Simply put, periodization is time management. As a planning technique, it provides the framework for arranging the complex array of training processes into a logical and scientifically-based schedule to bring about optimal improvements in performance.
Periodization sequences the training components into weeks, days, and sessions. Periodization is situation-specific, depending upon priorities and the time available to bring about the required training and competition improvement. In the Long-Term Athlete Development context, periodization connects the stage the athlete is in to the requirements of that stage.
The terminology that describes the smaller subsets of time (organized blocks of training or competition) is meso and micro cycles. Meso cycles are usually three to four weeks, while micro cycles are, by convention, usually just seven days.
Periodization organizes and manipulates the aspects of modality, volume, intensity, and frequency of training through long-term (multi-year) and short-term (annual) training, competition and recovery programs to achieve peak performances when required.
Single, double, triple, and multiple periodization formats follow the same principles with frequently introduced preventative breaks; that is, programmed and prioritized recovery and regeneration elements. This figure illustrates a single periodized annual plan for summer and winter sports.
Periodization, far from being a single fixed process or methodology, is in fact a highly flexible tool. When used appropriately in conjunction with sound methodology and ongoing monitoring and evaluation, it is an essential component in optimal sports programming and athlete development at all levels.
Long-Term Athlete Development addresses this requirement by developing periodization models for all stages, taking into consideration the growth, maturation, and trainability principles that are unique to the primary development stages — the first two decades of life — yet seamlessly integrate with the subsequent stages of athletic performance and life.
Long-Term Athlete Development is typically a 10- to 12-year process that optimizes physical, technical, tactical (including decision making), and mental preparation, as well as the supporting ancillary capacities. Within Long-Term Athlete Development is quadrennial planning; this refers to the four-year Olympic and Paralympic cycle for elite athletes, and the annual plan, which is based upon identified periods of athletic preparation, competition, and the transition into the next calendar plan.
Current examples of periodization models identified in the sport performance literature are designed for the sub-elite and elite senior/mature performers. There is very little information on periodization for children or adolescents or for athletes with a disability.
The following two charts (1 & 2) diagrammatically illustrate a sample annual plan for summer and winter sports respectively. While the same principles apply at each stage, their application will be different at Learn to Train, Train to Train, Train to Compete, and Train to Win.
>> Learn about the next key factor: Competition
To read the entire Canadian Sport for Life - Long-Term Athlete Development 2.1 resource paper, click here.