When goal-setting, all good coaches will look at the bigger picture and periodise training for endurance. The start of the year is a great time to plan your training and set goals for the long-term, the medium term, and the short-term.
The bigger picture: the Macrocycle
This is the period that spans your entire plan. When an elite athlete is goal-setting, it might be a whole year, or the run up to the Olympic games. For recreational athletes a macrocycle may refer to a four-month training plan for a marathon or cycling sportive, or a six-month weight-loss target. New year is a good time to draw up your goals and map out your macrocycle.
Medium term: Mesocycle
Medium term goal-setting usually is between six and eight-week period blocks, where you’ll focus on improving different elements of running fitness, e.g. endurance, or speed endurance, or speed/race prep near the end of a schedule, or a specific four-week block, like the cycling time trial plan.
Most of the mesocycles in our schedules include a step-back week scheduled in after three weeks, and on the fourth week volume/intensity is maintained, ready to continue to progress in weeks five and six.
Shorter term/day to day: Microcycle
Goal-setting needs to include every day of the week! Sunday a night is a good time to review goals for the week ahead and commit to your plan. A microcycle doesn’t have to be a seven-day period, such as a shift worker may plan in blocks of five or 10 days).
In this part of the schedule you’ll need to consider what frequency of training you will do (i.e. how many times a week); plan the intensity (i.e. allow a rest/recovery between a long run and a speed session); and allocate time for each session.
You can choose your day to train, but make sure you think of your harder sessions, such as in running, your interval, tempo, and long run as a two-day block, as you need to recover after each of these sessions. Similarly, cross training intensity should be monitored, for example, a relaxing yoga class may replace or be done on a recovery day, but a hardcore circuits class would need to replace an interval or tempo session. Don’t try to pack in what you missed, just pick up the schedule and build up in a progressive way again, allowing time to recover and build.