by Coach Steve

Periodization is workout scheduling for distinct training loads with the intent of stressing the body, then recovering within specific intervals. This specific scheduling can have either a short-term in-season focus, or a long-term whole season overview. Through alternating periods of high stress training and active recovery, we can control peak fitness levels over time, getting to race day at our best then recovering fully afterward. Challenging aerobic training initiates physiological adaptation to a higher level of fitness; easier training periods allow us time to adapt to those higher levels and recharge mentally. Any athlete who’s experienced what happens after too many high-intensity training and/or racing days understands the necessity of low-intensity AR (active recovery) training.

When being at your best on race day is the goal, timing is everything.

For many of us who would overdo it otherwise, the value of periodization is to plan easy weeks for mandatory active recovery. In week-to-week scheduling: A common pattern is 3 weeks of consistent training, followed by an easy week with maybe 50% of the previous weeks’ training time. In terms of a whole season, your training should be adjusted for off-season recovery, and an in-season push to peak fitness.

Most of the athletes I coach have demanding full-time jobs and families. The unlimited training time options of a professional athlete don’t apply to them.

Structured periodization for these athletes is often impractical when work and family responsibilities get in the way. When a time or travel-limited training week can be considered an easy week, it fits perfectly.

So ‘periodization by life’ is working with the requirements of your non-training time schedule rather than taking workouts as inflexible and top priority. This can go far to assuage the boss at work or family at home (right, sometimes the ‘boss’ is at home). In fact sometimes both ‘life’ and training can be in sync. Perhaps you can schedule that business trip for the week after your target race, when you really don’t feel much like training anyway as you recover and recharge. Maybe that family trip over the holidays during the Christmas/New Years week is a good time to take a few days totally off and heal that nagging injury…

Some coaches are flexible and able to work with this type of scheduling, some not. When I help athletes plan their season my goal is to create a schedule they can really complete, not one that’s more suited for a professional athlete.

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