Endurance training plan – how to periodize training

We like to think about endurance training as a journey – and all good journeys have some kind of plan, otherwise, you will never reach your final destination. To complete this journey, you’ll need to structure it over periods, so you get sustained improvement in performance over time. Starting slowly, and gradually building your fitness, in preparation for your main race.

This is the sixth in our series of articles on our training philosophy, check out the others here –

  1. Our philosophy
  2. How to start endurance training – define your baseline
  3. Endurance training and racing – finding your goal
  4. Training volume in endurance sports
  5. Endurance training zones – intensity in endurance racing
  6. Endurance training plan – how to periodize training

When to start training

Training begins in relation to your main race, counting back from race day in your calendar. The first couple of weeks is not race-specific and is all about holistically building your fitness levels. Then, as your main race approaches, we crank it up and start to get sport and race focussed. We’ll set sub-goals throughout these periods, giving focus and structure to your training plan throughout. One such sub-goal might even be to get into structured training, which we often find is especially useful for people who are new to endurance training.

You must begin your training slowly and gradually build into more intense workouts. You have to give your body time to ease into the workload, or you put yourself at risk of overtraining, injury or burnout.

How to periodize training

You need to divide your season into different training blocks, which each serve different purposes, and all help you build towards your main race goal. Each training block is defined by their intensity and volume.  It’s important to remember that it’s impossible to maintain peak fitness throughout the season, thus your aim should be to reach peak fitness at the right time.

Base training, your pre-season

All athletes need a pre-season that is defined by volume rather than intensity. It’s all about building a solid base of endurance, which will allow you to train more intensely later in the season. Just the same as footballers or basketball players need to gradually build their fitness ahead of the real season so too do endurance athletes. If you don’t go through this stage and head straight into intense training, then you run the risk of burnout or injury.

Build training, getting into race season

After the initial period of workouts focusing on your endurance, the second training block focusses on building muscular endurance. This means that you will work out at a higher intensity, and if we add intensity to the training, then we need to take the volume back a bit. Your body won’t be able to go all out during every session.

Race season

Your last training block will be race-specific – seeking to help you get into race shape and be able to do each sport at a race-specific speed. The final weeks before the race will focus on form and race prep.

After racing

Many people fail to recognize the importance of what happens after a race. You cannot keep your body in peak condition throughout the year, meaning that you have to take a step back and allow yourself to ‘become slow’ again. The aim of your training plan is to peak at your main race. Then, you need to let your body relax and start building your base fitness level, which will allow you to get better.

How we periodize our training plans

Our individualized endurance training plans (be it for triathlon, swimrun or any other endurance sport) are 12 weeks per macrocycle. They are available online and seek to increase volume or intensity, week by week.


Our pre-season training plan follows cycles of 3 weeks of ramping up (volume and intensity), followed by a recovery week. Many endurance athletes underestimate the value of pre-season, mistakenly assuming that they will somehow magically be prepared to go all out from the start. We don’t fall into that trap, incorporating a dedicated pre-season schedule into all our training programs, which ensures that you’re in tip-top shape at the right time.

Examples of pre-season training programs –

Race-specific programs

Our race-specific programs build volume over three weeks and then have a recovery week. The final two weeks have less volume but are very race-specific. This race program brings together insights about duration, frequency, volume and intensity to help you achieve the goal that you set at the beginning of the season.

Examples of race-specific training programs –

Recovery weeks

Our recovery weeks keep you active while allowing your body to recover in a structured way. Recovery is not about doing nothing! It’s about consolidating the fitness gains that you have made over the course of a season.

Test weeks

We also build test weeks into our training plans. The main reason that we do this is – that it allows us to calibrate your training levels continuously, so you always train with purpose and the right intensity. For more information on this, why not take a look at our article on training intensity. Test weeks also allow you to track your progress, keeping you motivated during the long endurance season. Finally, tests put pressure on you, which is the best way to replicate the feeling that you get on race day.

B/C races

You can also swap one of the test weeks for a B- or C-race, offering another way to test your progress.

Do it right with a training plan

We passionately believe that our digital service will allow you to structure your race season better, and train smarter. Endurance training is all about doing the right things, doing them the right way, and doing them right consistently, and it’s impossible to do that without a plan. Our periodized training plans utilize the best available training practises to enable you to achieve your dreams.

So, don’t delay, sign up or register for a free plan (below) today and add purpose to your endurance training program!

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