Periodization of training

What is periodization of training?

Periodization has been used more than 100 years within endurance sports. All coaches/trainers (with a good success rate) that I know about have been working with some form of periodization for their athletes. Similarly, all athletes with a certain degree of success have been doin periodization.

Wikipedia: “Periodization is the systematic planning of athletic or physical training. The aim is to reach the best possible performance in the most important competition of the year. It involves progressive cycling of various aspects of a training program during a specific period. Conditioning programs can use periodization to break up the training program into the off-season, preseason, inseason, and the postseason. Periodization divides the year round condition program into phases of training which focus on different goals.

Why periodization of training?

One simple answer is: In order to not stagnate. To stagnate means that you reach a certain level with the existing training setup, and after a while there is no more progress. Why does progress stop this way? All training is a matter of adaption to higher and higher levels (steady progression). If you are doing the same setup of training, with the same load, year after year, the body will at a certain point not adapt to a higher level. We become good to this certain point, but no further progress from this.

Periodization means that you develop specific skills in certain periods. I have very good experience myself from this. I performed what we call A-A-B. This means that in the A weeks I had two hard weeks with a high amount of training (but not more than 2 – 2½ hard session per week out of 13-14 sessions)- In the B weeks I reeduced the training load to 50% of this, but I kept the intense sessions at the same level as in the A weeks.

My experience was then that I could train a lot and quite hard for a period, followed by a period with less and not so hard training. In the next period after this, I could add more volume of training and increase the quality as well. This was a good method for me to avoid getting overtrained, since after to weeks of hard training there was a week of “resting” with only 6-7 sessions.

What are the benefits and risks with periodization?

Let there be no doubt that hard to extremely hard training will the highest “payback”, but this is also the type of training with the highest risk. Unfortunately, the biggest obstacle for positive development over time by training hard, is injuries and getting ill. Hard traing increases the risk for both. Any good training program should contain elements of alternative training, whatever kind of sorts you are doing. I used myself a lot of cross country skiing as alternative endurance training during my career as the best female long distance runner in the world, because it was good training in itself and less exposed to injuries.

Some general principles of periodization

1 All periodization goes from general to specific.

2 The periods are founded on a gradual adaption to a higher load (intensity and amount).

3 The training is made more and more interesting during the year, which makes it easier to keep focus on the important issues in the differerent periods. This helped me to stay focused on the tasks that were important to perform during the course in order to reach the big GOAL.

4 “2:1” are common within the periods. This means that you have 2 weeks with a quite high load, followed by a week with less load (ref. the A-A-B I mentioned above). If you view this over a 12 weeks period, you will then have 8 hard and 4 easy weeks. Then you shall notice and be aware of the fact that it is actually during the B weeks you will feel most tired. This is because it is in this period that the body “digests” and recovers from the hard training in the A weeks.

5 You may call the different training periods whatever you want, but here are some common examples of terms for these periods:

      a)  Adaption period (Adaption)
      b)  Resource period (Basis)
      c)   Resource period (Build)
      d)  Preparation for competition (Tapering)
      e)  Competition period (Competition)
      f)  Active relaxation period (Recovery)

The periods

1 Adaption: 1-4 weeks. Learn and train on basic training skills. Low intensity, relatively high volume and varied types of training.

2 Basis: 8-16 weeks. The goal for this is to increase basic skills within endurance, aerobic capacity and technique, but not too much strength training (easy circuit training is sufficient for runners). The highest volume of training during the whole season should be towards the end of the basis period. The tecnique training will work best when the the load is not too high (not so high pulse, should not be above the threshold pulse)

3 Build: This may be a long period, depending on the setup during the Basis period. The volume should be somewhat lower. This is the period when many get overtrained. The focus should be on building the foundation for competition and not on the volume.

4 Tapering: It is quite common with a two week period for this. Then the volume is reeduced and the intensity increased. Intervals should be shorter. This is the phase that will release the desired fitness level.

5 Competition: Your performance level will be shown on the result list. We are talking about the important competition. It is not accidents or misfortune that will decide the result – it is YOU!

6 The season is finished: Well deserved relaxation and recovery period. Stay active, but be relaxed and do not follow any program.

Good luck!

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