Principles & Use of Endurance Periodisation post COVID-19

When your usual goals, races and events are not in sight, it can be difficult to focus on endurance training. Structuring your endurance periodisation plan will help to get the most out of your training during lockdown by becoming stronger and faster.

In this strange time, it is certainly tough to focus on your endurance training whilst you are struggling to find events, races and goals to aim for.

To start with, I’d suggest taking a look at how you might structure your endurance periodisation plan, so as to get the most out of your training by becoming quicker, stronger and most importantly, faster.

The NSCA (National Strength & Conditioning Association) talk about the normal linear progressions of endurance training’. This means that the athlete should focus on building a good aerobic base before moving on to more specific speed work for competitions, races and events. The major part of the training plan is built around that aerobic base, with small segments given to speed work (tempo & lactate).

This theory is well tried and tested, although doesn’t suit everyone as lots of volume in training can lead to potential injury and overtraining. Your training history, both from a volume and injury point of view, are crucial to consider when developing a plan. The way to start thinking about this is the distribution of load and intensity in any part of your training year.

If the volume is high, intensity is low — and vice versa — when the volume is low, intensity is high. If anything, this is the fundamental structure to abide by when looking at setting out any plan. Obviously there are other factors to look at too: strength training, injury prevention work, nutrition, recovery etc, but above all keep these principles in mind. 

Injuries tend to occur when there is a spike in the volume and/​or intensity within the training cycle. Tim Gabbatt has done some great work in this area; looking at acute & chronic load in different sports, contact and non contact. His conclusion is that there needs to be a safe ratio between these two loads as too much increases the potential for injury.

The best way to assess this is to take the average of the last 4 weeks training and divide this by week 4’s training number. If this number exceeds 1.2, injury risk can occur and if it goes above 1.5 the potential greatly increases.


  • Week 1: 8 miles
  • Week 2: 12 miles
  • Week 3: 15 miles
  • Week 4: 15 miles

Average over 4 weeks = 12.5 miles, divided by week 4 (15 miles) gives a ratio of 1.2.

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The above example is an easy way to track your training loads, especially as you think about others factors that come into play: work/​life balance, extra training (Strength Training, Yoga, Pilates and, if you are a triathlete, swimming & cycling) and the easiest way to track these loads is either to keep a training diary or use a GPS system such as Strava to monitor your weekly mileage.

So the big question, is if you haven’t got an event planned due to Covid-19, how do you mange the volume and intensity without getting injured, burnt out or just bored with the same routine?

With all the athletes I’ve been working with over this period, we have focused on a shorter training plan based over 4 – 6 weeks, picking a specific goal to work on: increasing volume, working on speed and increasing strength. We then test and re-test after the 6 week period. This finishes with a download week where volume & intensity are greatly reduced, maybe to the point of full rest, depending upon the athlete’s situation.

As discussed at the beginning of this blog one size doesn’t fit all’ and there has been criticism thrown at every conceptual model within training modalities. Everyone is different and some can tolerate higher training loads than others. However if you use the example above not only should you increase your fitness, but in my experience, shorter training plans greatly reduce the likelihood of boredom and overtraining.