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Why Schedule a Transition Phase?

The transition phase may be referred to as “off season” training but is not a time to take “off.” Actually, there is no “off” season. The transition phase is the time of year to let your body fully recover, both mentally and physically, while maintaining a level of fitness. It is the time to let those nagging little injuries heal up. The transition phase can last 4-6 weeks and occurs directly after the final peak of the season.

I usually give my athletes a week of rest or very limited training following peak, and then start the transition phase. I give them the most flexibility and autonomy during this period. I tell the athlete to take extra rest days if needed and we schedule a few weeks with consecutive days off. Cross training and other activities are encouraged, especially for runners. I like to give the joints and connective tissue a break from the impact of running and will schedule runs as little as 2x per week. I do not encourage racing during the transition phase other than at a base or non-competitive level. I discouraged a race that requires preparation or volume increase.

A typical transition week will have the athlete working out 4-5 days per week with rest days in between. There is no progression. Volume can be greatly reduced as long as there are brief bouts of intensity. I will cut interval volume way down but never eliminate higher intensities completely to maintain aerobic capacity. I do encourage one

longer work out per week at a base level to maintain endurance. Some light strength training can occur, mainly to acclimate the body for resistance training. Reps are high, weight low, and the number of sets small. Core work is emphasized.

Mentally it may be hard for you to transition for the first time following peak. If you are used to higher volume and high intensity and you may feel they are going to loose too much fitness. I have found that athletes who transition a few seasons actually look forward to it and may train even harder leading up to transition. It is the light at the end of the tunnel. I like my athletes coming out of transition feeling a bit under trained and ready for the increased volume in base.

Conversely: taking time off completely means spending a majority of your base season making up for lost ground. Each season should build on the last. If you take 8 weeks off you may find your race times are similar to last years (or worse).

The transition phase is an important part of an annual training plan and should not be overlooked. Be sure you end your season with a transition before you begin the next.

About the Author
Matt Russ has coached and trained athletes around the country and internationally. He currently holds licenses by USAT, USATF, and is an Expert level USAC coach. Matt coaches athletes for CTS, is an Ultrafit Associate, and owner of

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