Periodization, Computer Print Out Or Seasonal?

After you have been training, and presumably with a purpose, you will need to periodize after a period of time, hence the name. But how do you do this? The old Soviets, sure people my age remember them — Cold War, the “Evil Empire” as described by President Ronald Reagan and the spectre of thermonuclear war, with ominous mushroom clouds raining radioactive fallout looming on the horizon, did give us in the athletic and fitness profession something absolutely wonderful — Periodization. This is how you train over long periods of time, with strategic breaks and shifts in volume and intensity, enabling you to get through performance plateaus and shatter glass ceilings, to do even better, whether your goal is to get in those skinny jeans by losing weight in a healthy manner, run faster, be ready for ski season or set new lifting PRs.

When you have one type or modality of exercise, you can expect linear progression, with reasonable precision. This is for the athlete, who sees them self as a specific type of athlete; a runner, weightlifter or a cyclist for examples. This is an identity issue for them. You ask them what do they do for exercise and they tell you, “I am a distance runner.” Regardless of the exercise, (I am not talking about shuffleboard, frisbee golf, darts and billiards, as these activities do not rise to the levels of exertion associated with exercise), over a period of time, your body will adjust to the prevailing intensity and volume of your exercise and your conditioning will go down. Before that happens, you should sharpen your efforts, and then cut way back, possibly to doing almost nothing for a few days. “Almost” doesn’t mean absolutely nothing. Then after a week, maybe even two weeks, you can increase the volume, or distance of whatever you were doing before. What happens during this down time is, a resetting of your glands, skeleton and organ systems. They lag behind cardio/pulmonary capacity or muscular strength. Computer print outs work well in single modality exercise programs, but can’t be “perfect,” except by accident. Chronic lack of sleep, recovery, holiday partying and the Standard American Diet (SAD) can derail the program, as can social environmental stress. Timing isn’t like a due date or an expiration date. Being aware of your biorhythms is critical. I no longer periodize by computer print out, any of my clients or myself.

Now what happens if you have multiple exercise modalities? Well in brief, this generally means a longer period of time before the need to periodize occurs. So if you are cycling, in a basketball rec. league and weight lifting and pushing yourself hard in all three, you can go longer between dips in intensity and volume, but you still must periodize, if you want to get better. When there are multiple exercise modalities, I choose seasonal periodization with faster speed power movements in the summer, and slower strength along with cardio/pulmonary movements in the winter time.

On specific days, a relatively warm winter day for example, you are not going to get your track spikes out for 100M sprints, but you might consider doing 400M to 800M runs or olympic lifts. On relatively cool summer days, when you might be regularly doing 100M sprints, you might shift to 300M to 400M sprints or a classic power lifting circuit.

Finally, I always ask how well did you sleep, what did you eat/drink, how about your stress? With the passage of time, I can tell along with seasonal changes when it is time to shift to doing less and sometimes doing something completely different. Remember, periodize before you begin a decline. The longer you push past the point of decline the more likely injuries (that’ll stop you!) will happen and you have to stop from overtraining.

At long last I can thank those Commies for something, if not their economics!

Edward Troy


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