Training Cycles Part 4/5: Key Race Build-Up

A successful training program is one that gets you to the start line feeling fit and fresh.  Most endurance athletes may not struggle with getting out the door and doing some hard work, but in fact allowing themselves to rest and recover enough.  We must break up our training in cycles and be as intentional (if not more) about our rest than our hard quality sessions.  Below is part 4 (of a 5 part series) regarding smart training cycles:

  1. Daily Training
  2. Weekly Scheduling
  3. Specific Training Phase
  4. Key Race Build-Up
  5. Year-Around Training

Key Race Build-Up

Building up for that high priority race is something that has a bit of variability in duration but also approach.  As we touched on previously in what a specific training phase might entail (part 3), we now need to piece these different specific phases together to get us to the starting line in top condition FOR THAT EVENT.

Let’s work backwards from race day.  Each priority build-up will no doubt conclude in a taper (mine are 10-14 days) prior to race day in which some abbreviated race-specific workouts and volume reduction is incorporated. That leaves us with three general approaches in how we can get to this taper …

The Lydiard Pyramid

Arthur Lydiard Pyramid
Arthur Lydiard Pyramid

This model emphasizes a strong base aerobic fitness driving the rest of your training.  I’ve unashamedly subscribed to this model since my college days because I believe that for racing even distances as short as 1 mile, we are partaking in a highly aerobic activity.  The benefit of a strong aerobic system translates very nicely towards stronger anaerobic systems although the opposite doesn’t hold true.  I also just love to run … I love long runs and getting out the door training everyday … I LOVE IT so a higher volume / base-up approach has always been enjoyable for me.

The Hudson Arrow

Brad Hudson Arrow
Brad Hudson Arrow

This model emphasizes more and more specificity as you approach your goal race.  Incredibly short and fast repeats can actually be done very early during a higher-volume base phase as the benefit from the longer race-specific intervals should be placed just before competition.  I know a lot in the ultra community subscribe to a variant of this with the idea of your most utilized skill set for race day should be “taught” to your body last (just before you race).

The Simmons Diamond

Simmons Diamond
Simmons Diamond

This emphasizes taking your current fitness and raising intensity AND volume.  This model, to me, should be (and seems to be) the least common as increasing volume and intensity is a recipe for injury.  It also does NOT focus on a specific phase or skill-set as we discussed in part 3 with specific training phases – developing them all at once and not “neglecting” any at any time.  Some beneficial applications might be for very experienced (older) runners with a lot of mileage under their legs already looking to get into shape on a shorter amount of time or for people who already have a strong aerobic base wanting to race many race distances or just increase their general fitness throughout the year.

More

Above are some high-level distinctions between each approach and what my preferences are.  For more information and detail on each approach there is a fully written article here.

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