Basic Training: Tips For The Modern Athlete


Periodization, developed for Olympic athletes in the 1960’s, provides a sensible system for fitness and sports training in which the body is cycled through varying levels of intensity throughout the year. This system of training helps avoid overtraining and injury. Additionally, by separating the year into 4 individual units, it allows an athlete to stay fresh by altering activities while remaining fit and in top physical condition. Periodization divides a fitness program into blocks of time and training elements, there are 2 types of time blocks.

Macrocycles are the largest unit of time. For elite athletes, the macrocycle is normally 1 to 2 years long; for recreational athletes, it’s a more manageable 90 days. All athletes should define a specific goal for their macrocycle. For example, when skiing during the winter, an athlete’s objectives should be to get in peak condition and avoid the possibility of soreness and injury associated with frequent ski training and trips. When playing a sport never attempted before, basketball for example, specific objective should be to develop basic skills, strength and endurance.

A month long unit of time in the exercise schedule is called a mesocycle. Each month focuses on a different phase. The first mesocycle is the phase in which the body prepares for increasing physical demands. The focus is on building and enhancing conditioning, doing exercises at high volume and low intensity, in other words, light weights with lots of repetitions, and light aerobic exercises. The second mesocycle is to identify and focus on exercises specific for the sport being played. For skiing, for example, work on strength and endurance exercises for the leg and trunk, while still spending sufficient time on technique. Spending 2 to 3 days a week on technique, while simultaneously spending 1 session per week continuing general conditioning exercises. In this phase lower the volume of exercises while increasing the intensity, meaning use heavier weights with fewer repetitions and more intense aerobic exercise. Finally, in the third mesocycle, for the first 14 days, continue to increase the intensity of sport-specific and general conditioning exercises, while increasing the focus on proper technique and form. For the next 14 days, reduce conditioning exercises and exclusively target form and technique enhancements. This taper allows the body time to recover and incorporate the gains being achieved. Studies show that when athletes taper, or dramatically reduce their volume of training 1 to 3 weeks before a major event, their performance during the event improves, a sign that a well-conditioned body thrives on rest and recovery.

After completing a macrocycle, allow the body time to transition. Ease off slowly and the body will continue to become stronger as it repairs itself. Continuing to push, however, and there may be declines in performance and strength.

The microcycle represents one week in the training program. For example, a sample mesocycle will include the microcycle during the second phase which could look like the following:

Monday: General conditioning; 45 minutes of light to moderate aerobic exercise, 30 minutes of general strength conditioning.

Tuesday and Thursday: Sport-specific training; intervals to build short-term power, resistance exercises that target the specific muscles used in your sport.

Wednesday and Friday: Technique drills.

Depending on the time and frequency devoted to a given fitness routine, there are between 3 and 6 training sessions per microcycle, or week. Training sessions should vary in intensity and always follow a hard day with an easy day.

The following elements represent a sample training session:

Warm-up for and flexibility training for every session. Aerobic conditioning, anaerobic sprints or short-term endurance conditioning, resistance training, technique drills and teardown exercises for selected sessions, cool-down with light stretching for every session.

Using skiing as an example, first 14 days would be spent with general conditioning exercises to achieve overall strength and increase endurance. These would include light weightlifting, stretching and aerobic work. The next 14 days will include sport-specific exercises that strengthen the muscles used when skiing. During the next 21 days, alternate volume and intensity of exercise between hard, moderate and light workouts. Ideally, reduce the volume, not the intensity, of the workouts and use the extra time to practice exercises that will contribute to technique. A week before the ski event taper off. This training style will provide the energy, strength and fitness level required to be successful and proficient on the slopes. Upon returning from the event, another macrocycle will begin that focuses on another sport or simply on general fitness.

Proper nutrition is essential for professional and recreational athletes as well as anyone that is active on daily basis or trying to enhance their fitness goals. Adequate carbohydrates for energy are required as is sufficient levels of protein to fight off infection and repair muscle tissue, and a minimal amount of fats to protect internal organs. What is consumed is as important as how much is consumed. Studies indicate that subjects that reduce their fat consumption by half increased the nutritional value of their food as much as 50%, even though their total caloric intake dropped by 25%.

To calculate the caloric needs of the human body it’s necessary to determine an individuals basal metabolic rate (BMR). This is the number of calories a person burns daily without any physical activity. Divide body weight in pounds by 2.2 to get weight in kilograms. That is BMR for one hour. Next, multiply 24 for daily caloric expenditure when sedentary. A sample calculation is as follows; for a person weighing 180 lbs, the calculation would look like this:

180lbs ÷ 2.2 = 81.8, 81.8 X 24 = 1,963 calories.

Next, adjust BMR by gauging activity level. Using the allotted number of points for each entry to register a score. Add the points and check the chart below to for a final tally.

Points          Score           Description

0 to 1          1.0              Sedentary

2 to 10        1.3              Fairly inactive

11 to 20      1.5              Moderately active

21 to 30      1.7              Very active

31 to 40      1.9              Vigorously active

Finally, multiply the score above by the BMR to find out how many calories are needed each day for the particular activity level of your body. For example, the range for our 180 lb male would be 1,963 calories if he were sedentary and 3,730 if he were highly active.