Periodization Training Is Smarter Training

10k training plan

Many people starting out in the world of fitness admire athletes and think to themselves, “I want to look like that.” It’s not an unreasonable goal. A soccer player or a marathoner has a physique that is the result of years of disciplined training and eating.  They look like they’re in peak condition, and in many ways, they are.

But there’s more to being an athlete than just looking the part. Athletes are incredibly strategic about their training. They don’t just go to the gym and lift weights until they can’t anymore. A plan is a huge part of an athlete’s success. When a normal person tries to copy the way an elite athlete trains, it becomes an overwhelming and frequently fruitless endeavor. Intense workout routines often turn off newbies before they even get started.

Usually, people think athletes are just naturally gifted when it comes to their physiques and abilities. You may not know that an athlete’s training volume and intensity vary over an entire season. They don’t just go all out, every day, year-round. Instead, their approach to training is much more systematic, which is called periodization.

Get to know our most effective and sustainable method of training, periodization:

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10k training plan beginner
10k training plan intermediate

All of our plans are pretty straightforward, easy to follow, and based on the latest sports science.

What is Periodization

Periodization is the systematic planning of athletic or physical training. (1)

Periodization is a strategy that dictates how an athlete will train throughout the year in order to peak at specific times. It’s a process of breaking down training into distinct phases, periods, or cycles. Each phase has a specific goal, and the athlete will vary their training during that phase to achieve a goal. This could mean anything from light activity to complete rest and everything in between.

For example, an endurance athlete might have a base-building phase in the early part of the year where they focus on building up their aerobic capacity. They’ll do a lot of long slow distance (LSD) training during this phase. Then, as they get closer to their race season, they’ll start doing more speed work and interval training to sharpen their speed and endurance. And finally, in the last few weeks before a race, they’ll taper their training, doing less volume and intensity so their bodies can fully recover and be fresh for the big event.

It’s about mixing up load variables like volume (reps x sets), intensity (% of 1RM), and exercise selection – which allows your body to constantly adapt and improve, rather than just getting used to the same movement pattern over and over again. That’s how athletes make continual progress year after year.

Strength activities like Powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting, and endurance sports like running, cycling, and swimming are all examples of sports that use some form of periodization in their training.

The principle of periodization has been around for decades, but the scientific community has started to understand why it works. Researchers have found that when athletes use a periodized training approach, they see greater improvements in their performance than those who don’t.

Periodization Phases

For those of you who have done some research about marathons or triathlons, you might have come across the term ‘periodization phases’ before. Here’s a quick overview: 

Base Phase

The first phase of training is typically called the base phase – you build up your aerobic capacity and endurance. Do a lot of long slow distance (LSD) training during this phase, which means long runs or rides at a relatively easy pace. You’ll do a lot of mileage at a relatively low intensity to prepare your body for the upcoming training cycles. 

Build Phase

The build phase is about strength and power. You’ll do more intense workouts and start to focus on race-specific training. The goal is to improve your lactate threshold and VO2 max. You start incorporating speed work, hill repeats, and tempo runs into your training. 

Can you run any marathon to qualify for Boston?

Not all marathons will be accepted when you are trying to qualify for Boston. The only accepted qualifying races are certified, full distance marathons. In the time of COVID-19, many virtual marathons were hosted in place of in-person ones, but no virtual marathon time was accepted to qualify for an upcoming Boston Marathon. No indoor marathon time will be accepted, either. If you are concerned as to whether or not your race will be accepted, contact the race administration before raceday and ask whether or not they are Boston Marathon certified.

Peak Phase

This is where your highest mileage and hardest workouts land. Confidence is high, and you’re feeling fit. The goal is to peak at your race. You might do a few tune-up races leading up to the main event to make sure your race-day strategy is on point. 

Recovery Phase

A period of active rest where you decrease your training load to let your body fully recover and absorb fitness. Body healing, rejuvenating, and getting stronger for the upcoming challenges. 

Common Periodization Training Models

We are going to break down some of the most popular types of periodization training models so that you can see how they differ and what might work best for you. 

Linear Periodization

It’s typically what people think of when they hear the word ‘periodization.’ Linear periodization is when you gradually increase the volume and intensity of your training over several intermediate or mesocycles until you peak for a competition. Each intermediate cycle lasts 4-8 weeks and has progressive weeks of increasing intensity followed by a deload week (a week of reduced training volume/intensity to allow for recovery). 

Nonlinear or Undulating Periodization

In contrast to linear periodization, nonlinear or undulating periodization is when you vary the volume and intensity of your training from day to day or week to week – typically with the load increasing but volume decreasing. 

Reverse Periodization

Load is decreased and the volume gets increased – this is used mostly by those who compete in long runs like half marathons or marathons. Do you want to tackle a half marathon? Our half marathon training plan is worth checking out. 

Why Periodization Is Important for Everyone, Not Just Athletes

You may be wondering how periodization can achieve so much. After all, most of us are just trying to get in shape, lose a few pounds, and improve our overall health – we’re not training for the Olympics. The point is, even if you’re not an athlete, your body still needs variety in order to keep making progress. Doing the same workout over and over again may help you in the short term, but eventually, your body will reach a plateau. 

Think about it this way – if you’ve ever done a puzzle, you know that it’s easy to put together the border pieces first. But as you get into the middle of the puzzle, it becomes more and more difficult to find the right pieces. The same thing happens with your body when you exercise – it’s easy to see results at first, but eventually, your body becomes used to the same movements and becomes very efficient at them.

If you’re new to exercise, the idea of starting with a base-building phase might seem like a lot of work for not much gain. We live in a society that’s all about instant gratification, and we want to see results now. To that end, many people jump into an intense workout routine, only to find that they can’t sustain it and quickly burn out.

Periodization gives you a more sustainable and smart approach to exercise. Going through different phases of training allows your body to gradually adapt to the new stimulus, which leads to better results in the long run.

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