Prepare the mind and body for full training
Although the desired outcome of the preparation phase is always the same (prepare the mind and body for training), the precise nature of its content, depends upon the athlete’s recent training and racing history.
If the athlete has just completed a long 4-phase training cycle, then the preparation phase will likely be taken as a 2 to 4 week off-season. Within these weeks, the athlete will be encouraged to take time off completely from their typical racing disciplines. I will advise that they remain active in this time, but replace their usual training modalities with completely different ones.
If the athlete does wish to continue training in the same disciplines that they usually do, at the very least, I advise that any training always remains very easy, unstructured and different in some way from how they normally train. For example, switching the road or TT bike for a mountain bike, or, running easy on the trails instead of the road for example.
After a long training cycle, the athlete needs time to recover both mentally and physically before they are ready to begin a fresh new cycle again. If they fail to take this time away from the specifics of their typical training, there is a significant risk of mental and/or physical stagnation (or burnout) within the next training cycle. An athlete must be fresh and highly motivated to begin a new cycle. Anything less than this - and the training will not be as productive as possible.
If however, an athlete is entering the preparation phase after a significant time away from strenuous physical activity - then the initial block of training will look very different. In this instance, the athlete will be carefully re-introduced to easy training and structured workouts, so that they are ready to tackle the first week of training in the Foundation phase when it arrives. This means that both training volume and intensity, should be progressively increased until they reach the the baseline level of fitness required.
The duration of this prep phase could be anywhere from 2 to 8 weeks, and the precise content will of course depend upon the precise content of the Foundation phase. This phase will however, always include very easy training, progressing in session frequency and/or session duration, until the required level is attained.
Depending upon the specific athlete and event being trained for, the Foundation phase may also include some Level 7 and Level 8 intensities. This may come in the form of an introduction to heavy compound lifts in the weight room, and/or an introduction to ‘Near Max’ and ‘Max’ intensities on swim, bike and/or run. Once again, depending upon the individual circumstances, there will likely be very little (or no) moderate intensities (Levels 3 & 4), and no (or very little) more extensive high intensities (Level 5 & 6) during this period.