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Running Training:
Setting Up A Season of Training.

Article By: Jack Daniels

This article is a continuation from Part 4:
Determining your current level of fitness
Original Article: Part 1: Principles of Training

Part 5: Setting up a season of training.

Any time that you go about the task of setting up a running training program---be it for yourself, an individual you are coaching, or a team of runners--there are several questions that must be answered relative to each runner in the program They include such considerations as available time, strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, current fitness, etc.

My preferred approach to an ideal 24-week season of training would be 4 6-week phases. The first would be a foundation / injury-prevention (FI) phase. For most runners, the second phase, which I call initial quality (IQ), would be primarily designed to work on mechanics, economy and some speed--a Rep phase. Phase three (Transition Quality -- TQ) would be toughest and would concentrate primarily on long intervals. The final (final quality -- FQ) phase would involve a fair amount of threshold running, along with few, if any Reps or intervals. There will also usually be a few races spread throughout the first three phases of training.

A good next step is to draw up a block of time on a sheet of paper. Start at the far right of the time block and mark this as your goal or peak-performance time. This should be the period of time when season-best performances are desired. This could be a signal- championship meet, or it could be the beginning of a series of competitions lasting several weeks. In either case, the training performed during this final-quality (FQ) phase of training is geared to prepare you for your best preference(s) possible for this season. Figure 9 shows the 4-phase set-up.

Obviously, this time plan is influenced by many factors. For example, many high school rummers participate in different sports during different seasons of the year. The amount of time actually available for running training vanes greatly from person to person, from school to school and from one region of the country to another.

The typical high school and collegiate runner has numerous important races to contend with on the way to the peak period. If the races along the way can be worked into the training program, the general plan can still be followed with success.

Figure 9
Desirable 24-week season

Wk 1-6

Wk 7-12

Wk 13-19

Wk 19-24





In general my generic approach to a 24-week program is easy running, followed by reps, then intervals, and finally threshold running and racing. Obviously, this would not be the same for every type of runner but would suit most middle- and long-distance runners well. Also, the ideal is not usually how things really work out, and adjustments must be made to account for this. I have prepared a way of fitting the best possible training scheme into the time available for any particular individual (see the Figure 10 for this discussion).

Figure 10
Priority numbering system to determine number of weeks per phase





1 2 3

10 11 12

7 8 9






What this figure shows are four blocks (Phases) of training, progressing from Phase I at the left, to Phase IV at the right of the figure. Within each block I have listed 6 numbers, 24 in all. Consider these numbers "priority" weeks of training. I arrived at this prioritization by asking the question, 'If there is only I week available for an individual (who lm no training whatsoever logged up to this point) to prepare for the. final race of the season, what should that individual do for training?" My answer is that only foundation/injury-prevention running should be performed during that week; therefore I place this 1 -week priority number (1) in the Phase I box. I feel the same about anyone with only two or three weeks available prior to racing in the List race of the season - only Phase I training should be performed so #2 and #3 are also placed in the far left block.

Let's suppose a runner has 6 weeks available -- in this case I indicate 3 weeks of Phase I training (priority days #1, #2, #3) and 3 weeks of Phase IV training (priority days #4, #5, #6). The practical way to identify the days of training for each phase would be to circle the numbers 1 through 6. In the event of 1O weeks of training being available, then you would circle numbers 1 through 1O, which would give you 3 days of Phase 1, 1 day of Phase 11, 3 days of Phase III and 3 days of Phase IV. If you feel only one day of Phase H is not worth the change of training, it may be better to push that extra day into Phase HI and not have a Phase H. Whatever the number of days assigned to each phase, and regardless of the priority numbers, the number of weeks set aside for Phase I must be performed before going to Phase H, which must be done before Phase III, etc. In the last example, and if the I week of Phase 11 was moved to Phase III, then this runner would have 3 weeks of Phase I, followed by 4 weeks of Phase III and a final 3 weeks of Phase IV. All that needs to be done, once you identify how many weeks you have available for training is to circle as many numbers in the blocks that correspond to the number of available weeks and then progress through the phases in order, spending as much time on each as has been identified.

If you have a season or period of time longer than 24 weeks, then decide which phase(s) should receive the extra time and go from there. If you are in a situation where you are coming into a season with a background of running or son= other sport that my be considered adequate to minimize the importance of Phase 1, it is possible to circle as many numbers in Phase I as you feel are legitimate and start the priority circling beyond the Phase I level.

Naturally, some people (coaches and runners al&e) may feel that the ideal season is not 24 weeks, and I don't think it is for everyone either. Some may want a longer, and others a shorter, season. This still fits this type of approach- What you need to do is ask yourself the same question as above. "If I have only X weeks available, how would I prepare." X can vary from I week to however many you think is the ideal time to-prepare. Once you have decided what is your ideal, map out your program and then go through each phase of training completely before going to the next phase (the number of weeks circled for any earlier phase must all be completed before you move to the next phase.

Overall, the season should be set up with different phases of training that will:

  1. Build resistance to injury.
  2. Prepare you for different types of training yet to come.
  3. Develop the systems that are most beneficial to the race(s) of primary importance.
  4. Bring you into races with confidence and not feeling over-worked.

What should happen when setting up the various blocks (phases) of training is that the blocks be arranged so that they build on each other, with consideration given to individual differences. For example, some coaches may want (and some events dictate) Reps to precede Intervals (I usually do); others demand the opposite, always going from slower to faster home.

The important thing is to have a plan in which you have confidence and to follow that plan. My suggestion is to first focus your attention on what workouts you go into the final phase of training (FQ), because this is the period of time during, or immediately following which you plan to perform at your best.

Part 6: Final Quality Phase (Phase IV): Coming In Jan., 2001

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