How to Periodize Your Training

Expecting to get faster and stronger without presenting yourself with challenges and variation is quite futile.

Some might think that the hill repeats I encourage athletes to do are insane but I promise that, despite the burning legs and lungs, they help develop physical strength and mental fortitude, and they can take your fitness to the next level.

Of course hill repeats are just one way to improve strength, power and overall fitness. The other is following a strategic training plan while listening to your body as it responds to the plan.

Training for a specific goal with the expectations of improving, getting stronger, getting faster, avoiding injury or burnout, and learning along the way calls for training in such a way where art and science merge. 

Triathletes across the world are setting goals and looking ahead to the next race season. Goals are wonderful, but without a plan of action, those goals may never be realized. 

Long bike rides, track workouts, epic swim sessions, and yoga class on Wednesday nights to recover are examples of workouts often seen on a triathlete's training plan. Sure, those workouts are crucial but when interjected without rhyme or reason, you are left with only small improvements in fitness and performance. 

What's a triathlete to do? 


What is Periodized Training?

Essentially, it's when you divide your year into blocks of time that focus on the various aspects of fitness including strength, flexibility, technique, endurance, aerobic capacity, anaerobic capacity (fast, forceful, and powerful activities) and race-specific fitness. What is possibly the most important element of periodized training, however, is that it allows for the scheduling of rest days and rest weeks to make certain that you get the appropriate amount of time to adapt to training stressors. 

Of course no one likes being told what to do without understanding the underlining principles behind the task at hand. So, to help you understand the importance of periodization even further, I will offer an explanation of the overload and recovery theory, also referred to as progressive overload. 

All forms of physical training stress your physiological system and tissue in some way. If you were to take a glimpse inside your body, and more specifically your muscles, post-workout, you may see something that resembles the side of a road after an aid station at your favorite race: total chaos and destruction.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing. The breaking down becomes a catalyst for reconstruction and improvement. A series of enzymatic and hormonal reactions take place resulting in a faster, stronger and more fit version of you. By incorporating all aspects of training stressors you can manipulate your ability to adapt to those various aspects of fitness, exceeding the levels you originally started with.

Here's where periodization comes in.

If you were to focus on developing all aspects of fitness all at once, you may end up injured, ill or completely burned out.  By drawing out a map of the year ahead or developing an annual training outlook you can designate blocks of time to focus on each aspect of fitness. 

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About the Author

Marisa Carter

Marisa L. Carter, MS, RN is the Owner and Head Coach of Evolve Multisport. For more information on coaching services or to contact Marisa, please visit
Marisa L. Carter, MS, RN is the Owner and Head Coach of Evolve Multisport. For more information on coaching services or to contact Marisa, please visit

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