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General Adaptation Syndrome: Training Phases

Let’s return to our “road trip” to peak performance from our introduction article. Let's look at periodized training plan as a GPS. If periodized training is a GPS navigation route to get from point A to point B, the fuel that powers the vehicle is synonymous to our internal energy resources.

General adaptation syndrome (GAS) is an underpinning concept explaining the physiological response to a stimulus or a stressor.

In the first phase (alarm phase), the body encounters a stressor and signals for the body to initiate a series of physiological events that are energy dependent. This is synonymous with the moment that the gas light turns on, signaling us to replenish our precious fuel source.

In the next phase (resistance phase), adaptation occurs to prepare the body for future exposures to the stressor. This is our cue to fill the gas tank and prepare for the drive ahead. As time passes, fuel begins to deplete again and eventually the gas light flickers back on. At this point you can either decide to stop and hit the gas station or you may decide to continue on your journey.

If you continue you will begin to see the needle slowly creeping towards “E”. Fortunately, cars have a built-in reserve that allows your car to keep chugging along although the gas range shows 0 miles left but this is a critical time where panic starts to set in and you wonder if you can make it to the next exit.

Shifting back to GAS, this is the final phase (exhaustion phase). Physiologically speaking this is also when we begin to see signs of performance beginning to fall (overreaching) and will eventually reach a critical point (overtraining).

In the end, periodization is important, it allows us to plan when we need to make our rest stops and how much fuel we plan to use to get there by continually administering a dose of training with built-in periods of recovery.

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