Anyone who knows me will know that I LOVE a good planning session. Now that I’ve completed my two ‘A’ races this year, Bournemouth and Edinburgh, it’s time to get the coloured pens out and start again. Periodisation is the process of dividing up your year into a series of smaller cycles, called mesocycles. Each cycle will have a different aim, training volume and intensity to allow you to peak at the right time for your major races. At least, that’s the theory.
Where to start
Part of the reason I love planning so much is that it’s so optimistic. The only limitations are the ones you set yourself. Your first challenge is to settle on your target race/s. For me this is one of the hardest parts. There are just so many great options. After a LOT of thought, I have two ‘A’ races for next year, and in the end they kind of picked themselves. Drum roll please…..
Number 1 is the London marathon on the 28th April.
Number 2 is the Chicago marathon on 13th October.
I ran my socks off in Edinburgh this year to qualify for London. What I didn’t realise, is that it also gives me guaranteed entry to Chicago, and it seems such a waste not to use it. I can’t tell you how excited I am! All of my effort will go into running a sub 3.30 in London to qualify for Boston. Depending on how that goes, I’ll set my target for Chicago accordingly.
Anyway, the next bit. Once you have your main focus, you need some smaller goals. They should compliment and help you to achieve your main target. These are some of mine.
Christchurch christmas 10K on 9th December (Just a fun one, though a sub 46 would be nice!)
Bath half marathon on the 17th March (aiming for a sub 1:40, and a new PB)
Poole Festival of Running 10K on the 2nd June (aiming for sub 45 mins, and potentially a new PB)
Salisbury 54321 in August (just a long run with a medal at the end!)
New forest half marathon on 8th September (another long run with a medal at the end, and probably the tempo section of a longer run)
Winchester half marathon on 22nd September (tempo section of a long run)
Bournemouth marathon festival on 6th October (10k/half marathon-not sure yet, but it will my final ‘long run’ before Chicago)
As you can see, some of these are ‘B’ goals, like Bath half marathon which I will be targeting as a PB and others are just an excuse to race and a great way to get some race pace miles in. Especially when your tired and motivation is waning, I find that a race is a much easier way of getting a long run done.
Having chosen your races, you now need to plot them on a timeline. I’m old school, so I still go for the pen and paper edition. Start by drawing a line across the middle of the long side on a piece of A4 paper. Then divide it into 12 and mark the months of the year. Next you need to mark on your races, and because I’m a geek, I use a different colour to represent my ‘A’ races, ‘B’ races, and training races.
The next bit gets a bit more fiddly. Using a calendar, you need to work backwards from your ‘A’ race to put your mesocycles in. I usually use five different training blocks of varying lengths. Recovery, strength, base training, speed and taper. But you could split this however you like. They can also overlap if you’re feeling really outrageous!
When you’re done, it should look something like this….
What do the different cycles mean?
Aim- to feel physically and mentally ready to start a new cycle.
I think this one’s probably fairly obvious. Depending on the intensity of a race, I always allow myself a week, or couple of weeks to recover. I’ll run if I feel like it, but often I do things like barre and body balance and just whatever I feel like on the day.
Aim- to reduce injury and prepare your body for the increasing mileage to come
This is the start of everything to come. I still run at least three times a week during this block, but the priority is to fit in some decent strength work. For me the average week would have a body pump session, a grit strength session, a gym session focussing on single leg and control work and often some spinning and pilates thrown in for good measure.
Aim- To build a strong aerobic base and increase to a 20+ mile long run
Basically, all of the miles. During this block I’ll usually be running 4-5 times a week and anything from 35-45 miles. I allow myself one drop back week in every 4 to avoid overtraining and burn out, but I do fit in two strength sessions and sometimes a spinning session too.
Aim- To prepare your body to run at ‘race pace’
Towards the end of base training I’ll usually introduce some speed work like running sections of my longer run at race pace. When it comes to pure speed work though, I’ll reduce my mileage slightly, drop my strength session to once a week and stop the spinning/ grit sessions so that I can hit my target paces.
Aim- to get to the start line feeling fresh and raring to go!
The length of my taper will depend on the importance and distance of the race. For example for bath half marathon, a ‘B’ race I’ll taper only for a week, whereas for my two marathons I’ll do a full two week taper.
Splitting your year into mini training blocks allows you to be fully prepared for a race. It also helps to prevent fatigue, injury and overtraining because you’re constantly changing your programme as well as factoring in rest, something I’m really bad at otherwise. The main thing I love about it though, is the variety. I honestly don’t know which phase I prefer. I love being at the gym, equally i love running long, slow miles with no time pressure, but then again I really love being at the track and running fast. Periodising my year allows me to focus on all of these at different times, so I never get bored.
If you’re looking at planning your next training cycle, I’d definitely recommend giving this method a try. I’d also recommend it to anyone who wants an excuse to dig out a felt tip pen! And most importantly, let me know how you get on.