February 19

Non Negotiable Elements of the Program


Since we all want results and progress from our physical training regimes it’s important to consider our training programming for peak performance. I spoke recently about various approaches to appease the need to peak for a particular event and whether we should use the ‘peaks and troughs’ or ‘stay up and about’ all year strategy. My personal preference is, go down to come up, but it’s entirely personal preference and can even be affected by external factors. I spoke recently with a charge training for the Mooloolaba Triathlon who cited family commitments, work and general laziness as reasons why his routine had fallen off track of late. It happens. Check me last year citing the single man’s equivalent.

From last week, I hope you’ve got your head around the general pattern (my prescription anyway) and can associate the importance of a solid, long and gradually increasing preparation towards your goal event. In fitness, programing is broken into parts, we call it periodisation (Bompa 1999). The overarching portion of the program (that I detailed last week) is called the Macrocycle, with Meso and Micro populating that period.


Periods of the training cycle.
Periods of the training cycle.

So we know there’s a three to four month gulf between now and the race (Macrocycle), what do we put in that gap? What are the key elements of a proper race preparation that will provide a best ever performance? What must we use? What are the non-negotiable’s of our program?

To go inside the Macrocycle, we scale down to a Mesocycle (generally one month), a Microcycle (generally one week) and inside that are sessions (generally daily). In my view, each of these cycles has critical factors that we need to capitalise on to extract the greatest amount from our investment in training, thus maximising benefits in fitness and increasing results.

I know I regularly use distance running as the example and I will do here as well, however keep in mind this information applies (in my view) to all physical pursuits. Running is useful because we can all relate to it, most people know what it’s like to run at 50% capacity. I also enjoy the development and interrogation that running training has endured since the 1950s, in ways relating to volume, consistency, periodisation, types of sessions and anatomical technique. In my former life as a boxer, I used to get frustrated with the lack of thought and variety in training and competition routines. It’s not uncommon for fighters to do the same session, at their utmost capacity, four to five days in a row. After a few months it breaks you. Keep in mind, many so-called trainers are complete knuckle-heads. That’s a pun.

The quest for great results, longevity in the sport and enjoyment of the program requires balanced delivery that’s challenging and sustainable. It’s impossible to train hard all the time unless you’re on the Lance Armstrong milkshakes and those who try will fail 100% of the time. Below I reveal a quality training regime that ticks the boxes for “challenging and sustainable” over the Meso and Micro cycles and right down to detailed elements of an individual session.

Meso and Micro Cycles

My non negotiable aspects of a good (running) program are, weekly sessions of Intervals (green), Tempo/Long intervals (purple/blue), these are interchangeable, Long runs (orange) and Rest (red) are crucial.

Each program below includes these four elements, but as we progress in standard, new features can be added. A significant workout for marathoners in the Medium long run (yellow). Further progression into advanced standard holds the Recovery run (pink), usually optional and definitely at low tempo.

White sections are for runner discretion. I advise against adding more running sessions here and would lean towards rest days here until the runner is absolutely ready to progress levels. On these days, I use the opportunity to practice my own core stability sessions, you can find these workout templates on my Core Sessions page.

Meso and Micro cycles.
Meso and Micro cycles.

It’s also meritorious to consider including an easy week of training for the last week of each Mesocycle. This is also dependent on the athlete, it might need to come sooner, later or not at all.


Again for simplicity I’ll use the example of running to highlight what is needed in most sessions. I wouldn’t say a low intensity slow workout requires a specific Warm up/Warm down and who could be bothered? When we aim to do tough sessions however, it’s important to give ourselves time to adjust physically and mentally to the oncoming barrage of pain and mental anguish that hard training delivers in spades. You can see my process below:

Session Template.
Session Template.

If you take anything away from this template, be it the “Refuel” stage, that’s why it’s in red. Recovery is just as important as training and you need to be diligent and organised if you want to achieve some continuity of training throughout the program. My advice is, go buy the biggest container of protein/carb powder available, position it prominently in the kitchen and use it generously.

Using this Ammo

I’ve included both of the Mesocycle Template download and Session Template download as free training tools. If you get around to using them, please forward me a photo and add some funny chat in the comments box to razz me up. I’d be interested to hear how people faired in applying these features to their own schedule and this is not sacred text, these templates can be altered to suit the athlete’s needs. Use them as you see fit but if you follow them to the letter, I’d expect huge results, I just know how this stuff works. For more specific and personalised running training programs, hit my Training Programs page and if you want me to really ride you, consider my range of Online Coaching courses.

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