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Running Coach: The Transition Period

Updated: Apr 12, 2023

What is a transition period? Why is it important? And how to implement this in your running training.

The Transition Period is a time to get back to nature, relax and be away from your structured running program. Time to become zen.
The Transition Period is a time to get back to nature, relax and be away from your structured running program.

The Transition period in any training program is one that is often overlooked or not utilised to its greatest extent. I often find in running and distance running it isn't applied at all. "The transition phase, often inappropriately called the off-season, links two annual training plans. This phase facilitates psychological rest, relaxation, and biological regeneration while maintaining an acceptable level of general physical preparation (40% to 50% of the competitive phase)" (Bompa & Buzzichelli, 2018).

What is the purpose of a transition period and how to we apply it to a running program?

Why #1 - Links Your Competitive Season To Base Training With Planned Rest And Recovery

What do we do now? Once our main running competition is over for the year most athletes ask 'whats next?' or 'what now?' The simple answer is a good transition period of about 2-4 weeks. Which should give you ample time to be fully rested and prepared for your next hard block of training. Think of it as an extended de-load week in your running training.

Why #2 - Biological Regeneration And Injury Management

Biological regeneration enables you to be ready for the next block of training in your running program. Most athletes and runners come out of their main competition period carrying excess stress, a few niggles or having just staved off injury. The transition period allows the athlete and coach to work through these issues, overcome any niggles and have a proper rehabilitation program completed while the athlete is no longer under a high training load.

"This is typically the time of year when fatigue or burnout is the greatest. You may have become so used to being wasted—both physically and mentally—that you aren’t even aware of it." – Joe Friel

Why #3 - Takes Your Focus Away From Competition And Training

Most athletes take in every minute detail of their training looking for every single 1% to enhance their performance. I myself was guilty of over analysing every step of where I was at. The transition period is a mental break from the rigours of your running program. Without this mental break it is harder for your body to recuperate. This is a great time to get back to nature, ditch the tracking and technology and get your joy back for your running. Towards the end of the transition period you can look to start planning the upcoming training blocks.

How #1 - Reduce Training Load To 50%

To allow your body to regenerate reduce your training load to about 50%. This will free up your schedule, your mind and your body so you can get a solid period of rest and relaxation without detraining too much.

How #2 - Take 2-4 Weeks With A Maximum Of 6 Weeks

As with reducing your training load to 50% to allow your body to decompress it is important that there is both a time frame where your load is reduced and an end date so you know when to start back training. You want to be completely rested and prepared to start back training without having too much of a detraining component to your training. As you return to training please ensure you carefully add mileage and load. A great way to return to training is to follow the AIS White Paper on training load.

How #3 - Get In and See Your Physiotherapist

This is the easiest and simplest times to get in to see your physiotherapist and start working on any movement or strength deficiencies, or imbalances. With the reduction in general workloads your body will find it easy to bounce back and adapt to the rehabilitation interventions. Your physiotherapist should have a battery of tests to help you identify these.

How #3 - Have Rough Guidelines, Not Hard and Fast Rules

This period in your running program should be highlighted with no structured or formal training practices. It is a time to get back to the basics and bare minimum of running. This period is about the joy of running with your training. Maybe run every second day, get off the track hit the trails/grass, maybe go hiking/cycling/swimming, do some group fitness classes/yoga/pilates.

The Transition Period Enables You To Train Harder In The Long Run

Like your traditional de-load week in training a transition period enables for complete rest and recovery. Enabling you to be recharge and ready to go for your next training period in your running program. If you are looking for help in structure your programs to maximise your training feel free to contact us now


Bompa, T. O., & Buzzichelli, C. (2018). Periodization-: theory and methodology of training. Human kinetics.

Friel, J. (n.d.). The Transition Period.

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