Overtraining – What is Periodization and How to use it
Overtraining is common amongst individuals new to a certain type of sport/exercise regime. New individuals become very motivated in the beginning and, perhaps, become too diligent. How do you prevent yourself from overtraining? The key is training periodization.
Periodization is essentially a concept one uses when developing their training program to prevent overtraining whilst at the same time promoting optimal performance. It involves the incorporation of training cycles. The concept of periodization was designed to prevent adaptation to training (this is where the body gets used to the training protocol).
Adaptation occurs in 3 phases.
The first phase is called the “Shock” phase where the body has not experienced this sort of stimulus before. This generally lasts 3 to 4 weeks.
Phase 2 is the compensation phase, where the body physiologically adapts to the new training (it adapts by the growth of muscle, improvement of cardiovascular system etc.). This phase continues until the individual reaches their goal.
Phase 3 is the phase which is to be avoided. This is when the person becomes stale and exhausted. Periodization aids in preventing phase 3.
How do you periodize your training?
The first concept to be introduced is macrocycling. This refers to the whole training period (i.e., preparing for a marathon in 6 months). During the period laid out for the macrocycle you will then need to incorporate mesocycles. Mesocycles last from a few weeks to a few months. Within these mesocycles are microcycles which are 1 week in duration. During Microcycles you focus on a specific type of exercise or training.
It has been suggested that macrocycles should consist of mesocycles that follow a pattern of various phases. There should be preparatory phase. In this phase there are multiple mesocycles that are designed to prepare you for whatever your goal is. This might be trying to gain strength, size, or certain aerobic abilities. Then there is the maintenance phase. This is where the individual attempts to maintain the gains that they accumulated in preparation for the competition or for whatever reason they chose to start the exercise program. The maintenance phases are similar to the preparatory phase. However, days of high intensity and low intensity should be alternated more frequently to avoid overtraining. Between phases, transition periods should be incorporated. This is a mesocycle or two where the individual detrains or actively rests. This is not abstaining from training or training itself. This is where the individual does low volume, lower intensity training to avoid overtraining. For example, a transition period should be incorporated once the individual is no longer recovering as well as they did previously or is not making progress (i.e., entering Phase 3 of adaption).
These concepts might seem confusing at first, but the principles are simple. To avoid overtraining and to continue making progress, periodization should be incorporated where a transition period or active rest is used strategically to promote better recovery.