With the racing season extending and the number of races increasing every year, runners should use a periodization plan to organize their training for the year. Periodization is a great tool to increase your strength, speed and endurance, and avoid over-training and injuries. Without a planned approach, most runners stop improving, or lose some motivation. When we stop improving or hit a plateau, we tend to push and push until we get injured by overuse or our body’s stamina crashes. Periodization systematically manipulates the training variables to optimize a runner’s training potential.
What is periodization?
Periodization is divided in three cycles: Macrocycle- This is a yearly training plan according to your race schedule or training goals. Mesocycles– Several mesocycles, which vary from a few weeks to a few months are part of the macrocycle. Microcycles- These are weekly training schedules part of the mesocycles.
The easiest way to plan your periodization program is to break it down in three steps.
Periodization Step One- Create a Macrocycle
Create your yearly training plan according to your race schedule, performance goals and yearly life schedule. Use periodization to plan training shifts from high volume and low intensity running, to racing-specific running activities of low volume and high intensity over several weeks or months to slower running pace and distance during the off season.
Periodization Step Two- Create the Mesocycle
For runners with a competitive or race season plan, the mesocycles integrated in the macrocycle would be divided in three parts; pre-season training, race-season training followed by post-race season training which is a recovery cycle.
Periodization Step Three- Break the Mesocycles into Microcycles
Microcycles are weekly training programs which are included in the different mesocycle phases. For example, as part of a mesocycle, a weekly microcycle plan would include:
Off-season microcycle plan example:
Monday: Short easy-paced run Tuesday: Medium/long run Wednesday: Rest Day Thursday: Medium/long run Friday: Rest day Saturday: Medium distance run Sunday: Slow long-distance run
Pre-race season microcycle plan example: Monday: Short-easy paced run Tuesday: Hill running Wednesday: Rest Day Thursday: Medium/long run Friday: Rest day Saturday: Hill running Sunday: Long slow run
Racing season microcycle plan example:
Monday: Short easy-paced run Tuesday: Interval/speed training Wednesday: Cross-training Thursday: Race time training Friday: Rest day Saturday: Medium distance run Sunday: Long slow run
There are several benefits of creating a personalized yearly training plan, whether runners follow a coach’s training program or they make their own personal plan, the fact that we have a scheduled training plan according to our goals and lifestyle can be very motivating and much easier not to give up or fail to train.
When you design a training plan, make sure you vary your running distances, especially during the off-season training mesocycle. Also, when increasing your weekly running volume, make sure you reduce some of the speed or intensity training temporarily to enable your cardiovascular and muscle system to adjust. Adaptation in a training program is crucial to avoid over-training, overuse or injuries.
Train Hard, Eat Right, Feel Great!