Home Pro Periodization for Coaching Distance Runners—Timing is the Key to Training

Periodization for Coaching Distance Runners—Timing is the Key to Training


(Editor’s Note.  How hard and how often to train are issues that concern both serious and recreational runners.  Dr. Buns is an experienced runner and coach.  This article presents ideas that can help runners as they contemplate how best to train.  More is not necessarily better).

The key to being able to develop a sound distance training philosophy is to have a solid understanding of the concept of Periodization. Periodization is the division of a training year into a cycle of several phases—each phase devoted to different training methods and objectives. Periodized training allows runners to emphasize a specific type of training during a phase within a year-long training program. Other types of training are not neglected during each training phase—they are simply less emphasized.

Conditioning Phase or Base Period:

Within the scope of the traditional track and field year, the conditioning or base period is basically the summer months for cross country and the winter months for track. It is important for a coach to understand during the initial development of the base period, the athlete will most likely be sore for a minimum of three weeks.

Training should begin easy and there should be gradual increases in the time or distance run during training sessions. All physiological gains are made during periods of recovery; therefore, it is important to build recovery or rest into this phase as well as every other training phase.

An excellent guideline to follow in this phase is the “10% rule”– meaning after the initial three weeks of training, volume (miles or minutes run) should not increase much greater than 10% from one week to the next week.

A sample week workout during the base period might follow this schedule:

Monday:          Steady State (Long) Run

Tuesday:          Recovery

Wednesday:    Pace

Thursday:        Recovery

Friday:             Tempo

Saturday:         Recovery

Sunday:           Active Rest or Complete Rest

Pre-competition Phase:

In this phase, aerobic capacity should continue to be enhanced. Weekly running time or distance should continue to be increased as the quantity and quality of pace segments and the length of the steady state run should also be increased; however, it is important to note that coaches should not increase intensity and duration on the same day. One week, there can be an increase in the intensity of the workout and the following week, the distance of the segments run or the total workout can be increased.

A weekly schedule during this period might include the following:

Monday:          Steady state (long) run

Tuesday:          Recovery day

Wednesday:    Pace day

Thursday:        Light hill day or recovery day

Friday:             Pre-race day or recovery day

Saturday:         Race day or tempo run

Sunday:           Active or complete rest day

Competition Phase:

As the athlete moves into the competition phase of the season, competitive success is emphasized. The length of individual workouts and the total weekly mileage or time is maintained or slightly decreased. Pace workouts should have achieved a load of race distance or slightly longer. The pace run should become faster and recovery time allotted between segments should be gradually reduced. The steady state run is still a staple of the program, but the distance is gradually decreased as the pace is increased.

A weekly schedule during this period might include the following:

Monday:          Moderate run

Tuesday:          Pace

Wednesday:    Recovery

Thursday:        Moderate pace (condensed portion of pace workout) or tempo run

Friday:             Pre-race

Saturday:         Competition

Sunday:           Rest

Dr. Buns is Assistant Professor of Health and Human Performance and Assistant Track and Cross Country Coach at Concordia University, Nebraska.  He is a previous contributor to the Digest.  See http://thesportdigest.com/?s=matthew+buns. The United States Sports Academy offers several fields of study that can benefit coaches and those interested in the area of health and fitness.  For more information go to http://ussa.edu.  Dr. Buns can be contacted by email at matthew.buns@cune.edu.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.