Training for an ultra-endurance event is a special process. There is a lot of change that happens to your physiology and your mental ability. The science of training load management is robust and well documented in the scientific literature. The basic summary would be this – don’t increase load too quickly, ensure there is progressive increases in load, and ensure there is time for recovery.
Training progress should always occur in different blocks. A macrocycle is a season-long cycle, anywhere from 6-12 months. Within this period there are smaller blocks of training called mesocycles, set according to the fitness development needs and goals of the athlete. These are usually around 4-6 weeks. These cycles are progressive in their load, and should always have a specific fitness goal in mind. Within these blocks are even smaller cycles called microcycles. These are usually 1 week in nature, and include different daily sessions based on the goals of the mesocycle, and include upload and deload days, amongst finer detailed training sessions.
Recovery is important. Within a macrocycle, you should always include a recovery block of 3-4 weeks, usually after an A-race event, or just before the start of a new macrocycle. Within mesocycles, there should be planned microcycle recoveries i.e. recovery/deload weeks. This allows for the body to adapt to the demands placed on it from previous microcycles, and get into a state of readiness for the next training cycle. Within a microcycle, there should be recovery days such as a day off, or an active recovery session. Without recovery strategies, the body will not have the chance to improve its ability to train, and you will not get the desired fitness adaptations.
Getting your training load right is an extraordinary interplay of science and feel. The science behind it is learned through education, but the feel is where experience plays a huge role. Knowing your athletes, and knowing how they respond to training is an art on its own; and for this reason any endurance training program should preferably be tailored to the needs of an individual athlete. When athletes are struggling to find that next gear of fitness, or do not have the motivation to train anymore, I will always recommend that you go back to the planning and execution of their training program cycles.
Some key reasons for struggling in your training program:
- You don’t have structure
- You lack consistency and repeatability
- There is no planned progression of training load in different mesocycles
- There is minimal time given for recovery
- Session planning is not specific to the goals of the microcycle/mesocycles
Another key aspect to struggling to progress in your training is the psychological component to training. You should have a deep inner conviction of why you are attempting to complete that big endurance event. And it should never be an external focus of motivation, meaning that you should focus your why on your own dreams and aspirations, and not on those of others. You are uniquely you, and so often I have seen people try so hard to train for an event for the wrong reasons. So, REALLY ask yourself why!
Endurance training is becoming very popular with everyday people. It is now a social means, and this leads people to live healthy lives. We encourage the use of correct training load management in your endurance training journey to ensure that you remain healthy and uninjured, and remain passionate about your goals. Making use of a coach is a great way to overcome the challenge of training load management.