The principal of Periodization is well established for pro athletes and sportsmen, but it also works well for the rest of us.
Quite simply, Periodization involves changing your activities around depending on the time of year and the phase of your training cycle.
For professionals it is crucial to allow them to firstly develop a strength and endurance base, then add in the speed or skill refinement needed for competition.
For recreational athletes, Periodization has three main purposes:
- Helping you prepare for a race or event
- Plateau busting (getting you moving again when you've become 'stuck' in your training)
- Maintaining interest in your workouts
So how do you know if you've hit a plateau? There are several clues:
- No progress - this is obvious with weight training, but less obvious for CV or general fitness unless you regularly test yourself.
So how can you build change into your program? There's various ways of doing so. With weight training, typical periodization involves cycling between periods of low rep, heavy weight training and phases where you focus on lower weights and higher reps. These cycles can be as short as two weeks, as long as three months.
For cardio training, the main variables that people play with are quantity (mileage) and speed. Again, a typical program would involve a period of low intensity, high mileage training to build a base, then gradual introduction of more speed sessions (intervals of various kinds) as the racing season approaches.
For recreational athletes, one of the easiest ways to periodise your training is by the seasons - quite simply, you do different workouts in the winter than the summer. Winter might find you emphasising more gym work, with long, slow paced cardio sessions, while as the weather improves you would reduce the gym work, speed up your cardio, and add some outdoor sports activities.
By constantly varying your training in this way, you reduce the risk of injury keep making progress, and keep your mind fresh.