Goal setting is more than an idea of something you’d like to achieve; it takes planning, education, and action. In order to complete these goals, it’s important to paint a clear picture of how you will get there. Below, I will discuss suggestions I have seen work for not only my clients but also myself.
The first thing is starting with the end goal. In athletics, this can be training your body and mind for the upcoming season, completing a 5k, or losing 25 lbs. for summer.
Be sure to use periodization to achieve these goals – meaning, break them up into training phases. This will not only make them manageable but also successful.
The three main training cycles make a long term goal: macrocycle, mesocycle, and microcycle.
Macrocycle – Usually consisting of a year’s worth of planning, this cycle is the longest and provides an overview of your training year.
Mesocycle – A mesocycle is a block of the macrocycle consisting of four to eight week time periods, each with a focus on either a goal of improving general fitness, increasing strength, building muscle, and /or improving cardio. Mesocycles can also be tailored to a specific sport or event.
Microcycle – The smallest of the cycles, and is usually a week long. This cycle holds you accountable on a daily basis but is flexible enough to adjust your workouts without compromising your overall goal.
Before embarking on your periodization program, it is important to find a baseline of objective measures from which to build upon. These metrics can include body weight, circumference measures, body fat percentage, aerobic measures, strength testing, etc. Improvement in these numbers should show improvement in how you look and how you perform.
The annual program should also be created with these metrics in mind. If competing in a sport, performance stats and times should also be measured. To get you started, this blog will cover the first phase of a macrocycle, the first mesocycle, the preparation/adaptation phase.
This phase starts out low and slow with volume and intensity, but should ramp up weekly in volume. This can be increased in total aerobic time, increasing numbers of reps and sets. When planning this prep cycle. keep these three tenets in mind:
1. Plan– Set your end goal, plan your year. When is the time of year you want to be at your best? Are you running a 5K race in the spring, getting ready for a charity walk, or preparing for the seasonal triathlon race series? Perhaps you want to look your best for those late summer and fall functions. Whatever the goal, the idea is the same – plan and map out the year.
2. Perform- Preparation also means getting your body adapted to exercise on a consistent basis. Your body will need time to adjust. Note that the dosage of exercise should reflect your current fitness level.
While the cardiovascular and muscular systems of the body adapt fairly quick, our connective tissues (ligaments, and tendons) lag behind. They may take four to six weeks longer to adapt to training. This adaption phase works at getting those connective tissues adapted to an increasing workload and intensity for the next phase.
Therefore, this is a time for your body to acclimate to a well-rounded exercise program. It should include 3-5 days of cardiovascular activity per week performed at light to moderate and steady rate with no more than one day of any style of HIIT training. The cardiovascular training can consist of a variety of choices i.e., walking/jogging, cycling, swimming, elliptical – mix it up.
You should be strength training 2-3 days per week with 6-8 basic strength training exercises. These will consist of 1-3 sets of 10-15 reps per set. Examples are squats, deadlifts, row, pushups, pulldown, shoulder press, planks, bicep curls, triceps press.
Lastly, add stretching/foam roller at the end of each workout or take a yoga class. The main premise of this phase is to get the cardiovascular, muscular, neuromuscular systems and connective tissues adapted to exercise. This phase can be as short as 4 weeks and last as long as 12 weeks.
3. Power up – The last part is to make adjustments to your eating habits. These can be small changes like adding more fruits, vegetables, and whole foods into your diet in exchange for processed foods. Our bodies reflect our eating and training habits. If you want to perform at your best, fueling your body with proper hydration and food coupled with adequate rest is the key to having consistent workouts and recovering from them.
This first phase will create a strong foundation making you prepared to handle the next step in the periodization and allow the next mesocycle to build upon the first. Remember, don’t train too hard, this is a preparation phase.
Training too much or too intensely creates maximum soreness, increases your chances for needing extra days off, and prevents you from gaining consistency. I will follow up phase two in the next four weeks, until then good luck with changing your resolutions into achievable goals.
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Guy C., – Fitness and Martial Arts Director at Dedham Health