Fast Talk, ep. 66: Demystifying periodization with Joe Friel

In episode 66, we discuss the many types of periodization, why they aren't as complicated as you might think, and which is best for you.

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

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The VeloNews Fast Talk podcast is your source for the best training advice and most compelling insight on what it takes to become a better cyclist. Listen in as VeloNews managing editor Chris Case and our resident physiologist and coach, Trevor Connor, discuss a range of topics, including sport science, training, physiology, technology, nutrition, and more.

Periodization is, in many ways, the pinnacle of advanced training. Taking the steps to periodize graduates you to a professional approach, one with purpose, long-term vision, and organized planning.

But periodization can also be confusing and, frankly, a little scary. Periodizing your training means diving into a world of new concepts, things like training blocks, mesocycles, and training specificity. For those of us with jobs and families, or who have to deal with inclement weather, it’s harder to plan ahead — to know on Monday what we might be able to fit in on Friday, let alone how to plan our next four-week transition phase. Looking at it in that context, it’s hard to fault those who just hop on Zwift and start smashing it when they have an hour to spare.

The question is, does periodization need to be that complicated? And, while it may be a necessity for pros, can it help those of us with only seven or eight hours to train each week?

For answers to those very questions and many more, let’s take a deep dive with the man credited with bringing periodization to cycling back in the 1990s, Joe Friel.

Today we’ll discuss, first,

  • What exactly is periodization? The truth is it’s not as complicated and scary as it may sound. At its simplest, it’s just a way of structuring your season to prepare for your target races. Heard about base training in the winter and top-end work in the spring? That’s periodization.
  • The history of periodization from its first use among Soviet athletes to its introduction to cycling.
  • The principles of training, including overload, specificity, reversibility, and individualization. These four concepts are at the core of periodization.
  • With the principles as our base, we’ll dive into the different forms of periodization, starting with traditional linear periodization. It’s the oldest and most common form, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t effective.
  • Next we’ll talk about reverse periodization and why it might not be best for the weekend warrior, even if Chris Froome is doing it.
  • Next we’ll talk about non-linear forms of periodization, including undulating periodization and the most recently developed strategy called block periodization.
  • Then we’ll finish up with a few tips on how to pick a periodization strategy that’s right for you — assuming you want to use one at all.

Our guest today is legendary coach Joe Friel, who just recently published a new edition of the definitive book on training, The Cyclists Training Bible. The first edition back in the 1990s introduced periodization to cyclists but it only covered traditional periodization. This new edition covers all of the strategies we discuss in this podcast.

We also briefly hear from Sepp Kuss, of the Jumbo-Visma team, who, surprisingly, tried periodization for the first time this season as a WorldTour rider.

Next, we talk with Paulo Saldanha, among other things the coach of Mike Woods of the EF Education First team, who has very unique periodization approaches with both his top pros and the masters athletes he coaches.

Finally, we’ll hear from Colby Pearce, a regular contributor to Fast Talk, who will give his opinion on periodization and how to pick an approach for you.

So, dust off your copy of the training bible. Let us… make you fast!

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