The Importance of Periodisation in Endurance Training

Periodisation… a term every endurance athlete has probably heard but it is obvious from many conversations I have had recently that few actually understand what it is all about.
Even if you have a coach who plans your training it is still beneficial for you to have a basic understanding of this concept.

What is it all about?

Periodisation is a strategic way of structuring your training program to maximize results and prevent burnout or injury. It involves cycling through different phases of training with varying intensities and volumes.

The basic idea is to alternate between periods of harder, more intense training (like lifting heavier weights or increasing your mileage) and periods of lighter, lower-intensity training. This allows your body to work hard and make gains during the intense phases, while also giving it a chance to recover and avoid overtraining during the lighter phases.

For example, you might have a 4-week block of really challenging workouts where you’re pushing yourself hard. Then, you’d follow that with a 1-2 week period of easier, recovery-focused training to let your body rest and adapt to the previous training stress. This cycle of hard work followed by planned recovery is repeated throughout your overall training plan.

The benefits of periodisation:

  1. It helps prevent plateau by constantly introducing new training stimuli
  2. It reduces your risk of injury or burnout from doing too much too soon, and ensures you’re fresh and rested for important competitions or events.
  3. It’s a way of strategically managing your body’s finite energy resources over time for long-term, sustainable progress.

How periodisation allows athletes to maximize training adaptations while preventing overtraining and burnout:

Periodisation is designed to facilitate the body’s adaptive responses to training stress while also allowing for adequate recovery and replenishment of energy stores.

This is achieved through structured periods of overload followed by planned periods of reduced training load or complete rest.

During the overload phases, the body is exposed to increased training volumes, intensities, and often both.

This overload stimulus initiates physiological and metabolic processes that lead to adaptations such as increased muscle strength, improved cardiovascular fitness, and enhanced energy utilization.

However, if the overload continues indefinitely without respite, the body’s finite energy resources will eventually become depleted, leading to overtraining and burnout.

To counteract this, periodisation incorporates recovery phases or periods of reduced training load.

These recovery periods serve several crucial functions:

  1. Energy replenishment: They allow the body to replenish depleted energy stores, such as glycogen in the muscles and liver, which are essential for high-intensity training and performance.
  2. Tissue repair and adaptation: Recovery periods provide the necessary time for damaged muscle fibers to repair, for the body to adapt to the previous training stimulus, and for the central nervous system to recover from the accumulated fatigue.
  3. Psychological recovery: Periods of reduced training load help alleviate mental fatigue and burnout, allowing athletes to maintain motivation and enthusiasm for their sport.

By respecting the body’s need for recovery and replenishment through periodisation, athletes can maximize their training adaptations without exceeding the body’s finite energy resources or pushing it into an overtrained state.

This strategic approach to training not only enhances performance but also reduces the risk of injuries, illness, and burnout, enabling athletes to train consistently over the long term.

About Liza Smith

Liza: The Endurance Expert – Unlock Your Peak Athletic Potential!

Dedicated to endurance, particularly in extreme events like Ironman, OCR and Ultras, Liza stands out not just as a coach but as an emblem of determination and tenacity.

With a reputation for moulding winners and transforming raw potential into prowess, Liza is the top pick for those aspiring to reign supreme in their sport.

Liza’s coaching philosophy centres on the power of the mind. Her five pillars – Control the Controllable, Find the Positive, Focus on You, 100% Effort, and Extreme Ownership – guide athletes to both mental and physical excellence.

Whether you're just starting out or vying for the gold, Liza ensures your hard work delivers results. Train with Liza and unleash the ultimate athlete within you.