If you want success in life, you need a plan. Whether it’s wanting to retire at a certain age or finding the job of your dreams, having a plan is key.
The same holds true for fitness and athletics, a method that is referred to as periodization. This involves developing a long-term training plan that is structured with the goal of achieving peak conditioning in a specific time frame or by a certain date.
Periodized plans for athletes generally are 6-12 months to get players ready for the season. But for the weekend warrior or individual who wants to lose body fat, the same method can be used applied in a shorter time frame.
So how do you develop a periodized plan? Essentially by working backward from a target date. From there, we simply break training into phases and sub-phases leading up to that point. With periodization, training phases are divided into three categories: the preparatory phase, the competitive phase, and transition phase (active rest/recovery).
Of these phases, the preparatory and competitive phases are furtherbroken down into the sub-phases of general preparation, specific preparation, pre-competitive, and competitive phases.
Finally, each phase is broken down further into cycles: the macro cycle (6-12 months), meso cycles (2-6 weeks), and micro cycles (1 week).
Most of us aren’t paid professional athletes, but that’s not to suggest that we can’t benefit from a structured training regimen. Let’s say this is the year we want to train for a half-marathon or maybe we’re just looking to get in great shape by summer.
Here’s an outline to give you an idea how the process works.
General preparation (conditioning) phase:
- Lasts from two to three months.
- The goal is to develop “base conditioning” before adding high intensity (more resistance or cardio intervals).
- The focus is on adding more volume (sets/reps, longer duration) as fitness improves.
- Strength training should focus on technique and adaptation. Total-body exercises are used at two to three sets and repetitions usually ranging between 15 and 25 reps per exercise.
- Training aims to improve endurance, strength, flexibility and mobility.
- For experienced exercisers, correcting strength imbalances and specific faults are the primary goal. The focus for new exercisers should be skill acquisition.
- Cardiovascular conditioning is geared toward steady-state conditioning (between 60 and 70 percent of your maximum heart rate.)
Specific preparation phase:
- Lasts from one to two months and includes progressive increases in intensity training and specificity to activity.
- Volume is now secondary and is often slightly reduced as intensity increases.
- The strength training goal is to develop strength and power. Sets increase to three to four sets with reps ranging between 8 and 12 per exercise.
- Implementation of hard intervals and race-pace training for cardio conditioning (less than 70 percent of max heart rate).
- Lasts from one to two months before a season or event.
- The goal is to maintain fitness accumulated during preparatory phase.
- Training volume (sets/reps) is decreased to allow recovery and prevent exhaustion.
- Final phases of skill development are reached.
- From one to two practice events should be used to get a feel for the main event, such as a 10K race before the half-marathon.
- This is the primary season or event. The length of this phase depends on the activity or sport.
- It’s often separated by a one- to two-week recovery period to allow physical and psychological restbefore the main event.
- Intensity is kept high and volume low. Usually, from two to three weeks before an event is optimal to allow body to reach its peak.
- This takes place after the event or season. This phase usually lasts from four to five weeks before training resumes.
- Recovery should include recreational activity that is different from your usual training.
- It allows mental and physical rejuvenation before starting the next training plan.
Jason Wanlass, the owner of Monster Personal Training & Athletic Conditioning in Meridian, has more than 16 years experience in the fitness industry. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.monsterfit.com.