Below is a link to a Runners World article on "Periodisation of Training" written by Alice Palmer. It is dated 2009 but the theory really hasn’t changed that much over the years and the article gives a simple explanation. Again life is a bit different for the club runner who tends to run all year round. Sometimes it can be good to go back to basics though and focus on your “A” race, whatever that may be.
The entire period of preparation is called the Macrocycle, and can span a few months to a couple of years. Olympic hopefuls plan in four-year bursts, and professional athletes may even map out their whole careers.
So, before you start planning your year, you'll need to decide how many times a year you what to reach your peak and for which event. If you're training for one big event ike an Marathon or Ultra Marathon, the whole year could be one Macrocycle. If you're a 10K devotee, you might want to prepare to peak a couple of times throughout the year.
Your Macrocycle should then be divided into smaller chunks of time, periods that will allow you to focus on different aspects of your training (Mesocycles). Most schedules incorporate a build-up phase, where you'll develop endurance, followed by time devoted to sharpening your legs with some speed work, and finally as the race draws close a perfectly timed taper to ensure you're full of energy and raring to go.
Each Mesocycle should be between four and eight weeks long. If you need to build up your fitness at the beginning of your training, you can extend your preparation phase (base phase) beyond this time – but be careful not to stretch out the harder phases or you could risk injury and fatigue.
Within each Mesocycle, a Microcycle can be any length but are often a week for convenience. It's simply a collective term used to refer to the different units that make up a structured short-term routine (one speed session, one tempo run, a long run and two recovery runs for example).
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Recovery is an often overlooked component of training but neglect it and everything else will be wasted. Your easy and rest days are when you body will repair itself, make its adaptions and fitness gains. Slow, easy running helps to flush oxygen-rich blood through the legs and also heals micro-tears and other damage that a workout creates. As soon as you begin to push the pace, you are creating more damage to your legs rather than helping them heal.
This chart is taken from an article, from Runners Connect which breaks down the general timeframe it takes to realise the benefits from each particular workout. If you hammer your body too soon with a similar workout, you wont allow it to realise that benefit. As you can see, the benefit of a long run will not be gained for several weeks which is why doing one weekly may not be the best thing. More info on this in the "Training - Marathon Specific" area.
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