Training Planning

Planning a training regime

You will often hear athletes and coaches talking about macrocycles, mesocycles and microcycles. These are just technical terms for planning a schedule - breaking down a training regime into manageable chunks. Where possible we’ll try to refrain from technical language here, but instead discuss the practicalities of what to do and when.

One of the key things to remember is “Failure to Plan is Planning to Fail”.

Before you can decide on what you are going to do, you first need to decide on what you want to get out of your running and what resources you have to try to achieve that. This is crucial and forms quite a long list.

Questions to ask when Planning

What distance am I primarily going to concentrate on?

How fast can I run that at the moment?

Are there any specific races that I want to take part in and will these be the ones where I plan to achieve my best times?

How many races would I like to take part in? How many of these are important ones?

Am I aiming to run well for a number of years or is next year the peak of a long-term plan?

What times can I run at the moment (for a variety of distances) and what have I run in the past?

How old am I?

What is my training age (the number of years I have been training)?

How much time can I afford to put into my training?

Do I have any health related problems that may restrict my training?

Why didn’t I run faster last year?

What time can I realistically hope to run? Is a one-off performance enough or do I want to run near peak performance 4 or 8 or 10 times, etc. in a season? Will I need to be fit enough to do more than one event in a day / weekend?

Once you have got answers to these (and probably other questions as well), you will need to start to assimilate a plan for getting there.

Building a Running Training Plan

We now need to start breaking down our schedule.

The first consideration is your level of experience (or training age) and actual age. Are you planning for the forthcoming year to be a peak year, or one where we are learning and building for the future (though still hopefully producing personal bests)?

Most runners who have a year or two's worth of experience, and are over 18, will be looking forward purely to the next 12 months (as athletics seasons kindly fall) and trying to achieve the best results they can – and then they’ll re-assess at the end of the year and build up after that. If an athlete is new to the sport or has a long-term goal, e.g. peaking for an Olympic Games or a 2-year preparation for a race like the Marathon des Sables (a 150 mile race over 6 days across the Sahara) then this may be different.

The term (referred to earlier) of macrocycle would generally refer to our unit of a year's training. For a track athlete this would be from September to August, but it could equally be the period leading up to a marathon (from a previous long period of training).

This is too long a period to go without splitting it further, so generally we’ll break the macrocycle down into various categories, with each occupying a number of weeks or months. People use a variety of titles for these periods (which above would be mesocycles) to describe what we are trying to achieve. A simple way to do this would be:

Recovery Phase

Preparation Phase

Event Specific Phase

Competition Preparation Phase

Competition Phase

The amount of time spent in each of these would be down to the individual.

Learn more / further reading

  1. Planning Part 2
  2. Planning Part 3
  3. Running Technique
  4. Training for your Event


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