All of a sudden the greater part of the summer is behind us and, bar a few hardy souls now tapering for Coast to Coast, Powerman Zofingen, the Brutal, the Multisport Festival in Ibiza, or those final club races, this is now the time for what was historically termed the transition period. I write historically, simply because the word has obviously taken on a whole new meaning with the advent of multisport. However, this minor confusion aside, the transition period remains an important aspect of any annual periodisation plan.
The transition period is essentially a recovery period that allows the athlete to recharge the batteries. This period can sometimes be a shortened break to allow a brief recovery phase in the midst of a double (or triple) periodised plan, between races, readying the athlete for the next preparatory phase of training. Or, more traditionally, the transition period is a 4 to 6 week full, but active, recovery linked to the next annual periodised plan.
I could try and write something from memory, or rather, from my own interpretation of transition in its practical coaching application. However, it is far easier to directly quote Tudor Bompa, who is regarded as the father of all things periodisation: “After long periods of preparation, hard work, stressful competitions, in which both physiological and psychological fatigue can accumulate, a transition period should be used to link annual training plans or [the] preparation for another major competition, as in the case of [multiple] periodised plans.”
The training during the transition period should be low key with a reduction in all loading factors – intensity and volume, technical and tactical – with allowances for general training only. The objective is to allow for the facilitation of psychological rest, relaxation and biological regeneration. Failure to allow for a full recovery before embarking on a further periodised plan is likely to impair performance in future training cycles whilst also increasing the risk of injury.
However, this phase of training requires a similar level of consideration to every other week within a training cycle. If nothing else, this is to ensure the avoidance of the most common mistake of the transition period – that of the athlete allowing the training to come to a complete standstill. Any abrupt interruption of training will lead to a significant detraining effect resulting in a “substantial loss in the physiological adaptations established in the previous months of training”.
For endurance athletes, short term detraining can result in a substantial reduction in both time to exhaustion and overall endurance performance. “Maximal aerobic capacity can be reduced by 4% in as little as four days of detraining, by 7% [within] three weeks and by 14% in as little as four weeks of inactivity.” Similar reductions in output occur with physiological markers of power and strength also. The initial phase of the next training will therefore be required to regain this lost ground before further progression of athlete performance can be sought.
Recovery from injury aside, active recovery is therefore preferable to ensure that athletes continue to engage the bioenergetic characteristics of the sport being trained for. Training should be low key with volumes and levels of intensity set to be approximately 40 – 50% of those achieved during the peak periods of the competitive phase. Additionally, with the ever increasing range of events that athletes need to prepare for and thus the need for athletes to be up to speed earlier and earlier every season, there is a serious call to start back onto full training without allowing for the full 4 – 6 week period. Thus, the transition phase, particularly for those with early season qualification races, is often reduced by at least two weeks. This allows for an early reintroduction in particular of form drills and skill redevelopment before embarking on the first phase of the next annual periodised plan. The progression should be carefully considered, however, with a carefully crafted, gradual rebuild in volume and intensity.
This is also the ideal time for athletes and coaches to review the progress made in the previous 12 months and begin to plan for the next. Additionally, the end of the transition period is the ideal time for the athlete to re assess current performance levels through physiological assessments to set the benchmarks for the forthcoming training. We are currently busy scheduling for this important task with both our long term athletes as well as those who are coming on board in preparation for the 2019 season.
With the increased numbers of athletes passing through the Depot requiring assessment and testing, particularly bike lactate testing and running video analysis, we are delighted to announce that we have moved! We are now to be found about 20 feet from our previous location, still in Building 86 at the Royal Ordnance Depot in Weedon but now in the main building on the left. The additional space will hopefully allow more opportunity for coaching, with additional services to come on board in the next few weeks and months. Please keep an eye on the website or Facebook for further details or email to make a booking.
I am heading off to the 2018 ITU Powerman Long Distance World Championships in the morning and then to the Duathlon Hub Peak District weekend to present both a Natural Running Form workshop and an introduction to Team GB Age-Group racing. Busy times before we head to the Lake District at the end of September for our own transition period.
Keep up the hard work please, unless your own transition period has already started, in which case, please enjoy a little active down time before we begin the training full on once more!