For training programs to be effective there has to be a methodology to the overall program. Call it a big picture if you will and we label this processes periodization.
A well-organized program focuses on different components of overall fitness during different periods – macrocycles, microcycles, and mesocycles. The four phases of training – endurance, stamina, economy and speed fit within these periods. Each of these phases builds on the previous phase.
Endurance is built during your base phase of training and prepares the muscles and cardiovascular system for more intense workloads. Stamina follows endurance and during this phase you are preparing the body for more intensity and duration of activity. Economy focuses on doing more work more efficient and the final phase, speed, is increasing the intensity to move the body faster, once endurance, stamina and economy have been developed.
While all four phases are important, the timing of how they are done, increasing work load followed by recovery time are very important. The goal is to peek fitness to its maximize right before an major race or event. This is accomplished through the various cycles according to Roy Benson and Declan Connolly.
A macrocycle in a six-month training program might comprise of 12 weeks of simple, low-intensity aerobic conditioning designed to build an endurance base.
Microcycles are shorter periods with an increased focus on another aspect of fitness. In a six-month training program in which the first 12 week are a macrocycle, two microcycles of four weeks each might follow. These microcycles might focus on speed work, hill work, tempo runs or flexibility.
Mesocycles are the final part of the periodization process. These are individual sessions designed to address another particular component or skill. A mesocycle for a distance runner might focus on pacing, tempo running or mechanics. For a swimmer it might focus on stroke technique. Specialization and specific skills are targeted during mesocycles.
The use of periodization forces you to consider in detail the type of adaptations you are looking for during a particular phase of your training program. It forces you to have an organized plan for your “A” or major events and schedule your activity accordingly.
Where many people get into trouble is scheduling a bunch of races each year while trying to do them all without an organized plan. This either leads to injury form over use or worse, a “flat” training program that does not produce the fitness or results desired.
As an example, I have two “A” races this year, (one in January and one in October) where I will have peak fitness and three “C” races where I will be somewhere in a macrocycle. I will use the three “C” races to build endurance and practice specification in preparation for my “A” race in October.
Periodization in the form of stress, rest, recovery and specialization are important for anyone looking to improve their fitness and event success.
HERE’S TO BEING FIT FOR LIFE! Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer, USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach, Group Exercise Instructor, exercise and endurance enthusiast. He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and other endurance events.