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Periodization part 2: The build phase

Following on from our last blog on Periodization, here is part 2: The build phase.

After around 12 weeks of base training, the time has now come to move to the build phase.

The key difference between the base phase and the build phase is that in the build phase you are looking for race specific training sessions. I like to call it ‘specificy’.

This is when we train like we are racing. This phase involves workouts to improve muscular endurance; the intensity is increased while focussing on sustained efforts at or above race pace.

During this phase you would introduce things like hill repeats, brick sessions that have you running off the bike and open water swim sessions with sighting drills and turns that mimic the actual race course. You would plan to have a few B and C races and perhaps even some single discipline races.

But Wait! … Did I hear someone say, “Oh I get it! This is the phase where the volume reduces and the intensity increases?” Well no, not always. Remember the purpose of the build phase, that is, race like / specificy training. Don’t focus on the volume, focus on achieving the workout objectives.

It is really important to add at this stage that NOT EVERY SESSION should be race specific or HARD. These hard race sessions are your key sessions. If every session is hard this will only lead to over training, burnout or worse… injury!

So with this I go back to the snap shot of the Annual training plan below:

Insert: Snapshot of a section of an actual training plan showing the plan with its periodization and races overlayed. Image taken from training peaks. 

The build phase is a bit different from the base phase. In the build phase we have ‘build 1’ and ‘build 2’. Notice the grey pillars (TSS) are almost all different heights. This indicates changes in volume and intensity. The reason I point this out is that you will note all but the ‘build 1’ area has 3 weeks increase and 2 weeks decrease “recovery”.

So it is important to note the predicted fitness (that is the light blue shaded mountain range in the background). Note also that although the (TSS) grey pillars are stepping down, the fitness indicator (blue shaded area) stays flat or goes up slightly. This indicates that during recovery in this particular individual’s case they are maintaining or improving in fitness. Now that’s cool!

Key takeaways for build:

  • ‘Specificy’ / race like
  • Don’t focus on volume, focus on the specific workout objectives
  • Maintain your micro cycles within your build – if you are a more mature aged athlete. Perhaps a 3-week cycle would work better than the 4 week shown in the ATP image.

That my friends, is a short snap shot of a very complex subject.


 By Brendan Cochrane, Triathlon Australia accredited Performance coach and triathlete


P O Box 7833 Garbutt, Qld 4814 Australia +61 434 350 260

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