That being said, Lydiard’s model is very strict – it has a long aerobic build up at the beginning followed by a four-week strength ‘block’, a couple weeks of speed training and finally, the competition phase. I’m going to show you how to apply the basic principles from Lydiard’s studies but you’re going to be a little more flexible with your planning and adjust it to whatever goal you want to reach.
I understand that the term ‘periodization’ makes this topic sound very intimidating (especially for beginners) but it’s not, really. Periodization is just a fancy term for planning! The whole periodization concept takes a while to sink in but if you persist, you will eventually understand it.
In this article I’m only going to explain the basic definitions and terminology you encounter when creating a well-structured training plan. I have published another article that goes deep into the advanced details of periodization in running so be sure to read this article attentively, take notes and ask questions so that you may ‘graduate’ into the next advanced article (click here to read it)!
Disclaimer – there are some concepts that I found hard to put into words so I have provided visual aids to help you understand the ideas a little better. If you’re having trouble and would like further clarification I am fully available to help! You can reach me by leaving a comment at the bottom of this article, reaching out in the R&RT Facebook group or shooting me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHAT IS PERIODIZATION?
Essentially, periodization allows you to create and structure a training plan that will get you into tip-top shape in time for a specific race. Planning is more commonly done by competitive runners who are trying to achieve specific goals like finishing a sub-15min 5K or even Iron Man races.
Don’t let that scare you though – periodization can be used at any level of expertise and it is an incredibly useful tool that will be extremely valuable if you take the time to learn how to use and optimise it!
There are a few words and ideas you need to understand before you start planning, like supercompensation, for example…
Supercompensation is another training concept that goes hand in hand with periodization. Actually, the argument could be made that the whole reason of why we plan is to take advantage of the supercompensation effect. Here’s how it works…
In order to effectively improve your aerobic conditioning and start the ‘supercompensation effect’ you need periods of intense effort followed by adequate rest and recovery.
The intense bouts of effort will wear your body down, draining its energy. Rest will replenish the body – BUT, since our bodies are so efficient, there will be a slight improvement in our conditioning when compared to our conditioning BEFORE we started working out. The body does this in order to be ready, in case you decide to push hard again in the near future... amazing right? The graph below will allow you to better visualise this concept.
The supercompensation principle takes time and its effects start to show after subsequent training and adequate rest, as the image below illustrate.
This concept also applies over weeks (that’s why three hard weeks are usually followed by one de-load week) and an argument could be made about the supercompensation effect taking place from one running season to another.
OVER AND UNDERTRAINING
(suggestion from Bengy from the R&RT Facebook group)
Planning is useful for avoiding over & undertraining – although undertraining is a lot less common. When you create a training plan you will be able to visualize, create and have granular control over what you do and when you do it. This will allow you to previously schedule easier sessions before a race and to feel fully rested and fresh on race day (effectively avoiding overtraining)!
Bonus tip: Scheduling easier runs before a race is called tapering. For example, the last two weeks in a marathon training plan usually has a lower volume in order to allow your body to fully recover and be ready to tackle the marathon with full power! Another example is if your weekly running volume is a total of 50/60km per week nearing 4th or 3rd to last week of the plan, then the last two weeks should be around 30/40km. That’s called tapering.
If you don’t have any experience in planning your training, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed and to overshoot (or undershoot) your efforts when leading up to race day. Each body is different, and everybody takes a different amount of time to recover from each session.
Avoiding over and undertraining, for the unexperienced runner, is just a matter of being patient and learning to be aware of your body throughout all of your different training sessions. This takes time. Eventually, you will be able to plan more efficiently and schedule your training in a way that will make sure you’re in the best shape possible when race day comes around.
BUILDING YOUR PLAN
Now that you understand what periodisation is and how it can help you, we’re going to go a little deeper into the different building blocks that are necessary to create a training plan according to linear periodisation.
Cycles are used to separate different stages of a training plan and they are commonly associated to different time periods. One thing I struggled with when I was trying to understand cycles was “what is the exact time frame for each cycle”? There isn’t one. Cycles are flexible and can be used to fit your own schedule/goal. A macrocycle usually lasts six months to one year but it can last 16 months if you need it to.
These are the most common timeframes usually associated with each cycle:
The image below will help you visualise the concept of cycles a little better. As you can see, in this example, one macrocycle corresponds to the whole running season – from September to August. We have one mesocycle block of three months (October to December) where we could focus on building endurance and increasing our mileage, for example. Remember, cycles are flexible! This means that the next mesocycle could last only one month if we needed it to (like the month of September in the example below. It corresponds only to one month because it was the first month of the season. Here, we would just try to easy back into running with lots of easy runs before we started increasing our mileage in our second mesocycle (October to December)) Finally, the microcycle is the smallest of them all, usually corresponding to one week of training – so that’s four different microcyles in one month.
Phases are incorporated into training plans to help athletes identify and separate different phases, elaborate specific training sessions and organize your training plan to schedule these specific sessions for the skills you’re trying to improve. Phases can have different names, but these are the most common terms:
The image below will help you visualise how the ‘Phases’ fit into the ‘Cycles’ concept.
Stitching all of this information together, there are three main rules to creating an effective training plan with the periodisation principle in mind:
SUPERCOMPENSATION– Remember to push hard in one session and allow the body to recover in the next to take advantage of the supercompensation effect;
CYCLES– Use cycles as the main building blocks that will help you organize your training plan.
PHASES – Use phases to help you create goal specific training sessions and further organize your training plan.
Those are the 3 mains building blocks to creating your own training plan. Now it’s a matter of experimenting with different lengths of time for each cycle/phase until you understand what really works for you!
PHEW! I think that’s enough for one article.
These are the basic ideas behind creating a training plan that follows the periodization principles. In the next article we’re going to go into the advanced details of periodization, for example:
If you didn’t fully understand these ideas please get in touch with me (my contacts are at the top and bottom of this article) or feel free to keep researching and learning about periodization, especially the linear model created by Arthur Lydiard.
I have released an advanced periodization article so be sure to read that if you want to dig deeper! We publish new running related articles every Monday keep checking our blog for updates – or alternatively, sign up to the RunPage newsletter and get notified immediately.
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