top of page

Periodization Guide

Periodization is simply dividing your training into distinct portions at separate times of the year. Each of these periods is designed to focus on specific aspects of your fitness and get you closer to your goals. Think of it as a way to dissect your year of training into smaller, more manageable chunks that you can chip away at little by little.


Organizing different periods into “blocks” will keep your training organized and ensure you get adequate recovery, hit all of your training zones working towards your goal, and monitor changes over time. These blocks from largest to smallest are mesocycle, macrocycle, and microcycle. Looking at a calendar, these are analogous to a year, month, and week respectively where multiple of each subsequent block fits into the larger.



Mesocycle


The largest, overarching block is the mesocycle, it is often looked at as a 12-month calendar year for convenience and logistics but it doesn't necessarily need to be. Many professional road cyclists start training in early November after a few weeks long off-season, so their mesocycle would be from early November to mid-October the following year. For you, this should be from between your starting point and the date you set your goal to finish. That could be an event, race, or simply a day you want to complete your goal.


Macrocycle


A mesocycle will consist of multiple macrocycles where each one has its own distinct training goals and aspects to be focused on. In general, you will want your training to become more specific to your goal as you get closer to it, if you're 12+ months away from your goal, it is fine to be more casual with your training to prevent burnout. Use cross-training to help with injury prevention, and be less hyper-structured. As you get closer within a few months, you will want your training to be as specific to your goal as possible, and even give yourself opportunities to test yourself in the exact or very similar conditions and circumstances as your goal event would have.


In general, a macrocycle will be roughly a month long. Most commonly this will be from a 3-week long progression followed by a week-long recovery and adaptation period. This 4-week cycle is one full mesocycle and you will follow this cycle throughout the year until your goal. Mesocycles don’t need to be 4 weeks long, it is mostly done that way for convenience and on average for most people, 3-weeks is about as long as they can go with a sufficiently difficult progression before needing a rest. If you are early in your pre-season and doing fairly low-intensity riding, you could stretch this to 5,6 or 7 weeks as long as you can adequately recover from it and you don’t dig yourself so deep into a hole at the end of the progression that you are non-functional overreaching.


Macrocycles are often organized into different specificity levels where base, build, and specialization are in order from least to most specific.


Base Period


The base period is my favorite time of the year for riding. It generally means long rides, exploring new roads, and eating a lot. This is the furthest training period from your main event and is still not very specific to your event. This period focuses on general cardiovascular fitness which is most effectively achieved through consistently spending time in your endurance zones. You may see professional athletes doing monster rides or putting in huge weeks of riding, this is precisely the time of year when it is most beneficial.


If you have spent any time training at all, even just a year, general cardiovascular gains become exponentially more difficult to achieve. Endurance riding is generally easy enough that you can do loads of it day in, and day out without accumulating unrecoverable amounts of fatigue. It allows you to do a sufficiently high volume where it stresses your body to the point where it can continue to make those aerobic adaptations. This is why duration is often the primary progression you will see during the base phase.


But what if I'm not fit enough to ride 30 hours a week? Should I ride harder in my limited time to get more out of it? Not necessarily. While the physiology of why this intensity is so beneficial is quite complicated and nuanced, the intensity is roughly at the point where your body can most effectively make adaptations to the energy systems that make you more aerobically efficient while minimizing fatigue. Since cycling is an aerobic sport no matter how short your rides or races are (excluding something like the track kilo or sprint events), you will always be relying predominantly on the aerobic energy systems.


In short, the most benefit you can get out of the base period is by riding as much as you can in this endurance zone while still being able to recover every day. If you can regularly ride at 8 hours a week and that's the most you can do before you begin getting fatigued and feeling tired, going straight 14-hour-a-week base period will do more harm than good. The goal of the base progression is to stay just around your maximum recoverable volume until maybe the last week of each block where you can over-reach before the following recovery week.


Since the base period lacks significant intensity, it is a great time to work hard in the gym. The benefits you can gain from going to the gym are huge, so spending an hour or two a week at the gym could grant you even more fitness gains than 1-2 hours a week of riding could. This is especially true since most cyclists are quite inexperienced in the gym so they will be working through their newbie gains.


If riding endurance is so great, why can't I do the base period all year long? You can, and you'll get incredibly strong at riding at your endurance pace. However, all that endurance riding will begin to suppress your body's anaerobic contributions, so your threshold power and higher will begin to suffer. For this reason, I find it best to stick to two or three macrocycles in a season before moving to the build period.




Build Period


This is when your workouts start getting tough and more specific to your goals, whether that means riding a specific bike, riding specific terrain, doing training races, or doing workouts that replicate what you expect to encounter in a race. This is when specificity and individualization begin to play a large role in your training.


While base training is trying to ride as much as you can and recover to make general

gains, the build period is riding as hard as you can while still recovering to make specific

gains. Since this is all specific to your event, I can't necessarily advise on how exactly to do that, that is up to you to determine.


It is still extremely beneficial to continue to ride endurance intensities for a large portion of your training time to continue to work on that aerobic fitness, but since you are incorporating difficult workouts you will need to cut back the total duration to properly recover. I find it best to take the maximum hours per week you can do comfortably during the base period, and do roughly 70-80% of that as a guideline. The decreased training volume will be more than made up by the increase in intensity.


Gym work can still be incorporated during the build phase but to a lesser extent. I think functional mobility drills work great for keeping athletes feeling fresh without creating excess soreness or training load that could affect the interval days. These workouts should be for maintenance with the occasional overload day to keep you slowly progressing in the gym.


The build phase is quite mentally and physically taxing so it shouldn't last more than one or two training blocks before moving on to the final period or going back to the base period to start another cycle again.


Specialization


This is the period right before your main event, consisting of usually just one macrocycle of training including a taper.

These are highly individualized and specific to your event, you should be spending all of your training time on the bike you intend to use on the race, you should spend as much time as you can riding similar terrain, and your intensity should be very specific to what you expect to encounter in the event.


While the last two blocks were focused on walking the fine line between too much and

just enough training, this period will require significantly less training volume. The goal of this period is to accumulate a high percentage of training stimulus that is highly specific while managing fatigue and keeping it low. This means in most cases riding even fewer hours per week while maintaining or increasing intensity to give you the last bit of edge you need to tackle your event while arriving with minimal fatigue.


I think gym work is important year-round, but during this period I like to keep it very light and easy, or take time off altogether from the gym. Remember this period is about specificity and fatigue management so the gym work may not be the best idea depending on your goals. Maintaining mobility and flexibility is still a good idea leading into your race, however.



Microcycle


The microcycle is the smallest partition of periodization, it is generally organized into 7

day weeks for convenience. A microcycle will often include workouts with specific goals with each successive microcycle getting progressively harder before the final recovery

microcycle within the overarching macrocycle.


By organizing your training into 7-day microcycles, you can easily plan a series of

workouts with intensity progression, plan a slow and steady volume progression, and/ or

manage fatigue with dedicated recovery periods to maximize each workout within the

cycle.

Comentarios


bottom of page