Tag Archives: Reverse

Reverse Periodisation and Ideal Preparation Length

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By Chris Pilone.

Traditional periodisation of training for any long distance triathlon (half ironman or longer) and any long distance running event (half marathon or longer) usually calls for some sort of aerobic conditioning phase and then event specific harder work followed by a taper and then race.

In the 80’s some coaches and athletes started using what is called reverse periodisation. This involved a period of more intense training, lower volume and racing at shorter distances prior to beginning a very specific period of higher volume and less intense training aimed at an appropriate long distance event. The higher volume less intense training lasted for a period of 8 to 12 weeks with a 7 to 10 day taper. Italian Gelindo Bordin won the 1988 Olympic marathon using this type of periodisation. His high volume, lower intensity phase of training involved clocking up sometimes more than 250km per week of running and some marathon paced type sessions such as 3 x 30 minutes at 3:05 to 3:10 per km! Bordin had a 2:08 marathon PB.

In 2013 Pete Jacobs (2012 Kona Champion) raced a very fast half distance event in Australia about a month prior to Kona. I think his time was in the very low 3:40’s. Social media in New Zealand was quite active post this event and speculating how fast he would go at Kona. I put my two cents worth in by saying I didn’t think he would be a factor at Kona. In the back of my mind I was thinking reverse periodisation and that fast a month out wasn’t a good sign. I realise Pete has been troubled by health issues in recent years so other factors may have been involved but in 2013 my comment re him being a non factor at Kona proved correct.

For ironman triathlon and also running marathons I am a firm believer in a reverse periodisation approach. For specific ironman or marathon running training the longest block of training I would use would be 12 weeks, but that would include two easier weeks and 2 week taper. I have known people perform better on shorter preparations than this. I ran my best ever marathon off a 5 week block of high mileage and a one week taper. The higher mileage phase involved some hilly running and some long steady state running but no hard speed workouts. I was fit prior to this training block having done lower mileage and also some short distance racing on the track. In the marathon itself I ran 2:20 on a tough hilly course feeling good most of the way and winning comfortably. I could have run 2 to 3 minutes quicker if I had really extended myself.
This was 1983 and back then I asked myself how much faster I could have run with 12 to 15 weeks of high mileage plus some good hard speed work. I know the answer now! WORSE!!!!!

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