THE STRONG­EST SCI­EN­TIST

The pe­ri­odi­s­a­tion prin­ci­ple.

Men's Health (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - By Dr. Mike Posthu­mus PhD in ex­er­cise science; head of the high-per­for­mance di­vi­sion at SSISA; co-owner of Science to Sport; elite MTB rider and cy­cling coach

Like every­one, I jug­gle a num­ber of balls in my pro­fes­sional and per­sonal life – which of course re­sults in var­i­ous over-com­mit­ments. So I’m keenly aware of stress and its ef­fect on my phys­i­cal and men­tal health. And hav­ing just re­turned from a fam­ily hol­i­day, I know all about the ben­e­fits of rest and re­cov­ery.

As a high-per­for­mance cy­cling coach, I struc­ture and plan the com­plete sea­son of ev­ery ath­lete I work with, to en­sure that they reach peak per­for­mance – with­out over-train­ing. This struc­tured plan­ning in sport is called ‘pe­ri­odi­s­a­tion’; in a nut­shell, it’s the sys­tem­atic plan­ning of in­ten­sity, vol­ume and fre­quency of train­ing to en­sure op­ti­mal per­for­mance.

When work­ing with ath­letes, each train­ing ses­sion and train­ing week has a spe­cific in­ten­sity and vol­ume. As an im­por­tant race ap­proaches, train­ing in­ten­sity in­creases and train­ing vol­ume de­creases.

Although there are sev­eral ways to pe­ri­odise, the most im­por­tant prin­ci­ple is that vari­a­tion is key. Good train­ing pro­grammes should re­duce the monotony of train­ing, and en­sure ad­e­quate re­cov­ery.

One of the most ba­sic prin­ci­ples of pe­ri­odi­s­a­tion is the “gen­eral adap­ta­tion syn­drome”, or GAS. Sim­ply put, GAS de­scribes your fun­da­men­tal bi­o­log­i­cal adap­ta­tion to a stres­sor: im­me­di­ately af­ter a stress – whether it’s a big train­ing ses­sion, or work­ing hard to get that re­port sub­mit­ted on time – your per­for­mance de­creases. It’s only af­ter re­cov­ery that a re­bound ad­just­ment oc­curs, which will re­turn your body’s abil­ity to cope with fur­ther stress.

In sport, fail­ure to re­cover suf­fi­ciently leads to a pro­gres­sive de­cline in per­for­mance; un­til even­tu­ally, there’s a good chance an ath­lete will fall vic­tim to chronic over-train­ing syn­drome.

Guess what? Ev­ery day, you’re af­fected in ex­actly the same way as a pro ath­lete: and main­tain­ing a high level of in­ten­sity over ex­tended pe­ri­ods of time, whether at work or at home, can lead to burnout.

In fact, only through sport was I able to fully ap­pre­ci­ate the ben­e­fits of pe­ri­odi­s­a­tion out­side of sport. It can be ap­plied to per­for­mance in ev­ery­thing.

So at work, be­ware of the pit of ex­haus­tion that leaves you feel­ing com­pletely un­pro­duc­tive and un­able to con­cen­trate for long. You can’t keep work­ing at full ca­pac­ity ev­ery day of the week (and some­times even week­ends) with­out risk­ing burnout.

If you want to keep on be­ing pro­duc­tive at work, you have to have enough time away from work: by rest­ing, for one thing. And by mak­ing sure you have enough vari­abil­ity (if your work cir­cum­stances al­low) – or al­ter­na­tively, by find­ing bal­ance in other ar­eas of your life. For in­stance, if you’re able to change your workspace to your favourite cof­fee shop, or work from home oc­ca­sion­ally, that may be all you need.

But it’s crit­i­cally im­por­tant to plan spe­cific pe­ri­ods of rest, to en­sure re­cov­ery. If you want to be highly pro­duc­tive all year round, a few nights a week on which you don’t go home with your lap­top may make all the dif­fer­ence.

Ob­vi­ously, suf­fi­cient sleep is the most im­por­tant aspect of re­cov­ery, but there’s an­other pos­i­tive step you can take: in sport, we mon­i­tor ath­letes closely to en­sure that they’re re­cov­er­ing and cop­ing with stress op­ti­mally. One aspect to mon­i­tor is per­for­mance. You can mon­i­tor your­self in your workspace, if you pay at­ten­tion and know what to look out for.

So next time you start feel­ing you can’t main­tain fo­cus, or you’re ex­ces­sively tired and moody, put your foot on the GAS. Rest and re­cov­ery are es­sen­tial to en­sure your op­ti­mal per­for­mance. In or­der to be more pro­duc­tive, you have to en­sure re­cov­ery.

Pay at­ten­tion, and act to re­duce your stress – and you may pre­vent a break­down.

“Main­tain­ing a high level of in­ten­sity can lead to burnout.”

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