Training Principles Part 5: Periodization
As a side note my book “Faster as a Master” will be available electronically (Amazon Kindle, iTunes) in a few days. The print version in a couple of weeks. I will announce here and on my website when you can order the print version from me or when downloads will be available. Thank you for your patience, this process is longer than I imagined.
Periodization is like a flight of stairs. The first level—which can be equated to any workload and any exercise—is the first step. Let’s take the example of sit-ups. I can start out by doing so many of a certain type. Let’s say that I am doing sit-ups twice a week. I keep track of the type of sit-ups and how many. The next week I increase the sit-ups. I can increase the sit-ups by a number of ways: I can increase the number I do by adding to a set or adding another set; I can decrease the rest time between sets; I can change the difficulty of sit-up to one that is inclined or one that incorporates weights. The important thing is to increase each week.
At a certain point we reach a plateau. Then it is important to change. I need rest and have to back off the intensity and volume for a couple of weeks. By just going through the motions for about a week, we are healing from the intense work. Then I can start to increase again. Now I can start up again just below where I took the break. By repeating this process of increasing, then easy, then increasing again, I become better and stronger overall in the long run and less prone to burnout and injury.
The concept of periodization also applies to the larger training cycle of a season and peak performance for a race. I train very hard so that I break down and rebuild stronger. This cycle can be used to achieve peak performance for a certain event. Approaching the important competition, I will cut down the volume of my work but maintain the intensity. By doing a lot more recovery and rest, I can approach the starting line rested and ready to push at maximum capacity. The length of the tapering of volume prior to the competition is usually in direct relation to the length of hard training leading up to the competition. I have found it is better to have too long a rest than not enough.
The concept of tapering training volume and intensity was foreign to me when I was young. That was why I burned out at age 19 and was unable to compete at the level I had trained and prepared for. I believed that the person who trained the hardest would win. I put everything I had into training all the way up to the competition with no rest. I was so tired that my technique suffered and my muscles were worn out, so I could not skate well at all. Now I know very well what the concept of tapering is and how to use it. Now I use the periodization process and tapering, and I plan my training to the utmost benefit.
Age is also a variable where tapering is concerned. My ability to recover is not as fast as that of younger skaters, so my taper must be a little longer. As I age, I have realized I can keep up with the younger skaters if I give myself a longer rest.
The whole idea of tapering for a major competition is that I should approach the starting line feeling totally rested and ready to go. In fact, compared to the training volume and intensity I maintained as a young man, I should feel like I am lazy and out of shape. That is when I race my fastest. A great deal of science supports all of this, and my own experience bears it out.