Put yourself on a training plan to meet your goals

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).


Pre-competitive phase:

  • 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.

Competitive phase:

  • 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.

Transition/recovery phase:

  • 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 monsterfit@live.com or www.monsterfit.com.