Saturday, October 5, 2013

Periodization and Training Plans

The old saying that "Those who fail to plan, plan to fail" hold try for runners.  Or you might say that those who fail to plan, plan to be mediocre.  While we all follow the same "laws" of exercise science, we all respond, recover from, and make adaptions differently to various types of stimulus.  Each season should be approached as a sort of science experiment.  When I first started coaching I would come up with my "perfect" plan every season, and when I didn't get the result or outcome I had planned on, I would blame someone or something else.  But that's now how experiments work.  You can't plan on or expect a certain outcome.  You can hope, but it may take several seasons to get it right.  At the end of each season one needs to look back and evaluate and try to guess what went wrong, what went right, why, and what could maybe have  been done differently.  Each season is clean slate to either make adjustments (a year with a big race) or start over and try a completely different approach (Maybe a year when the athlete is at the bottom of their age group).  The end goal being to have everything fine tuned by say the senior year of HS or college.  Don't be afraid to have a few bad races or even a bad season in order to try something new or different.  Remember it's a science experiment, not to prove what you know, but to see what kind of results you get.
To really reach their potential, each athlete needs their own tailored training plan.  In order to keep track of what they've actually done and be able to evaluate the results, they need to keep a detailed training log.  All you need is a cheap calendar. Write out your training in your calendar.   You'll have to tweak it and make adjustments as you go.  Write in pencil so you can erase and write what you actually did.  Write down times, how you felt, and total mileage, etc.  Monitor weight (often) and height (once a month).
Now what is periodization and why bother?  To periodize a training plan is to break up your season into different phases or building blocks and to sequence the phases or stack the blocks in an order that makes sense and that is not counter productive.  For example:  In order to build his aerobic capacity a distance runner needs to put in a lot of slower, easy miles.  Because aerobic capacity can be maintained to a certain extent while cutting miles in order to do more intense  workouts, and because a lot of long slow running can have negative effect on a runners speed, it makes more sense to put in the high mileage at the beggining of the season.  Hill reps improve speed and muscle recruitment, but can leave you tired and sluggish.  Therefore it makes sense to focus on those before the main competition phase of your season, but not so much while putting in a lot of miles, because as we all know, if you increase the intensity, you have to lower the quantity.  There are some very easy to follow concepts and recommendations on this matter in Jack Daniel’s “Running Formula.”

Generally Training run from long to short.  This falls into my distance running paradigm.  I believe that you’ll avoid injury better by starting easy and slowly increasing intensity as you reduce volume.  However, there are many good sprinting programs that focus on speed first, and being able to maintain speed later.  That is after all what makes a good sprinter, being able to acclerate fast, and then maintain that that speed till the finish line.
For those new to the idea of breaking your training plan up into different periods that build on each other, there are some very easy principals to follow in Jack Daniel’s “Running Formula.”  He sets 24 weeks as an ideal training period and gives some ideas on how to shorten it if you don’t have that luxery.  I like a little more time than he recommends for phase 1 (depending on the goal mileage that the athlete needs to build up to), and I like to add on a 1-3 week tapering phase that tends to shorten phases 2-4 slightly.  Keep in mind that his book is aimed primarily at distance runners.  Below are some links that will give you some ideas on how to go about writing a plan for an athlete focused more on the sprinting events.   

Different Models
Why Periodize
Linear vs. Non-Linear Periodization
Periodization for Sprinters
Examples from various sports

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