What Is Periodised Training?

When you start your journey in training and racing in a sport with seasonal competition periods, it is important to understand why you are training the way you are. When you set a race goal, you need to arrive on the start line with the correct balance of endurance, strength, power and speed for you to perform at your best. This is where a periodised training program will give you the edge over your competitors.

With a periodised program, you are able to create a pathway which considers the organisation of a weekly sessions, all the way out to structuring a whole lifestyle around the energetic and economic demands required of your body and mind.

It is not uncommon to see new athletes jump into a group situation and attempt to follow the athletes around them. Trying to emulate what others are doing in each session is not only unwise, but it also increases the risk of injury. Everyone within a squad such as Davey Black Triathlon that individualises training plans for their athletes will have planned and structured goals for each athlete. While group training is maintained to increase motivation, each athlete will have their own set targets for speed, distance and duration of each set, each week, each month, and each year. This is where periodisation becomes important. It all comes down to the art and science of modifying the individual’s variables around training to enhance the results from training while keeping it safe.

To better understand what periodisation is and how it influences the way we train, it is important to understand some basic terms. When you see your training program, think of it in 3 phases:

Microcycle

This cycle is composed of around 1 week of training. It is normally structured around the athlete’s requirements and their personal and professional life. Here is where athletes and coaches organise their daily routine and consider the training hours and days around other external responsibilities.

Mesocycle

This is normally composed of 4 to 6 weeks’ worth of microcycles. A mesocycle is focussed on a specific physiological element such as endurance, speed, strength etc. This always includes an adaptive phase of recovery.

Macrocycle

A macrocycle is the big picture for the athlete. It is generally comprised of a 12–24-month plan but can be as long as a 4-year plan for some athletes with long term goals. By visualising a macrocycle of this nature, it becomes clearer why there are some months of the year where the training tends to feel longer and some other months where shorter speed sessions are the main focus.

The big question that comes to our Melbourne triathlon coaches on a regular basis is how does a training program fit into an athletes’ day to day life? The answer is that it needs to consider two factors. First is designing a training program around an athletes work, family and social schedule. The second is considering how energy levels can fluctuate depending on the program phase. Together with your coach, family and employees, you can adapt a periodised program within your life and embrace a healthy lifestyle around your personal and athletic objectives.

Now that you understand the importance of periodisation in training, you now need to learn how to incorporate this into your daily routine. The first step is to create a goal. You can read more about goal setting here; Goal Setting For Your Season | Davey Black Triathlon. Then start breaking your plan into an organised timeline. You will see how the big picture Macrocycle divides into monthly objectives mesocycles made up of microcycle sessions. It is always advisable to ask a coach to create these types of plans and discuss it with them, this way you will have peace of mind knowing that you are going in the right direction.

Something else that needs to be considered is your body’s muscular adaption and mindset through the different phases of your program. Listening to the different signs and warnings that your body throws at you. Even the most detailed plans run the risk of not being 100% perfect due to different factors such as a body that fails to adapt due to not having enough sleep, too much stress, not eating properly, etc. Following the signs your body gives you is crucial to know how well your body is coping with the program. If you start feeling any deviation from normal, it is important to slow down, check in with your coach and discuss if you need to give yourself a few days to rest and recover. some of the signs to consider are listed below;

Physical signs of fatigue:

  • Feeling continuously tired.
  • Lack of appetite
  • Low blood pressure
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Craving of sugar

Emotional signs of fatigue:

  • Irritability
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Anxiety
  • Nervousness
  • Mild Depression

Periodisation is not just applicable to training itself, but a life lesson that embraces all the areas of life. It teaches us to follow a plan and stick to it, understanding that there are moments where we are expected to push beyond the struggle and some other moments when we need to allow our body and mind to rest and recover. The philosophy behind this also helps us understand the importance of following our own path, because trying to emulate someone else’s path will only take us to failure or harm.

“Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.” – Arthur Ashe

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