Training planning: how to do it

Carrying out a good planning of training is essential, both to better manage the preparation of one or more races, both for the prevention of injuries and for the duration of the athlete’s sporting life.

Someone can train differently the physiological and metabolic processes involved in running depending on the race (s) you intend to prepare.

It is obvious to think that those who want to run a marathon, for example, will train more different athletic sizes than those who want to prepare a 5 km and the workouts to be planned will be different.

Considering the different parameters that the programming must train, each of them will have a different importance depending on the distance you prepare.

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The most commonly used method is the Lydiard pyramid method, experimented with starting from the 60-70s of the last century. This method requires that, in each phase of the pyramid, one or more physiological qualities are trained and developed.

At the base of the pyramid is the construction period, which lasts from 4 to 8 weeks and where aerobic endurance is mainly developed through slow, long running.

In the second step, I positioned the strengthening phase, lasting from 2 to 4 weeks, and where specific muscle strengthening is inserted, especially through uphill training.

The specific preparation period of about 5–6 weeks, where the development of power and aerobic capacity is privileged mainly through qualitative training, follows this.

Finally, at the last step, the competitive period is positioned which, according to this type of programming, can last from 8 to 12 weeks and includes the inclusion of anaerobic sessions, as well as a discharge phase in the two weeks before the race. .

As it is easy to see, a program of this magnitude provides for the development of a rather long and complex “plan” that is badly coordinated with the desire to run and compete of non-professional runners, in fact providing for a maximum of two competitive periods per year. .

The pyramid method is useful and highly recommended for those who intend to prepare distances such as marathon or ultra marathon, which, regardless of the category of runner to which they belong, require long training cycles. Rushing time on these types of evidence could be risky.

Nowadays, however, it is difficult to avoid taking part in too many races as every weekend there are competitions that are well accessible too many runners.

However, it is necessary to find the right compromise, remembering that you run faster and are less prone to injuries, alternating periods of unloading without races with more intense periods.


So how to plan your training cycles without having to start 6 months before a competition?

First, it is necessary to choose the race or races in which you intend to take part, in order to have an aim in terms of “type” of race and time distance.

Once the objectives have been established, it is necessary to combine 5 phases and types of training that tend towards a progressive preparation.
The key elements of each phase are:

  • resistence

  • force

  • rhythm

  • power

  • recovery


In the first phase, the longest, the one dedicated to resistance, it is necessary to perform sessions that remain within the aerobic training.

The aim is to cover many kilometers, accumulating the distance and training aerobic endurance. The main training session of this period is slow running.

Towards the end of this phase, when you feel strong enough to endure slightly more demanding workouts, start incorporating some easy speed training, such as fartlek or running on rolling terrain or running on progression.

The step dedicated to resistance can last from 3 to 6 weeks depending on conditioning of the athlete.


The second phase, dedicated to strengthening, takes from 2 to 4 weeks. The goal is to maintain a high base mileage, gradually moving to speed training, in order to prepare your body for the more intense subsequent phases.

The breakdown of the typical week can include two or three strength training sessions alternating with the training of the previous phase.

Someone mainly trained specific muscle strength through the use of uphill running sessions (short, medium and long) and interval running such as fartlek.
At this stage, it is helpful to enter a weight training program to develop strength comprehensively.


The next phase, that of rhythm and power, brings together endurance, strength and speed, through the use of running sessions that train aerobic capacity and aerobic power.

In this step, specific workouts are introduced for the race distance to be tackled: the number of specific speed workouts is increased and the mileage is no longer increased; quality is more important than quantity.

The typical workouts are the medium run , the repetitions , the rhythm variations , the “on the threshold” run , the progressives at busy speeds and the very long ones for those who prepare races over long distances. This phase can last 4-5 weeks.

The competitive period that follows no longer has technical objectives to pursue and cannot include demanding sessions to raise the condition of form.

However, in order not to diminish the gained qualities, it is necessary to resort to training defined as “recall”, to be carried out 2/3 days before the next competition, in which to stimulate aerobic endurance, capacity and aerobic power alternately with workouts seen above in the different phases.

The period of “maximum form”, if a good training program has been carried out, does not exceed on average 8/10 weeks: the training load of this phase is lower, both in terms of quality, both for distances and they must be covered, lower than in the previous phases.
Recovery times are slightly longer to allow for good regeneration between races.

It follows the period of the races by the recovery and reconstruction period, which marks the end of the seasonal cycle. This phase, lasting 4/5 weeks, provides for easy training and a reduction in mileage by 25/30%.

Even in this phase, slow runs are preferred, with some brief references to quality, in order to prepare the body to start the entire training cycle again, starting from the endurance phase. Reconstruction is necessary to recover strength and is essential to prevent injuries and to support the longevity of every athlete’s sporting life.

We should always remember that training planning concerns not only running sessions in the strict sense; an athlete must always consider 3 elements that must be planned and respected at the same time:

training, recovery, and nutrition.
… And if we can, let’s have some fun too!

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