The vast majority of training programs utilize a program of traditional periodization. Most of us are familiar with the gradual buildup through the season form prep to base to build to peak.
Within the yearly macro cycle are many micro cycles of training. These are generally 3 or 4 week cycles that build additional training stress through greater volume and intensity for the first 2 or 3 weeks and then follow up with an easy recovery week. Younger juniors and masters most often use the 3 week cycle while older juniors and adult racers under the age of 40 go with the 4 weeks.
This is all basic training knowledge. However, not as obvious is how you should approach each week in the cycle and what you should expect to feel. In the first week you should start out feeling fairly refreshed from the recovery week before. If you are still feeling tired and sore you may be extending yourself too much. Your heart rate should respond well to all ranges of exertion. Your legs should feel strong and you should be able to work all your power zones. Your overall fatigue should be low.
As you move through to week 2 and 3 (if applicable) your level of perceived exertion will begin to climb. Towards the end you should be finding it harder to elevate your heart rate zones. Your legs should be feeling some fatigue and it should be harder to maintain target power zones consistently. Your overall fatigue should be moderate to high. The levels of fatigue will be higher later in the macro cycles, growing steadily through the base and build periods.
The recovery week lets your body rest and adapt to the stress you have put on it. Throughout the week your feelings should trend in the opposite of the first 2 or 3 weeks of the cycle. Always respect the recovery period. If you don’t, then the stress that you have put on your system will go from the necessary overreaching that one needs to improve will turn to overtraining.
The big takeaway is that you should expect to feel tired as you near your recovery week. Don’t expect to perform at you best if you have a C race at the end of your cycle. Know that in the long run these repeated cycles are what brings you to your peak fitness. And to repeat, go easy on your recovery weeks! Overreaching + Rest = Improved Fitness. Overreaching + Not Enough Rest = Overtraining.
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