As runners become more invested in their own running and are looking for ways to enhance their running performance towards new or existing goals, the term “periodisation” will often come up. Many people may know this term and are aware of its perceived importance in developing or following a long-term training plan towards their goal. However, often the specifics can get lost in translation. By the end of this blog, we hope you have an understanding as to what periodisation is and how you can use it to effectively train towards your next PB!


What do we mean by Periodisation?

 By definition, periodisation is the process of organising your training into a structured, manageable and scientifically sound arrangement of priorities. The goal of this periodisation process is to have your body in the best possible position to achieve your goal at the end of the training process. Having a sensible and well planned out approach to training is sometimes not at the forefront of the athletes mind when planning their upcoming racing. However, the alternative is usually an ad hoc approach that will likely lead to a sub-optimal build up due to the increased likelihood of under OR over training. If optimal performance in your goal event is your aim, then employing some form of periodisation is recommended.


Why should you Periodise your Training?

Now we know what periodisation is, we need to know how to employ this into our training. To begin the periodisation process, you must know what your primary goal is. This is the race or event that you want to be in the best possible shape for. This is something that is typically going to challenge you and will require an increase in your current capacity in order to achieve. This then provides the rationale for what type of training you will employ at certain times and how you will periodise this throughout the time you have between now and your goal event.

A great analogy for periodistaion is the summation of forces that occur when you are throwing a ball for maximum distance. If you are to throw a ball as far as you can, you will need to initially rotate your trunk from the side to the front. Once the trunk is at the point of maximal rotational velocity, the shoulder will then start to internally rotate to produce force. This then flows to the elbow, wrist and fingers until you release the ball. Elite throwers will be able to successfully engage each joint at the exact moment the previous joint was at its maximal force production, allowing the ball to be released with maximum velocity at the end of the hand. So just as the next joint takes over as the previous segment is getting to the peak of its velocity, if we can successfully build on your previous training block, we can get to your peak at precisely the right time – the goal of the periodistaion process.

The biggest risk factor to the successful implementation of periodisation (and therefore not leading to an optimal outcome) is of course missed training! This can be sickness, holidays, unplanned work and of course the big one for distance runners – injury. Having an experienced coach to oversee your training is crucial to reduce your risk of overuse injury, given the 3 primary causes of injury are training errors, training errors and you guessed it – training errors! If you can avoid injury and perform consistent training in a periodised format towards your goal race, you significantly increase the chance of achieving the goal you set for yourself.


Tracking your training load is a must when preparing for a long term training goal. Watching for spikes in acute training load (pink) that are significantly ahead of your current level of conditioning (blue) will allow you to reduce the risk of developing injury via training errors


The use of an annual training plan (ATP) is one effective way to plan your periodisation for the upcoming training year. This involves selecting and then priortising your goals. A great example is using the A – B – C goal method. For the upcoming 12 months, select:

  • 2 x A grade goals (ideally one in the front half of the year and one in the back half)
  • Up to 3 x B grade goals
  • Up to 4 x C grade goals.

These goals can be specific races to target, PB times to beat or could be finishing a series of multiple races. Whatever the goal is, it is very important that you priortise them. The more challenging the goal is, the more time and effort you will have to employ during the training process. An example ATP can be seen below:

  • A race 1 = June Perth Marathon (debut marathon where aim is to complete the distance and run <4h)
  • A race 2 = October Melbourne Marathon in PB time of <3h 50min
  • B races = HBF Half Marathon, C2S Half Marathon + Bridges 10km
  • C races = parkrun PB and 10km PB

After seeing this ATP written out, you and your coach should have the following justification when planning your training for the upcoming year… “If you achieve your two A goals for the year, then it is a successful year, regardless of what happens outside of this”. This should always be present to justify your current actions and to reduce any potential changes away from your initial plan.


Using specific pace runs are a great way to fine tune your preparation as your goal race comes closer

How do I Periodise my Training?

The two basic training blocks of periodisation are general and specific preparation. Using our ATP example above, we can highlight some key differences between these two blocks. General preparation involves working on the key attributes that will put your body in a position to make your goal realistic. Using our marathon example, these would include things such as increasing your weekly volume, raising your anaerobic threshold and increasing your weekly long run distance. These are bread and butter training principles that if performed consistently over an extended period of time (think 3-4months) will get you fitter and stronger and will allow your body to make the most of the specific phase.

Incorporating an appropriate mixture of group and individual training sessions is something to consider when mapping out your long term training plan

Incorporating an appropriate mixture of group and individual training sessions is something to consider when mapping out your long term training plan

Specific preparation is then all about fine-tuning towards your goal event. This phase of training becomes less orientated towards building certain physiological adaptations and more on preparing your mind and body for the specific demands on your event. Using our marathon example, this could involve the use of marathon pace training runs to gauge how your goal pace feels whilst incorporating the elevation profile of the course with your planned nutrition strategy. Another common example is the use of a half marathon as a race practice run. Training will often neglect the specifics of a race, so incorporating a practice race (e.g. your B race) in preparation for your A race can be a great learning experience.

The key to managing these two blocks is understanding that general preparation is where you will gain the majority of the adaptations required to successfully complete your goal. As you become more competent and confident with the distance you are racing, the more important specific preparation becomes. Even if you specifically prepare for your marathon via multiple pace runs, half marathon races and have your race plan well mapped out, it will be a very challenging day if you don’t have the muscular conditioning to comfortably run 30km in training. Alternatively, if your goal is to break 40min in the 10km and the current pace aligning with your anaerobic threshold is 4min/km, then you will not be able to physiologically sustain that pace for 40min. So no matter how specific your preparation is, more time in general preparation spent increasing your threshold is where you will be best served spending your training time.



We trust you now have a greater understanding as to what periodisation is and how you can effectively incorporate this process into your 2016 planning! If you wish to know more about this topic, or anything to do with your running training, please get in touch with our expert coaching team who are ready to assist you towards your next running goal! Please email or see our website:


Running Regards,

Team Front Runner