Periodization | What Every Marathon Training Program Needs

Periodization training is one of the most efficient and effective ways to get any runner, or any athlete to his or her ultimate end goal. Not only that, but periodization allows a runner (or any individual) to do so in a customized manner that’s tailored specifically to a structured program that facilitates adaptation, which is needed to achieve a specific individual’s end goal.



Let me explain. Periodization is a systematic way to blend structure and customization together to properly focus on creating small action items that build up to any larger end goal. This concept for an endurance runner would look like a program that is specifically built in sequential blocks. For example, one block could be for strength, one power, one for speed. A great base to start could be having a focus on overall generic health and fitness. The second phase on a marathon training program could be more involved building a strong, aerobic base, while not neglecting some speed and strength work. The sole focus of this program would be to build endurance aerobically by way of increasing the weekly cumulative mileage. It’s also crucial to balance stress and recovery blocks during the program too to allow for proper physiological adaptations to occur. This is what will enhance the success rate of a customized program for an individual’s personal needs and goals.

Including weekly check-ins baked into this program holds the individual accountable. For the sake of this example, let’s say once or twice a week for each block being 3-6 weeks. It is important to recognize each individual’s needs. People get sick, life gets in the way and when these occurrences rises, it’s important for the Coach and individual to collaboratively work together to figure it out. Game plan to get that individual back on track! This strongly ties in with my coaching philosophy, keeping the lines of communication open and collaborative always between myself and the individual that I’m helping to coach!

During a time like now where all races are on a standstill, it’s best to keep any athlete well conditioned, placing a focus on cross-training and overall weekly endurance if that athlete is a marathon runner and cares about running for life. This trumps speed ALWAYS actually. Slowly introducing longer tempo runs, or increases in speed, should be a secondary focus in any runners program right now. The progress for building up speed in general should be slow and steady while progressing a marathon runner specifically towards his or her personal goal. If that goal is to PR in a race, this is applicable. This is also applicable to a marathon runner who is running for weight loss, or to just finish a race! The basic concept is the same. It’s customizable for each individual with systematic building blocks in a time frame that helps progress a person to be ready for race day! Stopping a training program right now would bring any human being back to square one, which is why it’s important to still train, but maybe shifting the focus of the current block of training!

Let’s put this into action. For example, general health, aerobic fitness and lactate threshold are our first three blocks we’re going to be working with here. They can ALL occur simultaneously, but the focus of each 3-6 weekly block of training should mainly be focused on one of these three areas while also slowly introducing the other two. It’s also important to work with a runner on the mental aspect of training too. Let’s be real. This pandemic has been mentally draining, coinciding with new ways of working at normal 9-5 jobs. Change is always uncomfortable. It always will be. Especially when it’s thrown upon us unexpectedly. However, change allows us to learn, to grow if we allow it. As a Coach, being mindful of everything going on while working with any of my runners and introducing new training programs into their lives is something I always have in the forefront of my mind. I believe as a Coach, it’s valuable to me to get to know about each person’s lifestyle needs and their life outside o solely training and running. My job is to provide the tools and resources to allow the individuals I work with feel better and do better. Working with each individual throughout this pandemic has almost brought us all closer. Whether it’s been bouncing ideas back and forth, trying things out of the “norm," it’s been a learning experience and still is every single day.

Leveraging the power of collaborating with like-minded individuals, whether that’s other Coaches, other Runners, or Industry Leaders is the best way to help make those larger changes happen. This applies to all of us and could enable greater possibilities to happen for the greater good and well-being of our society as a whole.

For some, periodization could be staying healthy and learning how to run. A program employing this goal could look something like this:

  • Monday: Run / Walk for 20 minutes

  • Tuesday: Cross-training workout

  • Wednesday: Rest Day

  • Thursday: Run / walk for 20 minutes with the run including a hill of some sort

  • Friday: Running straight for 10 minutes and keeping track of pace (5-10 seconds between each mile would be the goal here to instill consistency and the opportunity to keep building up total mileage safely)!

  • Saturday: Rest Day

  • Sunday: Strength-training using a TRX, or resistance bands, both of which can be used at home! It’s totally workable.

Periodization helps any coach implement structure into a training program and tailor it specifically to a person’s goals and needs. These programs are not meant to be scaled to the masses. That has the potential to do more harm rather than do any good.

SO, did we learn something about structured training? Periodization and the importance of implementing it? Save this post to refer back to! If you have questions, please just reach out. I’m always open to answering your questions to help you become a better YOU through fitness, through functional movement and through running.

Happy Tuesday!

Enjoy doing you today for YOU.

Until next time!

Coach Alli


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