The General Phase of Training
by Chris Breen
Also known as the offseason or transition phase, the months of October, November, December and January make up what I call the general phase of training. This phase encompasses the time your race season ends until the time you begin more specific training prior to a race.
During the general phase, your training focus should be on building volume and spending time below the aerobic threshold (levels one and two in the typical five-zone model). Time below the aerobic threshold will still help increase maximum aerobic fitness, but it does not overstress your heart and lungs during a period of training where that stress is unnecessary. Once this is attained, appropriate short VO2 intervals (at approximately 60 to 85% of threshold heart rate, or a 3-6 effort level on a scale of 1-10 can be introduced as needed. During these intervals, emphasize technique and sport-specific skills.
Try to structure your general phase workouts to fit within your current life. Only make sacrifices when you need them the most. Attain frequency before volume.
Back-to-back days of 90-minute endurance bike work are more valuable than a three-hour session followed by two rest days.
Besides typical strength training or with yoga and calisthenics, add sport-specific strength by incorporating hills into long/aerobic rides and runs. If relegated to training indoors on the bike, include sport-specific strength work with low cadence work on the trainer. For the run, incorporate hilly trail runs powering up the hills into your schedule.
Below are some sample workouts that can be incorporated into your general phase of training.
300-500 meters easy pace
4 x 25 meters building your pace with each interval, with 30 seconds rest
20-30 x 50 meters at a moderate to high pace focusing on a quick turnover with 5-second rest intervals.
Include 100 meters easy halfway through
300-500 meters easy cool down
10-15 minutes gradually building intensity
5 x 15 seconds strong effort (L5) with 45 seconds easy
2 x (10 x 30 seconds strong effort (L5) with 15 seconds easy)
5 min easy in between sets
10 -15 min easy
5 -10 walk/dynamic warm up
45 - 60 minutes on a hilly trail powering up the short hills.
5-10 minutes walk
Remember, sessions at this point do not need to be multi-hour endurance workouts if they don’t fit into your life. Focus on building volume through frequency rather than duration. Be realistic and adjust your workouts based on time availability. Maintain a good baseline of fitness through frequency, focus on technique and skills with short VO2 max intervals, build durability through strength training and sport-specific strength. Most importantly, establish good practices and make consistency your number one habit.
Christopher Breen, PA-C, ACSM EP-C is a Certified Physician Assistant specializing in sports medicine and orthopaedics, a Certified Exercise Physiologist by The American College of Sports Medicine, and a USAT Level 1 Certified Triathlon Coach. He is the founder and head coach of ARIA Endurance Coaching, LLC and also works at NYU Langone Orthopaedic Assoc., PC in Long Island, N.Y. He can be reached at www.ariaendurance.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.