The mix of training you do each week depends on your goals, your experience and your abilities. But the mix will not be the same all the time: it evolves over time in the build-up to your target race.
A simple training programmes can be built up using four distinct phases:
Every programme needs a solid foundation of aerobic fitness and endurance. During the base period, you build up to about three quarters of your peak weekly mileage and long run distance while concentrating on aerobic running. This phase typically lasts from 4 to 8 weeks. During the end of the base phase, runners may start to include some light hill training, fartlek and threshold runs.
In the next phase, we add hill training, and if necessary leg strength training in the gym, to build up strength and reduce the risk of injury. In this phase we begin to increase the threshold run and fartlek training. This phase lasts 2-4 weeks.
The focus then shifts to speed sessions, including one or two interval training sessions each week, while maintaining your threshold runs; if necessary, you may cut back a little on aerobic running. Beginners should beware of doing too much speed work at first because of the risk of injury. This phase lasts 3‑6 weeks.
- Peaking and tapering for racing
During this period, you reduce training volume, but maintain the quality of running (for example, by maintaining the same speed but running shorter distances). The length of the taper varies from a few days for a 5km to 3 weeks for a marathon (see Chapter 11). The peaking phase for shorter distances can last for 3-6 weeks, during which time you may race several times before the intensity and stress of racing takes its toll.
Note that while these training phases are not wholly distinct, there should be a clearly recognisable change in balance in your training over time.
The following table shows roughly how long each phase should last.
Table 10.5 Approximate length in weeks of training phases
|Base||4 – 6||4 – 6||5 – 8||6 – 8|
|Strength||2 – 4||2 – 4||3 – 5||3 – 6|
|Speed||3 – 4||3 – 4||3 – 6||3 – 6|
|Peak||3 – 6||3 – 6||2 wk taper||3 wk taper|
|Total||12 – 20||12 – 20||13 – 21||15 – 23|
Most runners benefit from cutting back for an easy week, one week in four. In these weeks, the runner should reduce the mileage to about 75% of normal weekly mileage, while maintaining the speed and quality of the sessions. These easy weeks give your body a chance to recover. If you try to train continuously for more than 12 weeks, without some respite, the chances are that you will get ill or injured. It is much better to plan to take an easy week than have one forced upon you.