Tempo runs, long runs, intervals, hill repeats, and strength training - with the amount of workouts needed to propel your running it sometimes seems that in order to run well, you would have to leave your job and be a full time runner. Luckily, there is a simple plan you can follow to maintain your training and run well - you just need to "periodize" your training.
Training Cycles, or "periodization", in your running is when we divide a training cycle with a specific goal in mind so you don’t do the same type of workouts all the time. Think of this like the "ebb and flow of hard work". Training cycles are often 12, 16, or 20 weeks phases. Periodization is the process of dividing your training into smaller periods of training where the emphasis, or the objective, of the training is altered during each period.
These cycles are broken up into high volume, easy running (base phase), low volume, hard running (preparation), race specific, fine tuning, taper phase, goal race (peak). These three phases are then followed by rest & recovery. Breaking your cycle into these phases allows you to combine the benefits of multiple workouts that collectively add up to peak conditioning. When variety is introduced into your training, you limit your chances of plateauing and/or becoming injured. Periodizaton is planning and the goal is to give you the best possible chance of peak performance at a certain time. You're always more successful when you plan.
What does each phase do for your running plan?
The Base Phase
Building a base develops endurance, the foundation of any distance-running plan. Investing in easy miles at a conversational effort will build a solid aerobic base. High volume of low intensity running and workouts.
Phase 1: BASE
This phase emphasizes easy miles. You are building a base by increasing miles and adding some speed and strength work.
Base Phase Workouts:
Endurance: The long run is an easy pace where you are able to hold a conversation comfortably. Build up to 10 miles, depending on your goals. .
Speedwork: Strides, mini-tempo, short intervals, and short bursts of speed at the end of one or two of your easy runs. In the last few weeks of the phase, add 10 to 15 minutes of faster running into one of your runs.
Strength: Running-specific exercises. Do a weight workout two or three times a week, emphasizing exercises that strengthen the key running muscles.
The Preparation Phase
This phase is a lower volume, higher intensity, short workouts. This phase also adds a layer of speed by introducing tempo runs and long repeats. When you implement these workouts into your training you are strengthen the ligaments, muscles, and connective tissues which prepares the body for the demands of faster running.
Phase 2: PREPARATION
Preparation means strengthening the body for the fast running to come. You continue to build endurance through long runs, but a few of your easy days become tempo miles or hill repeats.
Preparation Phase Workouts:
Endurance: The long run. Continue to build or maintain endurance by upping your long runs to 10 to 15 (or more) miles, depending on race distance.
Speedwork: Tempo runs, long interval repeats, or long repeats. Tempo running trains your system to utilize lactate instead of letting it shut you down, and also develops muscular endurance and strengthens connective tissues.
Strength: Hill repeats are the best strength training for runners. Running hills is specific to the sport and they put the same demand on your muscles as weight training. Run the hills hard but do not try to do an all-out effort. Hills will also help with your form.
The Peak Phase
Race specific, fine tuning, taper phase. Hitting your peak is defined by short, fast workouts that simulate racing. These workouts fine-tune the speed you began in the preparation phase by further recruiting fast-twitch muscle fibers, improving running economy, and strengthening muscles and connective tissue.
To peak for key races, mark your race on a calendar to map out your base, preparation, and peak phases. Each phase should be four to eight weeks long (you can extend the base or preparation phase beyond eight weeks. Do NOT extend the peak phase, this will send you into fatigue and injury). Roughly every fourth week, recover your body by reducing your miles by 10% to 50% and ease up on strength training. After your peak/race, you work your way through another periodization - starting with the base phase.
Phase 3: PEAK
GOAL: speed. Gradually increase the intensity of your workouts and reduce the overall volume (miles/hours) by about 10%.
Peak Phase Workouts:
Endurance: The long run. Maintain your endurance by keeping your long runs slightly shorter than those in Phase 2, depending on your race goals.
Speedwork: Focus on short, fast repeats. You also have the option to run tune-up race that is shorter than your main event.
Strength: You can continue your strength training once a week, maintaining the same weights and reps or replace strength training with hill repeats one time instead. You also have the option of putting weight training off until after your race. Do what is best for your peak performance.