Periodization Training for Runners

Whatever your sport of choice, the smartest way to change involves periodization. Whether you know it or not, you are likely using periodization training in at least some capacity.

What Is Periodization Training?

What is periodization training? Speaking broadly, it is when training structure is cycled around periods of intense training followed by rest or less intense training, In other words, you are organizing the training into blocks with different yet very specific purposes each block.

The Three Cycles

There are three cycles of periodization training: macrocycle, mesocycle and microcycle. What are the main characteristics of each cycle?

The macrocycle is the largest segment and it is made up of all of the mesocycles. This is your entire training plan.

The mesocycle is a portion of the macrocycle that focuses on specific skills or goals within the macrocycle.

The microcycle is where the plan is broken down even smaller and typically consists of one week.

Before we investigate the various cycles, it’s important to also understand the types of periodization training out there for distance runners.

Types of Periodization Training

1. Linear or Traditional

The linear or traditional type of training is most typical. The athlete picks a timeframe from the race for which they are training and works backward. If you are training for a marathon, this is typically five to six months. If you have a decent running base and are training for a shorter goal race, like a 5K or 10K, the training cycle might be closer to 10-12 weeks.

In distance training such as the half or full marathon, you typically increase mileage throughout the training. Especially true of beginners, you will not only add distance but incorporate more intense workouts as time passes and fitness level increases.

2. Reverse Linear

In this model, the runner starts out doing very challenging workouts at the beginning of the training plan but does not build mileage. As you get much closer to the race date, the athlete will add mileage. This type of training is typically used by people who are accustomed to running high mileage and are always in marathon shape, for example.

Another example is a person who trains for ultra running all of the time. There will only be a noticeable increase in mileage or “time on feet” directly prior to the race.

3. Non-Linear Block Periodization

This training will have the athlete focusing on one specific physical ability at a time. This model is widely popular with bodybuilders. It is also used by some triathletes where they cyclically focus on one aspect of the three parts of the race.

4. Non-Linear Undulating Periodization

Most used by experienced athletes with a history of hard training, this method involves a constant change in the training. Training is typically laid out in blocks of varying degrees of intensity.

Stages of the Macrocycle

There are very specific phases of the macrocycle, starting with the base phase, build phase, and peak phase. This makes it to anyone who is familiar with distance running. If you are new to the running world, think of it like constructing a house.

When you are new to running it is important to build a base. It doesn’t happen overnight, but as you gradually run more regularly and frequently your base improves. You are working on building cardiovascular fitness, musculature strength and aerobic capacity. Back to the house analogy: you need a strong foundation on which your house will stand,

After your base is established you can enter the build phase. Of course, you are building mileage, but you are also building strength and speed as you progress through the training program. It’s only after you have constructed a strong foundation that you can begin to frame in your house. Once you have done that, you are ready to add walls and details.

Periodization Training phases

Next is the peak phase, also known as the speed phase. If you have checked all of the other boxes, it’s time to work toward that race day goal. This is where it all comes together and the quality work gets done. These are the speed and tempo workouts that get you to the starting line ready to PR. Here is where you add the trusses and roof on your house,

The tapering phase is where you ease back on training before race day to ensure you get to the starting line healthy and itching to perform. During taper, you will still do some speed work, but the overall mileage will decrease. You should focus strongly on the actual logistics of your goal race as well as mental aspects.

Getting yourself ready for race day is physical and mental. You guessed it, this is where your house is build and you get to do the fun stuff: add paint and pretty details!

At this point, you are ready to race.

Post-race you have the recovery phase. Equally as important as the other stages, you need to give your body adequate time to rest and recovery before jumping into another training cycle. Many runners stand by the idea that you need one easy day for every mile you raced, while others say that is more rest than they need. Time and experience will teach you what you need for your body.

Transferring This To Training

Depending on your (or your coaches) philosophy, your training plan will vary accordingly. If you’re new to the running world and distance training, likely your plan will be relatively generic and linear in nature. You will start out in lower mileage and work your way up. As you get through the plan your speed workouts will become somewhat more challenging. You will train hard, slowly increase mileage, perhaps do some strength training, experience a taper plan as described above and (hopefully) toe the line ready to roll.

training for periodization running

If you are more experienced you may choose an intermediate plan that will have a nonlinear plan. In this such instance, you will have intense sessions throughout the training. Specific aspects such as speed, strength, etc. are sprinkled throughout the entire training cycle.

Looking at a 12-week half-marathon training cycle, the entire 12-week plan is your macrocycle. In a more challenging plan, you might have two more intense weeks followed by a slight step back week where your workout intensity and mileage is slightly scaled back. This three-week portion is a mesocycle. If your coach (or plan) has you layout your workouts by week, that is your microcycle.

See that? You’re periodization training and you didn’t even know it!

Why Periodization Training Matters For Your Running
Four Rules of Periodization To Help You Reach Your Peak
Training Periodization for Long Distance Runners

How Often Should You Run For Optimal Benefits?
Ultra Athlete Marcus Smith On How To Develop An ‘Unbreakable Mindset’
Common Mistakes When Planning Your Half Marathon Diet
Pain In Groin After Running: The Why And What To Do
Protein for Runners: Everything You Need to Know
Sprinting vs Jogging: Pros, Cons, and the Difference
How Can Powerlifting Benefit a Runner
People Walking, Running, and Cycling on the Same Trail: An Uneasy Truce
You can not leave comments. Please SignIn / Register.

An important note for our customers in the UK.

UK customers your order from Rockay is duty-free, despite changes to agreements with the EU. You do not have to pay any fees to receive your delivery, contrary to any messaging you may receive from a courier service.
Thank youfor your comment on our website!
Rockay Rewards$0.00
Welcome to Rockay Rewards:
Rockay Rewards
Shop at!
Earn 10% back on every purchase to be applied towards future orders
We value loyal customers!
We have created a loyalty program in order to reward customers who enjoy using Rockay products on a regular basis. We grant 10% credit for every purchase you make in our shop to use for your future purchases.
How to join the Rockay Rewards?
Customers with Rockay accounts are automatically enrolled. If you do not have an account, join today by clicking here to create your account. It is absolutely free!
How to earn credit?
You will earn 10% credit on every purchase you make in Rockay shop. Purchases made with a gift card will not add points to your account.
How to redeem rewards?
You can use your credit at any moment for any purchase. There is no minimum amount that you can use.
How to use rewards?
Rewards are given to you as credits. You can tick the box at checkout to apply your credits on any order you want.
Can I use Rockay Rewards together with other coupons and/or promotions?
Rockay Rewards' credits cannot be used in conjunction with other coupons and discounts.
Who are referrals?
Your friends will receive a 10% discount off their first order and you will receive 10% of the value of your friend’s purchases, credited to your Rockay Rewards balance. You can send your personal code to any number of friends, but only the first 10 to place an order will receive the discount.
Want a Restock? We will have this item in the inventory soon! Let us know that you want to have it by entering your email, and we'll contact you when we get this item in stock!