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How to Create a Training Calendar

By Kim Nunley

A training program will only be truly effective at building athleticism, strength and power if it’s structured properly. Doing the same workouts will cause you to eventually hit a plateau. As you sit down to create your training calendar, follow the periodization training principles. Periodization divides your training calendar into different phases, with the volume and intensity varying in each, so that you’re at your strongest, most powerful and most athletic as you go into an event or a competitive season.

Training for All Seasons

Periodization separates the training calendar into three phases, including offseason, preseason and in season. During the offseason, focus on recovering from any lingering injuries or pain from the previous season, developing a cardiovascular and strength base and improving flexibility. Perform cardio workouts and strength sessions that feature general strength exercises. During the preseason, one to three months before your competitive season begins, focus on increasing your workout intensity to build sport-specific strength and power. Rather than cardio workouts, perform higher-intensity sprint and agility sessions; your strength-training sessions should target the muscles involved in your sport and also consist of power exercises. Throughout the in-season phase, decrease your workout intensity and focus on maintaining strength and power. You don’t want to become fatigued from your workouts, as it could limit your athletic performance.

Macrocycles, Mesocycles and Microcycles

Within the offseason, preseason and in-season phases, there are microcycles, mesocycles and macrocycles, which break up each of the season phases into smaller sections. Microcycles are all training sessions in a single week. While your focus will remain the same throughout the week, you can employ different exercises. Mesocycles are the training sessions within a month and therefore consist of four microcycles. Macrocycles are the training sessions over three months and consist of three mesocycles. By breaking the larger phases into these three smaller cycles, you can gradually change the intensity and type of workouts within each phase to prepare you for the phase to come.

Recovery and Active Rest Weeks

Periodization is effective for developing athleticism, strength and power because it ensures that you’re gradually increasing the intensity of your training. However, continuing to increase workout intensity can cause you to become overtrained. This happens when your body isn’t given an adequate amount of time to fully heal and recover from training. While the first three weeks of every mesocycle each consist of four to six days of full-intensity cardio, agility, sprint, power and weight-training workouts that vary depending on your sport and whether you're in the offseason, preseason or in-season phase, the fourth week of every mesocycle should be used as an active rest week. Active rest weeks consist of low-intensity workouts and primarily flexibility work. While you may be concerned about losing your training gains, active rest weeks actually improve gains, because your body will be more equipped to handle higher-intensity workouts once you return to regular training. In addition to active rest weeks, give your body at least one day off, where you don’t perform any type of training, every week.

Planning Your Training Calendar

To create a training calendar that’s specific to you, begin by plotting when you’re event or competitive season occurs. Mark this time period down as your in-season phase. Count back three months from when your season occurs to chalk out your preseason phase. The period that remains, between the end of your in-season phase and the beginning of your preseason phase, is the offseason phase. Once you have the three phases marked off, within each one, separate each week into microcycles, with every four weeks sectioned into mesocycles and every three months into macrocycles. Use this structure to organize your training regimen, tailoring your workouts to reflect your sport or activity. Begin at a low intensity at the beginning of the offseason and gradually increase intensity as you make your way through the end of the preseason.

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