What is periodisation?

Telescope on Map

Periodisation is the way of taking everything you have learned about exercise technique, and weaving it into a usable training program. It is an effective way to plan for a long term goal. Even if you do not have goal in mind, it is important to use a constantly evolving program. This will keep you from getting bored and it stops you from stagnating in fitness and strength gains.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results – Rita Mae Brown (Sudden Death, 1983)

Every life form on Earth constantly adapts to the world around it. Evolution is a slow process where small daily changes add up over the millennia and result in major adaptation. All creatures will attempt to find food, shelter and a mating partner in easier or more effective ways. Daily adaptations are a result of environmental factors like food availability, temperature, competition for resources or natural disasters. Anything to which we are routinely subjected will elicit a conditioned response. People who swim from a young age develop broader shoulders than those who do not. Children who are not fed correctly will grow into smaller adults. This is a response to allow the body to require less fuel, as is dictated by the environment.

It is foolish to think that this kind of adaptation will not happen in response to physical exercise. A regular and repeated program will result in your body becoming extremely efficient in that task. It will require less thought and energy to do a specific task. Therefore if you want to continue improving then your exercise program needs to change.

An adaptive training program requires 3 elements that can change as your training progresses. These elements are:

  • Intensity: It refers to the amount of effort expended over a set period of time. This is limited by the zone you need to work in for each specific sport.
  • Volume: The amount of work completed over time. You can only do so much work before the body breaks down and doesn’t recover properly. When you reach your limit you will be injuring yourself and not achieving results.
  • Frequency: How often you train. There is a limit on time, even most professional athletes do not exceed 18 sessions per week.

We utilize these three elements to overload the body with work. The body will become fatigued then adapt and reach a period of overcompensation if sufficient recovery is given. Then a more challenging workload can be given and the body will adapt again. This is how training works. Periodisation is planning these peaks and valleys to time in with a specific event. The idea is to compete at the peak of a super-compensation period, a point when the body is rested enough to perform but not so rested that the physical conditioning is starting to atrophy.

Peaking too soon or too late can have detrimental effects on your performance in competition. Training that is insufficient will not prepare you for the event. However training that is excessive can actually lead to losses in physical conditioning.

Signs of overtraining are:

  • Persistent unexplained decrease in performance
  • Need for longer and longer recovery time
  • Reduced maximal heart rate
  • Reduced blood lactate
  • Increased sleeping heart rate
  • Heavy muscles / subjective soreness complaints
  • Susceptibility for illnesses / infections
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Changes in appetite
  • Depression
  • Anxiety / irritation
  • Decreased appetite

You can see the need to correctly plan your training program in advance if you are wishing to compete at your best. Balancing frequency, volume and intensity is the key to creating an exciting program that also gives you better results.

– Katherine Harvey (6 August, 2013. 4:26pm)


6 thoughts on “What is periodisation?

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