As a strength and conditioning coach, and avid runner myself, I’m very familiar with a runner’s attitude when it comes to training and recovery. As I’m sure you’re aware I’m referring to “the need to run” which sometimes outweighs science, professional advice and logic. Unfortunately, to be the bearer of bad news, the consistently high training volume that we often train at, purely just for the love it often mixed with high intensity as well, means that we expose ourselves to unnecessary injury risks, which ultimately impact our training.
I know the word strength and conditioning coach is still somewhat of a taboo phrase amongst runners, but it’s fair to say that there is a growing number of elite runners and subelite runners that are engaging strength and conditioning coaches to assist with achieving running results. There are a number of important functions that strength and conditioning coaches adds to a runners program, such as assisting to train specific subqualities of performance such as strength, speed, power etc, training weaknesses/abnormalities to prevent injury and of course to assist with periodisation, which is the reason that I’m writing this article today.
Periodisation is the division of the training year into smaller and more manageable intervals with the goal of managing and coordinating all aspects of training to bring an athlete to peak performance, for their key event or events throughout the year. In reality that means taking into account the following training principles: Type of Training, Frequency of Training, Intensity of Training, Volume of Training and Recovery.
The easiest way to think about periodisation is the cycling of your training. Linear progression, i.e. continually trying to increase your volume and intensity, limits your progress and puts you at greater risk of injury which in the end leads to you having extended time on the sidelines. When you periodise your program you are simply planning for recovery so that you aren’t forced there by overtraining or injury. In other words periodisation is a 2 steps forward, 1 step back approach.
To illustrate how periodisation works let’s have a look at an 8 week training program.
Normally we divide a training period into 4 week blocks, with the first week being the easiest and the fourth week been the hardest. I have provided an 8 week training block example below, and left the volume for these works in kms run (normally we would use a different measure for working out volume but this will be more familiar to you).
Week 1 – 50km
Week 2 – 55km
Week 3 – 60km
Week 4 – 65km
Week 5 – 55km
Week 6 – 60km
Week 7 – 65km
Week 8 – 70km
This a very simplified demonstration of how periodisation can work, but the concept is focused on progressively overloading to improve, followed by a week or weeks of lower volume for recovery. It’s important to remember that progress is gained through recovery from training, not from the act of training itself. This is what prevents injuries, and keeps you running injury free.
You’ll see a lot of 10 or 12 week training programs on the internet, which are fine if you’re happy to just train for 3 months for a specific race. However this style of training shouldn’t be applied to all year round and most runners run all the time, so a smarter approach to training should be taken.
My intention with this article is for you to think longer term about how you are training. Obviously I haven’t gone into a full 12 year periodised program, which would focus on both distance and intensity. If you take anything away from this article it should be, you don’t have to kill yourself week in, week out, to progress, you need recovery weeks to maximise the gains that you can get from training.
Thank you for reading and thank you to Runner’s Tribe to the opportunity to contribute.
Mark Blomeley is a strength and conditioning coach with 10 years experience in the sports and fitness industry. Currently in Brisbane, he is a specialist strength and conditioning coach for runners and current strength and conditioning coach to international standard runners, Brittany McGowan, Lily and George Anderson.