A great way to achieve maximal results and avoid overuse injuries is to periodize your training. Periodizing (or planned fitness training) means to strategically develop your training plan to include periods of time with more rest and periods of time with maximal effort with the intention of peaking your performance for a specific goal. Periodization places variety into a training program at regularly planned periods of time (weeks, months, and so forth) to produce optimal physical adaptation. It involves two primary objectives:
1. Dividing the training program into distinct periods (or phases) of training.
2. Training different forms of strength in each period (or phase) to control the volume of training and to prevent injury.
Your training program should be organized into a training plan that involves long-term and short-term planning. The long term plan is also known as an annual plan whereas the short-term plans are termed monthly and weekly plans. By providing a training plan, you will be able to see the future achievement and if your goals are met in a timely, organized fashion.
An annual plan organizes the training program for a 1-year period. The annual plan provides you with a blueprint (or map) that specifically shows how the training program will progress for the long term, from month-to-month, to meet the desired goal. This gives you a clear representation of your goals and how long it takes to get there.
Periodizing encourages the repeated use of different forms of training (ex. stabilization, strength, power, agility, endurance) at specific times in an annual training program to elicit different adaptations in the body. By intentionally cycling through different periods (or phases) of training you are allowing maximal levels of adaptation, while minimizing overtraining. This is a primary benefit of periodization, because overtraining will lead to fatigue and eventually injury.
The 4 main phases of periodized training are:
1.) Base – working on building a strong core/foundation
2.) Prepatory – training to train
3.) Build – training with an increased effort
4.) Peak and Taper – maintain, back off of volume of training, rest up for key event/season.
If you love to push your body and recovery is the hardest part of your training you may need to back off and rest. The problem is that if you do not take enough rest your body won’t adapt to the stress of your training and you won’t get stronger or faster. If you neglect recovery for too long you will start to lose strength and speed and you will sink into the black hole known as overtraining.
First, your sleep patterns and energy levels will feel the effects. Eventually, your immune system crashes and you lose your appetite. It’s like burning out your engine. Any you don’t have to be logging 100-mile running weeks to suffer. With deadlines, chores, bills, kids, and lack of sleep its more challenging to recover properly from your training.
Resting allows soft tissue such as muscles, tendons and ligaments to heal any microtraumas that occurred from training previously. Resting also helps to restore muscle glycogen levels so that your stores of energy fully replenish so that when you are at the day of competition you are at 110%. This helps to improve times and personal records so that game day you will be at your peak performance.
Pay attention to the following 10 markers. If three or more of these indicators raise a red flag, you should consider a few easy sessions or off days so you can return to training strong.
1. BODY MASS – You lost weight from yesterday
A two percent drop in weight from one day to the next indicates a body-fluid fluctuation. Most likely, you didn’t hydrate enough during or after your last workout. Dehydration negatively impacts both physical and mental performance, and could compromise the quality of your next workout.
2. RESTING HEART RATE – Your resting heart rate is elevated
Take your pulse each morning before you get out of bed to find what’s normal for you. An elevated resting heart rate is one sign of stress. It means your nervous system is prepared for fight or flight by releasing hormones that sped up your heart to move more oxygen to the muscles and brain. Your body won’t know the difference between physical and psychological stress. A hard training day and a hard day at work both require extra recovery.
3. SLEEP – You didn’t sleep well enough
A pattern of consistently good sleep will give you a boost of growth hormones, which are great for rebuilding muscle fibers. Several nights in a row of bad sleep will decrease reaction time along with immune, motor, and cognitive functions – not a good combination for a workout. Make sure to sleep with the lights and television off if you’re not scared of the dark. It increases melatonin levels which helps recovery as well. (read to see some benefits of melatonin: http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2007/jun2007_nu_melatonin_01.htm)
4. HYDRATION - Your pee is dark yellow
This can be an indicator of dehydration, barring the consumption of vitamins, supplements, or certain foods the evening before. The darker the color, the more you’re struggling to retain fluids, because there’s not enough to go around. You need water to operate.
5. ENERGY LEVEL – You’re run down
If your energy level is low, there’s something amiss. The key is honesty. Athletes can block out signs of fatigue to push through it, thinking it will make them stronger. It won’t always work that way.
6. MOOD STATE – You’re cranky
When your body is overwhelmed by training (or other stressors), it produces hormones like cortisol that can cause irritability or anxiety. Stress also halts chemicals like dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain that has a big bummer effect on mood when depleted. Crankiness probably means not enough recovery.
7. WELLNESS – You’re sick
Any illness, or even a woman’s menstrual cycle, will increase your need for energy to refuel your immune system, which is having to work overtime. This means fewer resources available for recovering from training.
8. PAIN – You’re sore or nursing an injury
Whether you’re sore from overworked muscles or an injury, your body needs more energy to put toward repair, lengthening total recovery time.
9. PERFORMANCE – Your workout went poorly.
This is a subjective measure of workout quality, not quantity or intensity. If you felt great on yesterdays workout you’d evaluate that as good. If you felt sluggish on that same workout, you’d count it as poor. Trending workout quality – multiple poors in a row – is one of the easiest ways to identify the need for more recovery
10. OXYGEN SATURATION – Your oxygen level has dipped
The amount of oxygen in the hemoglobin of the red blood cells can be measured by placing your fingertip in a portable pulse oximeter, a gadget available online for about $40. The higher the percentage, the better: Above 95 percent is the norm at sea level or for an athlete who is fully acclimated to a given altitude. This is a new area in recovery science, requiring more research, but there may be a link between low oxygen saturation and the need for more recovery.