If you're a runner that takes your sport seriously, the chances are that you've heard of periodization before. Simply put, periodization is the systemic planning of training undergone by athletes. Putting together a running training plan requires experimentation with different training sessions and knowing how your body works and how to provide it with the rest it needs after a workout.
Additionally, it's important to know how to achieve the best results as you work out daily. This guide will walk you through the basics of a training periodization to help runners like yourself improve your speed and performance.
What is Running Periodization?
Periodization for runners is a concept that has been around for decades, and is highly popular with runners and sprinters. Periodized training[i] is the process of breaking up your training into different phases, each with a specific training goal. For instance, you might decide that you are going to train hard for three weeks and then rest for a four-week period to increase endurance, followed by your next phase focused on speed development. Hence it is the systematic approach to running and training that teaches your body to change and adapt through exercise, building endurance, strength, speed and mobility over a defined period of time.
Periodization involves breaking down an athlete's training into specific time blocks or periods. During each of these periods, the athlete may be expected to run approximately 5 miles per day while focusing solely on improving their running technique.
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Components of a Running Training Plan
While there are several types of periodization techniques that are tailored to the specific running goals, we shall look into the traditional method, better known as linear periodization[ii]. This is where you have up to 6 months to train for a specific race that enables you to conduct volume training focusing on mileage and endurance, and towards the latter part of the training plan, you can bring in the high-intensity workouts.
Linear periodization is excellent for beginners that wish to build a strong foundation for their fitness, and it is commonly used across most forms of athletic training.
Two main components make up your running periodization plan. They are cycles and phases[iii].
1. Periodization Cycles
Cycles are considered the main building blocks of training around which you organize your running plan. The time frame for each cycle differs depending on the goal of the training plan.
The most common cycle timeframes are referred to as macrocycles, mesocycles and micro cycles. A macrocycle lasts from 6 months to a year, while a mesocycle lasts about one month, and a micro cycle generally comprises about one or two weeks of training.
2. Periodization Phases
Periodization phases are incorporated into a training plan in order to organize the structure of the running training cycle so as to schedule specific sessions that target particular skills that you intend to improve.
There are typically 5 main phases of periodization, which are commonly incorporated within running training plans.
- Base phase or preparation phase - the main focus of this phase is to build endurance and mileage, and as such, it encompasses slow and easy training sessions at a consistent pace.
- Specific phase or the build phase - centred around a particular goal such as speed, distance or strength; this phase is where the training gets focused towards the exact requirements of the race.
- Pre-competition phase - the focal point of this phase is to achieve the peak speed and performance intended for your race. As such, you will be increasing the intensity while reducing the overall volume of training.
- Competition phase - also referred to as the tapering phase, this is where you will reduce your training load to minimize the stressors of training. You are required to manipulate the intensity and volume of your workouts to achieve the right balance of rest, strength, skill and mindset training that will be necessary for your race.
- Transition or recovery phase - whether it is to end your running season by slowing down and easing back into low mileage routines allowing your body to recover or to transition your form to prepare for another race, this is a crucial phase that shouldn't be ignored.
Recovery from Periodized Training
Runners need recovery from training, period. While you can ensure optimum running performance through carefully executed periodized training, incorporating proper recovery methods into your daily training routine is needed to reduce the risk of injury and help boost your performance.
Therefore, it's essential to integrate workout recovery methods into your routine. Whether it's engaging in some yoga to promote rest and relaxation or holding a hot or cold compress against your swollen leg muscles for some relief after the workout, there are simple techniques that can go a long way with your recovery. For instance, the use of a compression device like SPRYNG requires only 15 minutes of daily use to promote fast leg recovery by increasing the blood circulation in your sore leg muscles. Hence, it is a must to engage in some forms of post-training recovery methods in order to achieve the best outcome in your races.