The inspiration for this post came from a subscriber to my newsletter. The question is in regards to the “Build Phase” of a training cycle; particularly the methodology behind building speed.
Without getting in the weeds; our focus during this phase is to place stress on the body over a specific timeframe and then back off to provide the right amount of rest. Then, repeat this cycle before changing one of those variables in order to allow the body to take on an increased level of stress. This contributes to building a faster athlete. Where this equation becomes complex is how much, how often, and how hard can one push an athlete to get the most out of them before causing harm or injury. Finding that balance and defining the exact tipping point is where most of us fail by either plateauing, or worse, getting injured. With the guidance of a knowledgeable coach and over a few training cycles you are sure to tap into your potential and see gains in your performance by sticking to this plan.
There are many theories and methods used by seasoned coaches. Some use training cycles based on days, weeks or even months to build an athlete. This mostly depends on the athlete’s history, goals, race age and rate of adaptation. A very common training cycle is three or four weeks. This stems from the time it takes your body to adapt to new training stressors. After three or four weeks of the same stress your body is no longer reaping the maximum benefit and a different stress load should be introduced. So, this is when you will see a few down days to allow the body to fully rest before introducing a higher level of intensity in the next cycle. There are no shortcuts to this, so be cautious when you see a plan which ramps you up too fast.
In a build phase you will see three quality workouts during the week. These workouts will consist of tempo runs, track repeats, intervals and hill/speed work. The rest of the week may include recovery runs or cross-training in order to keep developing the foundation, endurance and volume an athlete needs. Another important and often dismissed component is strength work including flexibility and core. I cannot stress enough how important strength work is for athletes who are in the build phase of a plan. Why? Well you need a strong lower body to support the added stress which building speed places on us, whether it’s running, cycling or swimming. I stress this point in a recent post The Swim.
Given the complexity of a properly executed build phase one should seek the guidance and advice of a coach to get the most of your time training. This small investment in yourself will not only provide better results but also keep you injury free and training consistently.
If you are interested in coaching or have any questions about your training feel free to reach out at [email protected]