Wednesday, 10 September 2014

What Is : Training Periodisation?

The world of fitness is full of jargon. I'm not sure there's a runner left who isn't familiar with the term "fartlek" (but probably plenty who can't help but snigger) but there's still plenty of terminology that you may not be so familiar with. I certainly, have only relatively recently come across and started to understand the term "periodisation".

Periodisation is really just a term to describe the introduction of planned variations into a training programme. This commonly involves alternating phases of specific types of training and training loads. But why would we want to do this? Well it's seen to be an effective way to make progress and reach a higher level of performance. If you do the same thing all the time, while you may make improvements initially, you will soon plateau.

The approach is used a lot in programmes for new exercisers, increasing the intensity of a CV workout every few weeks to continue to overload the body (which is how improvements are made) whilst reducing the risk of overtraining and injury. The variation also helps to keep the training interesting and challenging.

Now to introduce a few more terms. Periodisation of a training plan typically has three cycles that fit together: 

  • microcycle - typically up to 7 days
  • mesocycle - anything from two weeks to a few months
  • macrocycle - the overall training period, maybe a year or two 

To illustrate, an Olympian's macrocycle is going to be 4 years, and within that time they will have several mesocycles (perhaps an endurance phase, a strength phase and a power phase), each containing a number of microcycles (maybe increasing the number of reps of a strength exercise over the course of a week, before dropping back but increasing the weight). 

Periodisation can be applied to just about any sport and running is no exception. Runner's World have a really good article giving examples and guidelines. I won't recreate it in full here but if you're interested in finding out more about how periodisation could help you prepare for your next PB then it's a good starting point. It outlines the three mesocycles of a base phase (endurance), preparation phase (building speed) and peak phase (race simulation).  The article also outlines the microcycles in terms of the percentage of time you should be dedicating to endurance/long running, strength training/hill running and speed work (there's those fartleks again).

Although I'm following a training programme at present I'm not sure it's periodised so I'm keen to try applying these principles to my Spring marathon training plan which I'll start at the end of the year. Are you already familiar with periodisation? Is it something you actively use or are interested in introducing to your training?

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