If you’re serious about running, periodization is a great training technique to ensure injury-free progress. This is because it offers a planned and systematic approach to training, ensuring that you’ll keep improving and making gains, as training specialist David Wiener explains.
What is periodization?
Periodization is a way of segmenting your training to progressively improve your fitness level while minimizing the risk of injury and burnout.
To make sure you’re constantly improving, your training program must be varied, pushing you outside of your comfort zone so that your body is challenged and adapting. This periodization concept is applicable to all types of training and can be implemented at any time by creating a schedule broken down into specific cycles.
There are typically three cycles used for periodization (although this doesn’t always have to be the case):
A microcycle is the shortest training cycle, typically lasting a week and consisting of a repeated pattern of workouts.
A mesocycle is a block of training made up of several microcycles aiming to build a specific athletic ability like: endurance, strength, power, speed or a combination of all. A mesocycle can last anywhere between a few weeks to several months.
A macrocycle is the longest training period of the three and composed of several mesocycles to accomplish an important goal like finishing a marathon or achieving a PB. Let’s take running a marathon, for example. When you start training, you should have an end goal in mind. To train for this goal, it’s important to give yourself enough to time build up your running endurance in the first phase. This is done by augmenting the length of your long runs, while also laying the foundation on the speed side of things with short hill sprints for instance.
From there, following the logic of periodization, the next mesocycles should contain microcycles aimed at developing the other training paces between the pure endurance and speed paces you’ve just worked until you can finally focus on your specific race pace the more you’re approaching your race phase.
Science has shown that developing one or two athletic qualities per mesocycle while carefully transitioning into the other phases yields the best performance results. However, you have to remember to maintain the athletic abilities you’ve developed through one mesocycle as you move on to the other. This can simply be done by performing a workout from the previous mesocycle every 2-3 weeks, otherwise you’ll probably lose that skill you’ve worked so hard to obtain...
Finally, the last stage of preparing for a race is tapering, which means pulling back on the volume and intensity of training in the weeks leading up to your race. This is done to get rid of all the residual fatigue you’ve accumulated, in order for you to be able to race with a tank full of skills and energy.
When it comes to running, periodization is the key to unlocking your performance potential. By segmenting your training into cycles, you’ll stay on track to your goals without plateauing or burning out. Sound complicated? Don’t worry, the Freeletics Coach designs your running workouts in a way that respects these principles and keeps you heading in the right direction.