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The Fitness Zone

Using Periodisation
October 16, 2012 | by Annette Chatterton

Annette Chatterton, Coach at the Australian Institute of Fitness, SA, is here to explain how Personal Trainers can use periodisation to help a sports person achieve their personal best when it's wanted most.

Firstly what is periodisation? A basic concept to periodise training is volume high then intensity', but remember that the program will need some flexibility and reviewing as time goes along.

One of the hardest realisations any athlete has to accept is that they can't always be at their best; it's physically and mentally impossible to hold a peak. As a Sports Coach and Personal Trainer we need to follow a well-designed plan that will ultimately lead to success i.e. their best performance, the planning is called periodisation.

When training an athlete, months prior to the competition an athlete's training should focus on all over general preparation including aerobic fitness and muscle endurance. The kilometres in the bank, the endurance of the muscles, and the maintenance of their flexibility to keep injury free are vital. This takes many hours of the week and can be hard work! As the weeks roll on the training becomes easier so the intensity should increase following the principle of progressive overload. The specificity of training should now focus on the actual sport event more and more.

In the months of specific preparation the focus moves from aerobic to anaerobic, from muscle endurance to strength, from cruising to focused. In triathlons this is when we start training the specifics e.g., after a two and a half hour bike ride, quickly changing into running shoes and struggling with a jerky type running style for 2-3kms.

As the competition draws closer interval training is a priority, the intensity, speed, and power increases, and recovery massages and cold water walking help the legs, as well as thorough stretching. This will encourage the fast twitch muscle fibres to wake up leaving the athletes feeling lean and fast.

In a few weeks when it's the big race, sleep and recovery, good nutrition, race preparation, short intervals, and mental rehearsals taper the athlete allowing their mind and body to peak', to do a PB, and have a great finish.

Of course feedback is the breakfast for champions. Physiological feedback is important through the duration of the year to monitor the success of the programs. Fitness tests, heart rate monitoring, sleep patterns, lactate tests, and time trials give the feedback to tweak the plan and get the best results for the athlete.

One last point to add about periodisation is specificity; a runner needs to run on a road, a triathlete needs to swim, ride, and run, and a rower needs to row (on water). Treadmills and RPM bikes are for poor weather and comfort.

NOTE; periodisation is not just for athletes, this training technique can be used for almost all personal training clients who are training for an event, whether that be their first 5km run, or an ultra marathon.

Enjoy training, putting the kilometres in the bank, and helping athletes win!

If you would like to learn more about training elite athletes, why not study our Master Trainer Program.


Annette is the Founding Director of the Australian Institute of Fitness SA/NT. She has been an active Coach and Fitness Presenter for over 30 years. Her interests lie in aqua, personal training, triathlons snow skiing, and sports coaching.

This content is not intended to be used as individual health or fitness advice divorced from that imparted by medical, health or fitness professionals. Medical clearance should always be sought before commencing an exercise regime. The Institute and the authors do no take any responsibility for accident or injury caused as a result of this information.

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