How Can I Balance Intensity vs Volume In Periodization Training For Marathons?

Key Takeaways

  • Periodization training balances high-intensity workouts with volume to peak for race day.
  • Intensity refers to how hard you train, while volume is about the distance covered.
  • Beginners should start with lower intensity and gradually increase volume over time.
  • A well-structured training plan includes phases: base building, intensifying, tapering.
  • Listening to your body and adjusting training is crucial for avoiding overtraining and injury.


Decoding Intensity and Volume

Aight let’s first clarify what we mean by intensity and volume. Intensity refers to how hard you workout, usually measured by pace or heart rate. This is the accelerator of your training car. On the other hand, volume is a sum total of how much distance you cover per week. This represents your fuel tank’s size. The key here is striking a proper balance between how hard one should press on gas pedal and amount of fuel available, so that he won’t run out before reaching finish line.

Why Balance Matters

If there is too much intensity with very little volume, speed may be there but without stamina; While too much volume with less intensity will give endurance without reaching your maximum speed which could have been reached.

Starting Blocks: Intensity versus Volume

So, where do you start? If you’re new to marathons or looking to improve your performance, the first step is to build a solid base. This means gradually increasing your weekly mileage at a comfortable pace before adding in the high-intensity stuff. It’s like laying the foundation of a house before you put up the walls and roof. For more detailed guidance, check out training techniques for periodization in marathon training.

What is Intensity in Marathon Training?

When we mention intensity, we are talking about those workouts that leave you panting and gasping for breath; these include things like tempo runs, interval sessions as well as hill repeats. Frankly speaking, sometimes you might not really want to do them but they are the ones that will make your limits stretch and speed up your pace.

Understanding Volume in the Long Run

But on the other hand volume is all about slow long runs; this forms the backbone of your training program because it helps build the endurance needed for extended hours. More critically, burning fat effectively means increased rates of fat metabolism hence ability to run without consuming carbohydrates which is important in a marathon event among other endurance activities.

The Art of Combining Intensity with Volume

Now that you know the ingredients, let’s talk about how to mix them together. A well-designed marathon training plan follows a periodization approach. This means your training is divided into phases, each with a specific focus, gradually leading up to race day.

Periodization Basics for Marathoners

Periodization is your training roadmap. It breaks down your preparation into manageable chunks, each with a clear purpose. Here’s a simple way to think about it:

  • Base Phase: Focus on slowly building your mileage with easy runs.
  • Build Phase: Start sprinkling in some tempo runs and intervals to increase intensity.
  • Peak Phase: Hit your highest intensity and volume, fine-tuning your fitness.
  • Taper Phase: Reduce volume, maintain some intensity, and let your body recover before race day.

Designing Your Marathon Training Plan

When designing your plan, consider your current fitness level, marathon goals, and life commitments. Be realistic. If you’re juggling a busy schedule, it’s better to plan for four quality training days a week rather than overcommit and burn out.

Start with the end in mind. Count back from your marathon date to ensure you have enough time to progress through each phase without rushing. A typical marathon training cycle is about 16 to 20 weeks. Here’s a rough breakdown:

  • Base Phase: 6-8 weeks
  • Build Phase: 6-8 weeks
  • Peak Phase: 2-3 weeks
  • Taper Phase: 2-3 weeks

Remember, this is just a starting point. The most effective training plan is one that’s tailored to you. And if you’re not sure how to create one, don’t hesitate to seek guidance from a running coach or a training program.

Training Smart: Periodization Techniques

So you’ve got the basics down. You know your intensity from your volume, and you’re ready to turn that knowledge into marathon success. Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of how to train smart with periodization techniques.

Ebb and Flow: The Phases of Training

Periodization is not “one size fits all.” It’s a dynamic framework where training intensities and volumes rise and fall based on physiological needs of an athlete as well as demands of marathon racing. You need not peak too early or burn out if you want to keep improving your fitness levels. Think of it as music crescendoing, rising excitedly towards its climax – performance on race day.

Each phase of training has unique purposes. The base phase is about putting in the consistent mileage as a foundation. Transitioning into the build phase, workouts get more intense. In the peak phase you go all out and finally tapering phase sharpens your fitness while allowing your body to recover before optimal performance on race day.

Crafting Quality Workouts

Quality over quantity – it’s a cliché because it’s true, especially when it comes to workouts. Your training should include a mix of different types of runs:

  • Long Runs: These are your bread and butter, increasing in length during the base and build phases to get your body used to the endurance required.
  • Tempo Runs: These runs are done at a comfortably hard pace to improve your lactate threshold, teaching your body to run faster for longer.
  • Interval Workouts: Short bursts of high-intensity running followed by recovery periods to boost your speed and cardiovascular fitness.
  • Easy Runs: These should be done at a relaxed pace to help your body recover between hard workouts and still build mileage.

Each workout has its place in your training plan. By mixing these runs throughout your week, you’ll hit all the necessary physiological systems to become a well-rounded, marathon-ready runner.

On Your Marks: Implementing Your Plan

With a solid understanding of periodization and workout types, it’s time to lace up your shoes and hit the pavement. Implementation is where the rubber meets the road, quite literally.

Setting the Pace: Volume Build-Up

Base phase onwards, aim to increment your mileage weekly. The progression should be gradual- think tortoise not hare. A good rule of thumb is the 10% rule – increase volume by no more than 10% each week. This helps to avoid injury and lets your body adapt to increased demands.

Maintain most of your runs at an easy pace as you build up volume. You should be able to hold a conversation without having a need for gasping of air. The pace may feel slow but remember that these are endurance runs, not speed sessions.

Example: If you ran 20 miles in your first week, try running 22 miles in the second week and then add another mile or two for the following weeks until the last one where you would have reached about forty miles per week. It’s a progressive increase that pays off in the end.

Hitting Your Stride with Intense Workouts

Once you have built a strong base, it is time to inject some intensity into your training program. Start with one tempo run or interval workout every seven days and gradually add another session as you get fitter. However, beware; greater intensity means longer recovery periods.

Since intense workouts are hard on your body, it’s important to follow them up with an easy day or rest day when you don’t go running at all during which period your muscles recover and grow stronger thus helping you improve yourself.

Listen to Your Body: Monitoring and Adjusting

Training plans are great, but they’re not gospel. The most important training tool you have is your own body. Listen to it. If you’re feeling run-down or notice nagging aches and pains, it might be time to back off and allow for extra recovery.

Tracking Your Progress

Keep a training log so that over time, patterns will emerge that can help guide your future training decisions; this can give insights for how things are going (distance, pace, how the workout felt, any aches or pains).

When to Push Harder and When to Pull Back

It’s sort of a balancing act. There are days when you feel like you could run forever – those are the days to push yourself just a little bit more. But there will also be days when your legs feel like they are made out of bricks. It is alright on these days to take it easy. Rest is as important as the work itself because it is during rest that your body adapts and gets stronger.

Finishing Strong

You’ve built your mileage, you’ve added intensity, and now the race is just around the corner. It’s time to finish strong.

Peaking at the Right Time

The taper phase is all about peaking at the right time. You want to arrive at the starting line feeling fresh, fast, and ready to go. This means reducing your volume while maintaining some intensity to keep your legs sharp. The art of the taper is in finding the right balance between rest and retaining the fitness you’ve worked so hard to build.

During the last two to three weeks before the marathon, start to cut back on your mileage. A typical taper might look like a 20-30% reduction in volume each week leading up to the race. But keep some quality workouts in the mix – a few tempo miles or a handful of intervals to remind your legs what it feels like to move quickly.

Remember, the work is done. The taper is your time to rest, recover, and get mentally prepared for the challenge ahead. Trust in your training, and when race day comes, you’ll be ready to give it your all.


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Endurance Training