Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Pfitzinger & Douglas Periodization (Marathon Training)

In a previous post, I talked fairly generally about how periodization is used in training for endurance sports training. If you haven't previously considered carefully how and why training should change throughout a training cycle for maximum benefit, please refer back to the previous post.

In this post, I will discuss periodization of the 55-70 mile/week Pfitzinger & Douglas (2001; Advanced Marathoning) training plan I recently started to prepare for the Colorado Marathon 2011. 
I summarized the distribution of mileage among different workout intensities in this plan by mesocycle in Figure 1, below. Mesocycle 1 focuses on easy and moderate aerobic training. these are a combination of recovery runs, short runs (GA), medium-long runs (MLR), and Long runs (LR). I've defined these runs in a previous post, for reference. While aerobic training remains dominant in throughout the entire training Macrocycle, there is a marked decrease in the emphasis on aerobic training as some workouts shift to progressively higher intensity through time, leading up to the goal event at the end of Mesocycle 4. But, what about the actual weekly mileage during each mesocycle? Read on.

Figure 1. Distribution of training mileage among different intensities for each Mesocycle in the 55-70 mile per week training plan of Pfitzinger & Douglas (2001; Advanced Marathoning

What strikes me here is that overall weekly mileage seems high right from the start on this plan (Figure 2). Pfitzinger plans don't start low and work up mileage gradually. They are for runners who have been consistently training with mileage that is near the starting mileage load in Mesocycle 1, and who have completed a long run of nearly the same distance as the first long run in the plan during the month before starting. They assume the runner is not starting from the couch. So, if you use a Pfitzinger 18 week plan, make sure to select one with a mileage load you have already been working at, and also be aware that while the plans ask you to run a lot of mileage right off the bat, the emphasis at first is on easy and moderate aerobic running, which if you've picked your plan realistically should be within your capability.

Figure 2. Average weekly mileage in each Mesocycle of the 55-70 mile per week training plan of Pfitzinger & Douglas (2001; Advanced Marathoning)  
If I graph each week, you can see that there is some ramping up of overall milieage during Mesocycle 1 (Figure 3). Each week, mileage increases up to the level of the mileage in Mesocycle 2, when the lactate threshold (tempo) workouts increase markedly. Further, note that with 12, 8, and 4 weeks remaining, there is a dip in mileage. These are "recovery" weeks, that are intended to give the body a slight break and prevent fatigue from taking a bite out of your training benefits. 

Figure 3. Weekly mileage throughout marathon training Macrocycle in Pfitzinger & Douglas (2001; Advanced Marathoning

The Microcycles into which the Mesocycles are divided are also carefully planned so that one or two harder workouts are always followed by an easy or recovery workout. Further, two very high intensity workouts will not occur back-to-back (i.e., a Lactate Threshold workout won't be followed a day later by a VO2 Max Interval workout), but one of these high intensity workouts might appear back-to-back with a moderate aerobic run (i.e., VO2 Max interval workout followed by a Medium-Long Run), but only once in a given week. Also, Threshold workouts in Mesocycle 1 and 2 generally are planned at 2 week intervals, and speed work is programmed not more often than once per week and the end of Mesocycle 2 to the middle of the taper in Mesocycle 4. Speed Training (fast repeats or strides) are programmed about every other week during Mesocycles 1-3, then become once-twice weekly during the Mesocycle 4 taper. So, there are a lot of logical "rules" that apply to microcycle structure to help control fatigue and overtraining.

We'll see if they work. The real test for me as I attempt to use this particular plan is whether these measures will be sufficient to prevent me from getting fatigued enough to fall into bad form and end up with some of the form-related aches and pains I've had in the past. I'm keeping an eye on this.

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