Reverse Periodisation

If you have just come off a season of XCO racing, and therefore have been working on your aerobic capacity and top end power, you may be worried about your endurance coming into marathon season. Certainly, if you were to use the traditional method of periodisation, endurance would be built early on in base phase, followed by higher intensity training closer to race time.  However, many sports scientists and coaches agree that this traditional periodisation method may not necessarily be the best way to approach a longer endurance-based event. Instead, more and more coaches and athletes are turning to reverse periodisation.

The reverse periodisation approach is based on maintaining intensity closer to the demands of your goal event and then progressively increasing volume at that intensity.  

Threshold Power

The most important fitness components required for marathon racing are endurance and threshold. Obviously your endurance needs to be at a level where you can complete the distance of the race. But how fast you complete that distance depends greatly on how high your threshold power is. Basically, you will only be able to work at intensities higher than threshold for a limited amount of time before “blowing up” and having to severely drop speed to continue pedalling and get to the finish line. Therefore, the higher your threshold power the faster you will be able to pedal before reaching that tipping point.

Using Reverse Periodisation to increase Threshold Power

The session I have outlined below is designed to increase threshold power and is a great one to prepare you for the demands of marathon racing. Obviously you will not be able to hold threshold pace for the duration of a marathon event. Instead you will spend the majority of time in tempo zone. Using principles of reverse periodisation, the aim is to complete this session each week, progressively increasing time spent within tempo zone

Week 1

SUSTAINED TEMPO SESSION 1

Warm up 15-20mins low intensity
(15mins Tempo zone with 5mins recovery) X 6 (2hrs)
Warm down real easy for 15-20mins
2.5hrs total

Week 2

SUSTAINED TEMPO SESSION 2

Warm up 15-20mins low intensity
(20mins Tempo zone with 5mins recovery) X 6 (2.5hrs)
Warm down real easy for 15-20mins
3hrs total

Week 3 SUSTAINED TEMPO SESSION 3

​Warm up 15-20mins low intensity
(25mins Tempo zone with 5mins recovery) X 6 (3hrs) 
Warm down real easy for 15-20mins 
3.5hrs total
Week 4 WEEK 4    SUSTAINED TEMPO SESSION 4

Warm up 15-20mins low intensity
(30mins Tempo zone with 5mins recovery) X 6 (3.5hrs) 
Warm down real easy for 15-20mins 
​4hrs total
Week 5 RECOVERY WEEK
Week 6

SUSTAINED TEMPO SESSION 5

Warm up 15-20mins low intensity
(30mins Tempo zone with 5mins recovery) X 6 (3.5hrs) 
Warm down real easy for 15-20mins 
​4hrs total

Week 7

SUSTAINED TEMPO SESSION 6

Warm up 15-20mins low intensity
(35mins Tempo zone with 5mins recovery) X 6 (4hrs) 
Warm down real easy for 15-20mins 
​4.5hrs total

Week 8

WEEK 8    RACE SIMULATION EFFORT 

Warm up 15-20mins low intensity
4.5hrs Tempo zone
Warm down real easy for 15-20mins 
5hrs total

*Ideally complete this Race Simulation two weeks out from Marathon event, then it will be time to Taper

Week 9 

SUSTAINED TEMPO SESSION 3

(Taper) Warm up 15-20mins low intensity
(25mins Tempo zone with 5mins recovery) X 6 (3hrs) 
Warm down real easy for 15-20mins 
​3.5hrs total

*Drop back to just 3hrs at Tempo pace this week; enough to
     get a solid hit-out without over-doing it before next week!

Week 10 RACE DAY!

*Tempo zone = 80-90% Functional Threshold Power (FTP) 

                               85-95% Threshold Heart Rate (THR)

                               3-4 Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)


In this example, the training goal is ultimately to complete the Dwellingup 100 in sub five hours. 

Using principles of reverse periodisation, time spent riding at marathon race-pace is increased from two hours in week one, to four-and-a-half hours in week eight prior to taper. As this is quite a stressful session I would recommend you schedule your last progression a couple of weeks out from your main event. This gives time for an adequate taper period where volume is reduced, allowing you to freshen up and come into form.