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PERIODIZATION VS. PROGRAMMING: How do coaches begin developing a training program?

Have you ever gone on a road trip where you knew the destination but only had a general idea of where you were going? During this trip were you concerned about when and where you would stop for gas or food? Would your trip have been less stressful if you identified where the best restaurants and cheapest gas was along your route? What the heck does any of this have to do with training?


Let me introduce a concept known as periodization. Periodization refers to a conceptual framework that outlines the timeline of a training plan from start to end and the fitness phases within that timeline.

Timelines are typically long term planning periods such as an annual plan that plans for 1 calendar year or a quadrennial that plans for 4 calendar years (e.g. training for the olympics).

Fitness phases are “blocks” of training that coincide with expected adaptations for that period of time within the overall plan. Similar to a GPS providing a general overall route to get from point A to point B, periodization lays a general framework to guide the training process.

Additionally, there is an optimal route to get to point B in the shortest amount of time. Just as a GPS finds the best sequence of directions to optimize the trip, coaches and trainers periodize training programs to find the best sequence of fitness phases to develop physical characteristics necessary to compete.


The details of the training program are then programmed into the periodization framework. Programming refers to the daily prescription and manipulation of training variables. Coaches decide on volumes, intensities and exercises that will elicit the desired adaptations within that phase of training just as one would have to choose which mode of transportation is best for a trip, what to pack, and when and where they will stop in the case of requiring food, gas or a trip to the restroom.

Stay tuned to continue learning about how we train to be our best whether we are an athlete or a weekend warrior!

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