The New Year. Time for the runner’s age-old tradition – the training plan. This post will highlight the different cycles that form a periodized training plan. The details of your plan will be specific to your starting point and your strengths and weaknesses but the concept of cycles will be common to most runners.

The idea of periodization is that training can be broken down into different cycles with a different focus within each cycle. Here’s a list of terms used in periodized training plans:

Microcycle – shortest period of training – usually one week but can vary from 4 to 14 days
Mesocycle – a group of microcycles – usually 1 month but can vary from 2 to 6 weeks
Macrocycle – a group of mesocycles – usually 3 or 4 months but can vary considerably.
I like to add a fourth term:
Majorcycle – A group of Macrocycles – usually counted in years.

A macrocycle for a given racing season will include a strength mesocycle and a speed mesocycle both of which are built on top of a good endurance base (built during the ‘off season’ months). A number of athletes will benefit from 3 microcycles of increasing amounts of training followed by a fourth cycle of lower intensity recovery training within each mesocycle.

Having a plan keeps you focused

on your training and racing goals. A well planned, periodized training plan gives you the confidence to know you are well prepared for that target race.

Lasse Viren, Finland, had planned cycles that were four years in length with each one culminating at an Olympic Games. He won double gold in the 5000m and 10000m in both 1972 and 1976 with a 5th place in the ’76 Olympic Marathon thrown in as well!! Viren was almost completely off the radar in the years between Olympics. That’s planning for peak performance.

Your performance may vary as all plans don’t have promises of Olympic gold!


run on… and on… and on…