Don’t fall off your seats folks - I know this sounds exciting. Periodization is basically the concept that to run our best we need to have different types of training throughout the year (including rest). Both Pfitzinger (Advanced Marathoning) and Daniels (Daniels’ Running Formula) prefer 24 week “macro cycles” to best prepare for a goal race. Both authors break the 24 weeks down into 4 training mesocycles (Pfitzinger’s term) or phases (Daniels’ term). This is not completely ground breaking - everyone who has run on a track or cross country team has trained using some version of these cycles. I’m going to quickly summarize each of these cycles today - at some later date I’ll go into each one in more depth.
Phase one is simply running “easy” mileage to build an aerobic base. This base building is important so that you can increase mileage without increasing intensity. There are many benefits to easy running on the cardiovascular system and even a cellular level. I might do some strides during this phase as well, which helps with running economy.
Phase two introduces some quality training - but not too much and not too intense. Along with some threshold workouts, I’ll include strides after an easy run and hills.
Phase three is the most intense phase. It includes both intervals and threshold runs - as well as more marathon pace runs (if that’s your goal race). The goal is to stress the systems that will be tested in your goal race enough to strengthen them - without getting injured or burned out. It is this thin line that you have to play with - you have to really listen to your body and focus on hydration and nutrition to ensure that you are replacing the liquids, carbs, protein, and vitamins/minerals that your body is using at a high rate. There might be some racing during this phase as well.
Phase four is the last phase of quality training. You want this to be as specific to the event as possible. If your goal race is hilly than you want to train over hills - if it’s going to be warm then you want to train in the heat. This phase also includes the taper in the few weeks before the race. This is critical because your body is able to recover from the training without losing much fitness. Tapering is a tricky balance as well - but, usually it’s best to error on the side of too much rest. My PR marathon came after I hurt my knee a month before the marathon and mostly used a stationary bike for training. Rest is much more important that most people realize.
Speaking of rest - there is a rest phase, which I’m in the middle of right now. Rest doesn’t have to mean no running whatsoever - but, it does mean a major reduction in mileage and no hard running. The transition between my rest phase and phase one will be gradual - but, the basic length of each phase is as follows:
Rest phase: 4 weeks
Phase one: 4 weeks
Phase two: 5 weeks
Phase three: 9 weeks
Phase four: 5 weeks
So, it’s basically a 27 week plan with 23 weeks for the four main phases.