, yoga, tempo sessions


Maintaining endurance, improving speed and power, maintaining muscular endurance, maintaining strength by sport-specific workouts, incorporating race specific workouts and intensities, preparation races, increasing anaerobic capacity

Aerobic workouts, anaerobic workouts, yoga, functional strength training, speed intervals, tempo sessions, race preparation workouts, flexibility training to assist in recovery and tissue balance


Speed, endurance, recovery, drills

Speed intervals, tempo sessions, recovery sessions, drills, visualization exercises

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