If there is one element of training that has a positive influence on everyone regardless of your goal it's organization and planning, this is what is referred to as periodization.
Why do we periodize our training? Periodization is most strongly associated with strength and conditioning which to simplify is sport specific gym work. Although originating in sports there is much you can learn and apply to your own training - you needn't be a budding Olympian! Being more organized in your training and knowing exactly what you're targeting in any given phase will help you achieve the following:
- Stay injury free
Nothing stops you reaching your goals like an injury. By making sure your training is more measured you're less likely to accumulate too much load on your body, it's common for people to just lift and lift and lift until they either are too fatigued or have too many injuries to progress. When the body is stressed it doesn't perform movements with the same efficiency and as such it's easy to pick up injuries doing the most mundane actions. Having a measured plan helps you target big weeks and build weeks to accommodate your recovery.
- Compare your training month by month, week by week
Ever wondered why you're just not making gains? Without having a structured plan it's difficult to know if you really are getting anywhere - by having previous months plans to look back on you can see whether you're lifting more weight or running faster than in the same phase of your training in a previous block.
- Identify areas for improvement
Often we tend to emphasize the areas of our training that we find easy or look good to the eye, hence why you see a lot of people very top heavy in the gym or one that spend hours doing abs! When you physically write down your training and compare how much time you have dedicated to each part of your fitness these imbalances become more obvious. We'll be coming on to exactly why it's important to have symmetry in your training in a future blog but its a as simple as this - without working on out weaknesses your strengths will never be as strong as they could be, so be patient and put in the hard work.
- Cross-reference your training with your lifestyle
To achieve your goals it takes a lot of focus and dedication but sometimes life gets in the way. If you know that the last week of any given block of training will take a week of eating, sleeping and training perfectly then you'll make your life a lot easier if you clear the social calendar. Likewise if you know you have a big celebration or a holiday booked you should tailor your training so that these weeks become "down" weeks so they disrupt your training less.
So how should you plan your training?
The most simple way of planning is to go month by month. In this format you might break it down into:
2 weeks build
1 week heavy
1 week Recovery
Each month you should be aiming for around a 5% improvement in any given exercise - those of you who have a wealth of experience may plateau more than the next but this is ok - you can still use this model but just bear in mind your months may look very similar. Regardless though, you should still incrementally increase the load on your body before allowing a week to absorb the training - rest and grow!
Now, this is a very simple approach to training so please bear in mind that of course you can have longer or shorter blocks of training, you can also have extra build weeks and shorter recovery weeks (reduced to a few days). But organizing your training in is way is a learning process and you'll soon discover which format works best for your body - we are all different and thrive under different training models.
- Guaranteed gains
- Injury reduction
- Monitoring and assessment
- Increased efficiency
- Data comparison
- Reasoning to back up your methods