Reverse linear periodization is a method of training that gradually and progressively increases the volume and decreases the intensity over time. It is the opposite of the traditional linear periodization.

Historically, linear periodization was designed to improve strength, speed, and power, with training progressing from general conditioning (volume) to specific skills (intensity), with the highest intensity coming at the end of the training program. That’s good for short, intense races, because the most specific training occurs as athletes approach the targeted race.

However, reverse linear periodization can be more effective in a few instances—when training for longer races, to create a speed reserve in runners who don’t have good speed and who don’t have a history of speed work, and to practice the skill of running, which is especially important for recreational and less-skilled runners.   

When training for long races like half-marathon and marathon, try training speed first, and then train your endurance to sustain a high fraction of that speed, especially if you’re not already fast for shorter races.

For example, say you have run a 3:15 marathon (7:26/mile) and your goal is to run under 3 hours (6:52/mile). Your 1-mile PR is 6:20, which means you ran the marathon 1:06 per mile (or 17.4%) slower than your 1-mile time (which is very good). However, with a 1-mile PR of 6:20, you won’t be able to run 6:52 pace for 3 hours; that’s a difference in pace of only 32 seconds (or 8.4% slower) per mile. Even if your 1-mile PR is 6:00, you still won’t be able to run a marathon in under 3 hours. If you can get your 1-mile time down to 5:46, then 6:52 pace is the same pace difference (1:06 per mile; 19.1% slower) as when you ran 3:15.

For more info, pick up a copy of my latest book, Running Periodization: Training Theories to Run Faster.




Parts and Process



It had been a week since Laura and I had spoken. I could tell she had been thinking about what we talked about.

We were sitting in the bleachers at the track. She had just finished her workout, and the late day sun was casting an orange glow on the bleacher steps.

“You can’t understand the value of a whole process by separating the parts from the process, or the process from the parts,” I told her.

“When you separate the parts of the process, there is no process. There are only parts. Parts without a process have no motion, no purpose. They’re lifeless. Instead of being like running, filled with motion and purpose, it is the antithesis of running. To fully understand the role each part plays in the training program, you have to see it as part of the whole training program, not separate from the whole, by itself.

“Think about the workout you just did. That one workout is a part. That one workout, by itself, means nothing by itself. It is an integral, meaningful part of the entire training process that gives you meaning well beyond running a PR. When you remember the entire training process, you remember much more than any single workout. You remember that the single workout is part of a much larger process than enables you to narrow the gap between who you are and who you want to be.”

Laura’s eyes began to well up. She seemed to want to say something, but didn’t.  

“There is a process, Laura, filled with specific moving parts, to get you to that point, to enable you to achieve something with your running that transcends any single workout. And, after all, isn’t that where the joy of running and training comes from? To integrate the parts into the whole, so that the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts?

“That’s what the training process is all about.”


Periodization is a blueprint of sequential periods of focused training that guides the coach and runner in the acquisition of specific characteristics of fitness. Training periods are divided into macrocycles, mesocycles, and microcycles.

Several ways to periodize your training:

1) Linear Periodization

Progressing from high volume/low intensity to low volume/high intensity.


2) Reverse Linear Periodization

Progressing from low volume/high intensity to high volume/low intensity.


3) Block Periodization

Sequencing specialized mesocycles, called blocks, that concentrate on only a single or a couple compatible abilities at a time using a large volume of workouts, and training multiple fitness factors consecutively rather than concurrently. Block periodization includes 3 types of specialized blocks: (1) accumulation, which develops basic abilities, such as technique, aerobic capacity, and muscular endurance, (2) transmutation, which uses shorter blocks that include high-intensity workouts to develop race-specific abilities, and (3) realization, which develops speed, race-specific tactics, and recovery prior to the race.


4) Undulating Periodization

Drastic variations in volume and intensity either daily or weekly throughout the training program. Based on the theory that if a training stimulus is repeatedly presented in the same way, its effect diminishes. So instead of repeating the same stimulus, you constantly change it—from week to week and even from day to day. Undulating periodization can serve as a way to maintain (or even increase) aerobic development during latter mesocycles of a macrocycle, which is often neglected in a linear periodization program, when the latter mesocycles focus on intensity.


5) Menstrual Cycle Periodization

Structuring training around the cyclic hormonal variations of the menstrual cycle.

Which method you choose depends on your physiological strengths, running background, timeframe for adaptation, and the duration of the race you’re training for.




On your first day at altitude, you go for a run, and notice within a few steps that you’re breathing heavier than usual. You wonder why, because the air still contains 20.93% oxygen, whether you’re at the Dead Sea in Israel (1,385 feet below sea level) or on top of Mount Everest in Nepal (29,029 feet above sea level).

The defining characteristic of altitude is a lower barometric pressure, which keeps decreasing the higher up you go. That reduces the partial pressure of oxygen in the air, resulting in less oxygen entering your lungs each breath. To compensate, you breathe more to inhale more oxygen.

Running at altitude stimulates the production of red blood cells (erythropoiesis, named after erythropoietin, the hormone that stimulates red blood cell production) as part of acclimatization, giving your blood a greater oxygen-carrying capability when you return to sea level.

The ideal altitude to train at is 6,500 to 8,000 feet for at least 4 weeks to obtain the greatest erythropoietic benefit and giving you enough time to get past any symptoms of acute mountain sickness.

Since your VO2max is lower at altitude above 3,400 feet, adjust your pace to make your workouts physiologically equivalent to sea-level workouts. VO2max decreases by about 2.6% for every 1,000 feet of altitude above 3,400 feet. How to calculate running speeds for altitude workouts:

# of feet at altitude – 3,400 feet = A

(A x 0.026) ÷ 1,000 feet = B

B x sea-level pace in minutes = C

C + sea-level pace in minutes = new altitude pace in minutes

Then, convert the decimal from the new altitude pace into seconds by multiplying the decimal by 60 to get your new altitude pace. For example, at an altitude of 5,000 feet and a sea-level pace of 7:00 per mile:

5,000 feet – 3,400 feet = 1,600 feet

(1,600 x 0.026) ÷ 1,000 feet = 0.0416

0.0416 x 7.0 minutes = 0.2912

0.2912 + 7.0 minutes = 7.2912 minutes

0.2912 x 60 = 17 seconds = 7:17 per mile pace

For more info, check out my new book, Running Periodization: Training Theories to Run Faster.



Your maximum speed for a given duration can be determined using your maximum aerobic speed (your VO₂max pace) and your maximum anaerobic speed (the fastest speed you can run for 8 steps, or about 3 seconds).

Max Race Speed = Max Aerobic Speed + (Max Anaerobic Speed – Max Aerobic Speed)

Your Max Anaerobic Speed minus your Max Aerobic Speed is your Speed Reserve, so we can write the equation:

Max Race Speed = Max Aerobic Speed + Speed Reserve

What happens if both increase?

  • If both your Max Anaerobic Speed and your Max Aerobic Speed increase, you get faster. Duh.

What happens if one increases and the other says the same?

  • If your Max Anaerobic Speed increases but your Max Aerobic Speed stays the same, you get faster. Duh, but not obviously duh, since most runners don’t spend time improving their sprinting speed, instead working on aerobic endurance.
  • If your Max Aerobic Speed increases but your Max Anaerobic Speed stays the same, your Max Race Speed doesn’t change. Ah, we are starting to learn something now.

What happens if one decreases and the other stays the same?

  • If your Max Anaerobic Speed decreases but your Max Aerobic Speed stays the same, you get slower. Interesting.
  • If your Max Aerobic Speed decreases but your Max Anaerobic Speed stays the same, your Max Race Speed doesn’t change. Even more interesting.

What happens if one increases and the other decreases?

  • If your Max Anaerobic Speed increases but your Max Aerobic Speed decreases, you get faster. Very interesting.
  • If your Max Aerobic Speed increases but your Max Anaerobic Speed decreases, you get slower. Perhaps the most interesting of all.

What does all this mean, Dr. Jason?  

You need a big speed reserve, which comes from your maximum sprinting speed. Your Max Anaerobic (sprinting) Speed has a greater effect on your running performance than your Max Aerobic Speed. Max Anaerobic Speed is extremely important. Train your Maximum Anaerobic Speed.

Two Doses, Not One


Wonder why there are two doses of the COVID vaccine, separated by a few weeks? One shot in the arm would make it a lot easier, right?

It’s Hans Selye’s fault.

What happens if you give a mouse a toxic dose of a drug? That was the question posed by Hungarian endocrinologist Dr. Hans Selye in 1950, who discovered that laboratory animals exposed to various stressors, like drugs, cold, or surgery, and individuals with various chronic illnesses, like tuberculosis and cancer, display a common set of symptoms and pattern of responses. From his observation of the stress response pattern, Selye developed the General Adaptation Syndrome, which represents the chronologic development of the response to stressors when their actions are prolonged.

For the first time in the history of science, Selye was able to elucidate the process of adaptation. That’s big-time Science with a capital S. Selye discovered that giving a rodent a small dose (one-quarter) of an alarming/toxic stressor (e.g., drugs, cold, exercise) prior to a full, alarming dose of the same stressor protected the rodent from the alarming/toxic dose.

And that’s why there are two doses of the COVID vaccine.

It’s also one of the secrets to becoming a better runner. Introducing a small dose of a specific type of workout is beneficial for adaptation before introducing a larger dose. The first time you do a new workout in a new phase of training, do just a small amount of that workout before doing more.

You Look Like You’re Faster Than That



“You look like you’re faster than that.”

It was both a compliment and an insult at the same time. It was the summer of 1994, I was 21 years old, and living in Boston for an internship with the Boston Athletic Association—the event management team and host of the Boston Marathon.

Every Saturday that summer, I ran a 2.5-mile race around Fresh Pond in Cambridge. It cost 50 cents to race and they handed out popsicle sticks with finishing places written on it as each runner crossed the finish line. No medals, no T-shirts. The good old days.

At one of the races, Olympic bronze medalist Lynn Jennings showed up to run the race as a workout. Her coach, John Babington, was looking around the start line area for someone to pace Lynn in the race. He approached me while I was warming up. “What pace are you running today?” he asked. “About 5:30 pace,” I responded.

“You look like you’re faster than that,” he said, moving on to find someone else who could pace his prized athlete.

We ran the race, I ran 5:35 pace, and Lynn was ahead of me the entire time.

From a young age, I realized that it’s not what your muscles look like that matters; it’s what they can do. That is such an important concept to me that I have returned to it in many of my writings and have devoted much of my life to the study of muscle function. Even my master’s thesis a long time ago examined motor unit recruitment during eccentric contractions. (That was fun, because I got to electrically shock my subjects.)

It’s hard to not focus on what our muscles look like. After all, the human experience is physical. And the visual medium of social media amplifies the perceived importance of our physical appearance. Although I never was (and still am not) as fast of a runner as I wanted to be, I look the part, as Coach John Babington not so subtlety pointed out to me with his comment at Fresh Pond in Cambridge in the summer of 1994. His comment has stuck with me for 26 years.

But it’s not what your muscles look like that matters; it’s what they can do. Train them to do amazing things.


Current Pace vs. Goal Pace


I once coached a runner who ran a 19-minute 5K who told me she wanted to be trained like a 17:30 5K runner. So, I told her to run a 17:30 5K and then I’ll train her like a 17:30 5K runner.
It seems logical that if you want to run a race faster, you should practice by running at that faster pace. But, there are a few problems with this way of thinking. For starters, what determines goal pace? A runner’s race time goals are often arbitrary and not in agreement with what is realistic. I have coached many runners over the years who had unrealistic goals. If I had prescribed them workouts at their goal race paces, those workouts would have been way over their heads, and they would have run themselves into the ground trying to accomplish them.
Secondly, running at goal race pace represents a future level of fitness. Doing workouts now at that future fitness level means that you’re doing workouts faster than what you need to run to meet the desired purpose. For example, if that 19-minute 5K runner did her lactate threshold workouts based on a 17:30 5K, her workouts would no longer have been purely aerobic; they would have become anaerobic, which would have changed the desired purpose and the stress of the workouts.
Thirdly, running at goal race pace moves you away from targeting the specific physiological factors that dictate running performance. You’ll no longer be training at lactate threshold pace to train lactate threshold, or VO₂max pace to train VO₂max. It’s better to target physiological factors than to train at arbitrary paces. Run only as fast as you need to meet the purpose of the workout.
This doesn’t mean you should never train at goal pace, but do it sparingly, only for psychological reasons to give you confidence, and only when the goal is realistic for that season.

Confusion vs. Habituation


If you ever were taught how to play an instrument, did you learn how to play simple pieces before learning more complex pieces? Did your music teacher constantly change the piece and complexity of the music that you practiced, or did he or she have you practice the same piece of music until you mastered it?

After repeated or prolonged presentation of a specific stimulus, you become habituated to it, and your body decreases its response to that stimulus. Confusion, on the other hand, keeps your body guessing by constantly varying the stimuli. While “confusing” your body can be useful to avoid plateaus in fitness and performance, variation to cause confusion must be balanced with mastery of the skill. On one hand, you must vary your training often enough to adapt and improve fitness, while, on the other hand, you must repeat the same training a number of times to master the volume and intensity (or to master the skill of a specific type of workout) so you can progress with your training, having each workload build on what came before.

Habituation, a learning process that leads to mastery of a skill or workload, is a more effective training method than confusion, as long as the same stimulus is not repeated for too long that the physiological response begins to decrease. Give yourself enough time to absorb and adapt to the training before changing it. Forty miles per week should become a normal experience for your body before increasing to 50 miles per week. Change the stimulus just as habituation occurs so that you continue to increase your response. Most runners would benefit from changing the training stimulus every few weeks.

Tips for The Spectacled Runner


Picture found at Pixabay – License CC0

I’m lucky that I never have had to wear glasses. Being able to see where you’re going when you run is pretty important. If you wear glasses, that means having to run while wearing them, which can be a bit tricky and even inconvenient.

Treat Your Lenses

No one wants glasses to get foggy. Fogging is caused by the difference in temperature from the air around your glasses and the lenses themselves.

There are a variety of defogging products on the market. The best ones are usually those that have been designed to be used on the inside of motorcycle helmets or safety goggles.

If you don’t want to spend money on defogging products, one trick is to smear shampoo or cleaning fluid on the lenses to prevent them from fogging while you’re running. However, it’s probably best to try this out on an old or spare pair first. Luckily, if you shop online at sites like, you can get new frames and lenses without having to pay much, which means you can afford to try this hack on your old pair without needing to worry.

Choose Appropriate Headgear

Another excellent way to stop problems with your glasses when running is to pick the right headgear to wear along with them. Baseball caps are incredibly useful, because they both shield your eyes from the glare of the sun and provide protection from rain on your lenses. You can even get some rain-resistant sports caps that will keep your head and your glasses dry.

If you tend to get hot, a cap could mean that the extra heat generated from your head fogs up your glasses. Some runners choose to use visors instead of caps so the crown of your head is uncovered to dissipate excess heat, but your eyes and glasses are protected from the rain and sun.

Consider Contacts

Instead of wearng glasses when you run, you can wear contact lenses. Of course, the prime concern with contacts is avoiding infection when you put them in and take them out, something you may not always have control over during a race. According to, if you get an infection in your eye from wearing contacts, it can be hazardous to your eye health. To avoid this problem, you can use disposable contacts and throw them out after your race.

Laser Eye Surgery

Lastly, another option for the bespectacled runner to consider is laser eye surgery, during which a precision laser is used to reshape the cornea. Laser eye surgery can help rectify minor problems, such as short-sightedness, making running and other physical activities much more manageable.

This option is a somewhat more painful choice in the short term, both to your eyes and to your wallet. However, recovery time for laser eye surgery is quick. After a few days, you can expect your sight to be significantly better, and you won’t need to wear glasses when running… or at any other time.
© Copyright 2021