Get with the plan!

As autumn and winter begin drawing in, you may be thinking about challenges and training goals for next year. Next spring and summer may seem like a long way off but it’s really important to start the planning process now to ensure you get the most for your training.

A crucial part of any endurance training plan is the way in which its structure to ensure that you maximise your training adaptations, minimise the risk of injury/overtraining and allow your performances to peak at exactly the right times……..simple right?

In fact, it is a pretty simple process but is often overlooked.


The process of structuring your training plan is called periodisation.

Periodisation is simply a process of dividing the annual training plan into a series of manageable phases. In some cases, it may be less or more than a year depending on your particular training goal or event. Each phase will then target a specific or series of training attributes (i.e. strength endurance, threshold power etc.) to be developed within a designated period of time.

Periods of appropriate overload and recovery are then designated within each phase creating smaller, sub-phases.

As a first step, you might begin by jotting down the date of your target event. The period between now and then is effectively your ‘annual’ plan or macrocycle. In other words, it gives you an overview of where you are now and where you want to be by the time of your event. It’s then simply a case of filling in the gaps! The annual plan should then be broken down into training blocks which would typically focus on specific areas of development and generally last 8-12 weeks, although some may be as short as 3-4 weeks. In coaching terms, these smaller chunks are known as mesocycles and may focus on areas such as developing base fitness, building strength endurance and more race specific training such as improving neuromuscular power.

The mesocycle can then be broken down into weekly training blocks call microcycles.

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Recovery should form the bedrock of your training plan and so the best way to ensure this is to take a cyclical approach to your training. As an example, you could structure your mesocycle into four week cycles (microcycles). This means that training volumes/intensity gradually increase for the first three weeks (i.e. medium, medium, high) before a recovery phase in the fourth week. This recovery phase allows your body time to recover, reduces fatigue and ensures that training adaptations can take place.

Periodisation would also help you plan transitional periods between training blocks (macrocycles) and taper periods you reduce your training intensity and volume to help facilitate a peak performance.


So why bother? Well, we all have to train hard in order to improve. The relationship between training load and performance is individual. Novice and recreational athletes will tend to have smaller training loads but will benefit from large improvements in performance. Conversely, more experienced athletes will require higher training loads in order to cause small increases in performance.

Initially, periods of hard training will result in fatigue which is proportional to the stress applied to the body and activate physiological repair mechanisms within the body. If adequate recovery is allowed, fatigue will disappear and adaptation will occur. It’s important to remember that too much stimulus and inadequate recovery can lead to over-training.

Also, it’s really important to remember that periodisation is individual and what works for a friend/training partner may not work for you.

Periodisation aims to develop physical characteristics in a systematic way by managing and structuring the volume, intensity and frequency of your training. It should positively enhance the preceding training stage and produce a peak performance at a pre-designated time – i.e. your chosen event or challenge.

This form of planning and application of training has been shown to be successful across a number of different sports. It doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Even a basic form of training structure, scribbled on a piece of paper or in a diary, is something you can easily adopt to give you an advantage and help develop your fitness and athletic potential.

Need help or advice?

If you’re planning on taking part in a multi-stage event next year or have any training related questions then feel free to contact me. You are more than welcome to make use of my Facebook page for training tips and updates or Twitter @PUREsportsperf - alternatively, if you want more specific, bespoke training advice then you can contact me by email: