By: Nikki Reiter
How do some of Canada’s best endurance athletes perform ‘on demand?’ It’s not a real secret, except that they plan well. Having an annual training plan helps tailor training so that the best result comes at the most important competition of the year.
Gerry Dragomir is coach of multiple Olympic race walkers with Racewalk West. Since its formation, Racewalk West athletes have come to dominate the sport of race walking in Canada at every level from Youth to Master. Of course, this couldn’t be accomplished without proper planning. Gerry offers his advice on how to best plan your own racing schedule.
How do you select the most important race of the year? What factors should play a part?
Selecting your most important event of the year is all about what you want to achieve.
Novice planners start out trying to do their planning the “easy” way. The easy way works (or doesn’t work) like this:
- I want to run a marathon in 2:48;
- Chicago has a marathon.
- I’ll plan to do that one in 2:48.
- I have 14 weeks to the event.
- I’ll download a 14 week training program from the Internet, plan complete.
This method is very quick, very easy and very often results in failure.
A more reliable but more involved method works like this:
- Find someone to evaluate your current state of fitness.
- Based on the evaluation, determine the fitness changes that you want to make to improve your performance.
- Find someone to help you determine how long it will take to make your fitness changes based on your desire and capacity to train.
- Based on the estimate of time required to make your changes, choose an event that will be held around the time that the changes should be complete.
- Select a couple of lesser events between now and the BIG one to allow you to test your progress.
- Build your detailed program to fit the schedule you now have.
At a basic level, what is periodization?
Periodization is interval training writ large. The idea behind interval training is that you can do more work with more intensity if you put rest/recovery periods between the intense parts. If you’ve ever done an interval workout you know what I mean. Periodization simply takes the concept of the rest/recovery periods and applies it to larger segments of time. You can periodize weekly by mixing more intense and less days with days off. You can periodize by training cycle where you may do a particular type of training for a multi-week period with the weeks varying in intensity over the cycle. You can periodize annually where you time and include different cycles at the appropriate time of the year. You can periodize quadrennially by mixing intensities between the years. Finally, you can periodize over a career or even over a lifetime.
The athletes who are best at periodization are those that set records (personal or otherwise) at major events.
How can a recreational runner use the principles of periodization to plan their race schedule?
I’d say “just do it” but I’m probably breaking someone’s trade mark. Start out simple. Identify what is a hard day, easy day and rest day. Mix them up during the week. Identify what is a hard week, easy week and rest week. Mix them up over a 4-6 week period. See how that feels, did you make progress? Experiment with different combinations during the week and between the weeks.
The process is very personal and there is no magic formula except for the formula that you discover that is right for you through trial and error. Believe it or not, that’s how the pros do it. Of course, we make it much more complex based on what we know but we’re still just guessing until we get the evidence that validates or refutes our beliefs.
Nikki Reiter is a Mizuno Running Brand Ambassador from Kelowna, BC. She holds a master’s degree in biomechanics, coaches Cross Country at UBC Okanagan and is the founder of Run Right Gait Analysis Service (run-right.ca).