Structuring Your Training Season for Runners

by Debbi Carroll March 30, 2019 3 min read

woman running on road

Runners often have difficulty structuring a season because they do not really know where to start. It can be a foreboding task when you are six months out from a target race and looking to structure your season in order to meet your goals but as you will see it gets a whole lot easier when you divide the season into periods.

Many runners fail to reach their full potential because they waste much of their training time doing so called “junk miles.” Basically junk miles are runs where you are not really improving anything in your running repertoire. Running is dynamic; this means that if you are not improving then you must be declining in some aspect because your fitness is never static.

Successful Training Plan

A successful training plan will insure that that you are improving ever day ever so slightly all the way up to the day of your target race. The best place to start structuring your season in this way is to use a concept called periodization. In the chart below you will find an example periodization for a four month training season with four weeks of racing.

Base Period 4-6 weeks
Build Period 4-6 weeks
Peak Period 4-6 weeks
Race Period 4 weeks

Base Period

The base period is spent building your endurance and strength for your target race. So if you are training for a 10K then this will be spent progressively increasing your mileage each week until you feel very comfortable covering the distance or even double the distance. You may also want to add some running supplements to your training routine.

Build Period

In the build period you want to progressively replace your endurance mileage with progressively shorter but faster running. For the example listed above you might in the first week run 90% of your workouts at an easy pace and then 10% at or above race pace. Every week you will want to increase the fast running and decreasing the slow running.

Peak Period

In the peak period you will want to work on aspects of your running that are holding you back from achieving your goal. So you can run your target pace for the first 6 kilometers of a 10K but then with about 4 kilometers left you start to burn out. In the peak period you would want to concentrate on improving this aspect so perhaps you would structure a few workouts each week so that you fatigue yourself up to the point where you normally burn out and then from there begin repetition and interval training.

Race Period

Finally, during the race period you are not going to improve too much and should concentrate more on resting and tapering for the target race. The key here is to keep your legs moving at a fast pace but not to stress them to the point where they are greatly fatigued. You are not going to lose much fitness over the course of three weeks to a month as long as you continue to do short bouts at or near race pace. It is better to rest up so that on race day you can run the fastest you have ever ran before.

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