Today I want to talk about periodisation and how you can use this technique to train smarter and avoid over training and burn out. This is going to be a 6 part blog series and will most likely take me weeks to get out but that’s ok… let’s just begin and see how we go.

Basically periodisation is a technique that helps you plan your year out so you can train sustainably.

Burnout happens from long term stress which can leave you physically and mentally exhausted. Burnout has a long list of symptoms but some of the common ones are:

  • A decline in performance at competition or training
  • Disinterest in training/life
  • Loss of concentration
  • Increased forgetfulness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Feelings of chronic fatigue and exhaustion
  • Increased frequency of injuries and illnesses
  • Plateau or decrease in fitness despite increase in training
  • Insomnia
  • Changes to appetite
  • Feelings of hopelessness

Burnout sucks. It can derail your training and your life. But by manipulating rest periods and utilising periodisation, the risk of burnout can be decreased. Always keeping in mind that appropriate recovery techniques such as meditation, massage and stretching happens at every stage in the season.

Periodisation is used to break up an athlete’s year into a series of stages. Each stage has different mental and physical focuses so that there are times of the year where the focus is on rest and replenishment and other times of the year where you want to push yourself. Once you break up the year into each phase, you can get as detailed as you want. I like to break it down further and look at what a week of training would look like in each phase.

Also a mild disclaimer, depending on where you read, you will find different versions of what these stages are called, what kind of training should go into each stage and the duration of each stage. I’ve read a healthy amount of figure skating articles about periodisation and took what I liked from them, applied what I learnt at uni and broke it down into 5 stages that worked for me. You can really get as detailed as you want, though. The stages I chose are as follows:

Off Season

Base/Preparatory (12-24 weeks) (some articles separate this phase into 2, I blended them into 1)

Build Up (4-8 weeks)

Peak (3-5 weeks)

Taper (1-2 weeks)

We will be getting into what each stage looks like in later posts but today, I’m going to explain how I start to plan my year out. Not sure how other people do this but this is the method I’ve used the past 2 years and it works for me reasonably well.

In skating, we have the added challenge of having 1-3 big competitions a year so that means you have to peak several times which can get tricky. For this reason, I like to start by marking down all competitions and events. If you’re at school or uni, it’s a good idea to mark in your exam periods as well.

Once you have all competitions marked, mark 1 or 2 weeks before the competition as taper. The bigger the importance of the event, the more taper you want to mark down. Eg for areas I would only add 1 week or couple of days but for Oceanias I do 1.5 – 2 weeks taper.

Then, 3-5 weeks before you taper are your peak weeks. These are the highest in intensity so I add the minimum 3 weeks for smaller competitions and 4-5 weeks for the biggest competition of the year. Sometimes, you only have 5-6 weeks between competitions. If this is the case, I would drop the intensity for 1 week following the competition and then go straight to 3 peak weeks and then start the taper.

Once I’ve figured out the peak weeks, I put in my build up phase. Build up weeks have the highest volume and are high intensity so this is where you have to be careful not to overtrain. However, they should be a sustainable intensity as you need to be able to maintain for 8 weeks. Once I’ve figured out where those are going, the rest is the base/prep phase. This is low volume and low-moderate intensity and it is where the bulk of your aerobic and strength gains will come from. I find this phase is the most important for setting yourself up for a successful competition season. The longer the better. It is best if you can fit in the full 24 weeks and still have about a month for your off season. Once those base weeks are defined, the rest is your off season.

So there you go, that’s how you can set out your year. You can hang up your calendar on your wall to refer back to so you always know what’s coming up.

In the following posts we will go through each phase and build a better picture of what should go into each phase of training.

Thanks for reading and remember: if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

Mac n cheese x