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
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
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.