Periodization is defined by USA Track & Field as “The process of planning training in order to produce high levels of performance at designated times. There are three major concepts associated with the process of periodization:
1. Periodization and Planning. Planning is perhaps the most important step in insuring the effectiveness of the training program. Planning enables control of training variables and parameters in a manner that guarantees the best chance for success.
2. Periodization and Record Keeping. Record keeping is another crucial part of the periodization process. This enables monitoring of training loads accurately, and modification of training from season to season and year to year.
3. Periodization and Peaking. Peaking refers to designing training so that the best performances come at the most crucial competitions.”
When establishing a training year it is necessary to identify the most important competitions of the season and the peak requirements of you, the athlete. Reverse-engineering your season (or working backwards from the end of the season to the beginning) allows you to arrange periods, mesocycles, microcycles, and sessions using peak requirements as the season-end goal. So, to plan your season you need to understand the above terms. A session would make up what you are doing for a given training session or practice. A microcycle is usually based on a given week, or a 7-10 day cycle of training. A mesocycle is most commonly a 4 week cycle of training composed of 3 to 4 microcycles. A period is divided into one of several categories: Off-season or General Prep, Pre-season or Specific Prep, Early-season or Precompetition, and Late-season or Competiton & Peaking, and can contain multiple mesocycles.
Plan your season by targeting your important competitions to coincide with your athletic peak. The advice of an experienced coach can go a long way here, as planning so far in advance requires the understanding of how all training and regeneration factors interplay within a season and given sport. Each training period should build on the previous period, and each mesocycle should build on the previous mesocycle. Within each microcycle and training session there is a need for training variance to allow for adequate regeneration. An example of an established method for planning a mesocycle (or training month) would be placing the training load for the 4 microcycles (or training weeks) at 1.High – 2.Medium – 3.Very High – 4.Low. This would allow for a reduction in training load in week 4 (to deepen regeneration) and a return to a higher level of sport fitness in the following micro- and mesocycle.
Use of this Manual – specifically of the Training Log – will allow analysis of your periodized plan both during and after your season to help eliminate overtraining, undertraining, and inconsistent performances. There are no textbook answers for solving all of the variances and problems that arise in training, but access to past performances along with a detailed training log will go a long way in determining your course in the future.
Timing peak athletic condition to coincide with the most important competitions can be difficult. It is precisely this reason that the Training Log and all its detail follows – to give you the complete set of tools to achieve peak performance when the most important competitions are at hand. Use the Training Log at the very least during your peaking phase, in order to understand and document how all of your previous training and regeneration efforts influenced your most important competitions.
- by John Coffman, FasterSwimming.com Contributing Writer