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Sprints: Periodization

By Tony Veney

Co-Chair USATF Women's Sprint Development

Periodization is the ability of the coach and athlete to organize your season to reach an optimal performance at the right moment. This involves introducing the athlete to levels of stress and recovery that will enable them to hit their best effort with the lowest potential for illness or injury.

If you are working with a track season that will probably have 20 to 25 weeks in it, you can take a long hard look at the number of weeks you can devote to what part of the two main phases. In the preparatory phase, you are getting your young athlete training to train. This period should take up 35% to 50% of your training regimen. By taking your time in getting your athletes to adapt to the higher demands, you avoid injury and costly down time. This does not mean that you play "kid gloves" with them, but when you hammer them, give them adequate rest (rest is not profanity and should be a part of your training philosophy, and not only when they've been busted up--some of your kids will train hard everyday if you let them, that's not intelligent training).

With all of the things that can be accomplished during the general prep phase, breaking your days up into 10 to 14 day cycles will enable you to touch on all the elements of the athlete's physical development you'd like. Within the confines of a general prep 10 day cycle, you can touch the following:

  • strength training on the track and in the weight room
  • acceleration development (short jumps-hills-tire pulls)--make sure that speed in ever-increasing amounts are used throughout the year
  • medicine ball days with in-place jumps (hops-depth jumps)
  • technique work (form running-slow learning)
  • peed development (fly-ins and Max speed)
  • speed work (different from speed development)
  • hills and tire pulls to develop power (longer reps)
  • acceleration day number 2
  • sprint circuit of drills over a set course
  • technical day number 2 (everyday should be on form, but some days need slower technical mastery).


As you go into your specific prep phase, you are no longer training to know how to train. You are now training to compete. You may already have run some meets, but you should hold off on trying to get them race sharp too early. Your peak can be reached in about 8 to 10 weeks and can be held for another 8 weeks, if you use a single peak approach. Many of the things you concentrated on in the general prep phase are present in the specific phase, but the volume and intensities are beginning to change. Some other minor changes should include:


  • race modeling (take bits of the race and attack them)
  • more speed endurance
  • more explosive work
  • technique, power, speed, special endurance are woven together to build a strong body resistant to injury


The competitive period is broken down into early competitive events to test fitness and to try different race plans. It's also time to test technical fitness, as well as mental fitness. You can use the competitions to train as you attempt to get in the weekly phase goals. And early competitions can help your athletes deal with running rounds by hammering them on Thursday and bringing back at a weekend invite, having them compete in three or four events (make sure that they get two to three days of "easy does it" after you try this, so they can recharge the central nervous system).

The theories behind periodization are based on the knowledge that the human physiology can bounce back after 24 to 48 hours of intense training. With that in mind, you should be able to organize your days, weeks and months into a viable plan for success. The workouts will come to you as you realize what you want to do and what time of year it is.

Monday - hard speed (short)
Tuesday - pool
Wednesday - acceleration fly-ins
Thursday - tech runs, pool 40 minutes
Friday - easy
Saturday - race
Sunday - rest
Monday - strength work
Tuesday - special endurance
Wednesday - pool 40 minutes
Thursday - relays/starts or modeling speed endurance
Friday - easy
Saturday - race or max speed
Sunday - rest

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