Designing a work-out program for yourself? There are many different ways to create the ideal program that suit your fitness levels and fitness goals.
Periodization entails systematic planning of various aspects of a training program through progressive cycling during specific periods. The goal of periodization is to optimize fitness levels while reducing the risk of injury. There are different components to the basic structure of a periodization cycle.
A macrocycle is a complete training period that may be 1, 2, or 4 years in duration. A mesocycle is a period or multiple periods within a macrocycle aimed to develop a single training block. The mesocycle may consist of a preparatory period, a competitive period, and a transition or rest period. A microcycle is a structural unit that makes up a mesocycle. It details weekly plans for progressive overloads specific to the goals of the mesocycle. For example, four 4-week microcycles will equate to a 16-week training program or one mesocycle.
Linear periodization progressively increases in intensity with minor variations in each microcycle. Beginner athletes typically utilize this type of training where the program starts with a higher initial volume then progresses to a lower volume as intensity increases. This traditional model has a greater focus on developing general strength and requires longer training periods. For example, an individual may be only focused on building muscle mass in a hypertrophy phase for all of their workouts within a week.
Non-linear periodization involves varying the intensity and volume within each week over the course of a training program. This allows individuals to train different muscle features within the same week. Non-linear programming is ideal for experienced or elite athletes. For example, an individual may incorporate workouts aimed at developing strength and power at the same time. This model also provides flexibility in scheduling for individuals as the goal of non-linear periodization is to complete the workouts whenever possible, instead of completing the program in a fixed number of weeks.
The red chart depicts a non-linear periodization within a week that varies the type of training, sets, reps, and recovery time. Conversely, the blue chart details a linear type of periodization where the first couple of weeks are aimed at focusing on strictly resistance type workouts with the same sets, reps, and recovery time for that designated time frame. A hypertrophy phase and a maximal strength phase follows accordingly.
Four common types of phases in a training program are: hypertrophy, strength/power, peak, and recovery.
Hypertrophy involves building muscle mass. Exercises are completed with short rest periods and high volumes. Strength and power are completed with a reduced volume, but an increase in load and rest time. Peaking involves low volumes, higher loads, and long rest periods. Finally, recovery uses low volumes and low loads.
Altitude training involves spending several weeks at a higher altitude (preferably over 2000 m or 8000 ft above sea level) to adapt the body physiologically. At elevations greater than 1200 m or 3950 ft, there is a decrease in atmospheric pressure which reduces the partial pressure of oxygen in inspired air. This causes decreased arterial oxygen levels and leads to increased ventilation and cardiac output, along with an elevation in heart rate. Performance will decrease for individuals that have not acclimatized to the change in pressure and are consequently exposed to a risk of high-altitude illnesses.
Acclimatization is the process of adapting to the decrease in oxygen concentration at a specific altitude. With acclimatization, there will be an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, bicarbonate excretion, respiratory frequency and volume along with a reduction in plasma volume. To compensate for the decreased arterial oxygen levels, erythropoietin (EPO), a hormone in the body, will trigger more red blood cell production to aid in oxygen delivery to the muscles. Training at high altitudes allow athletes to produce additional red blood cells that will provide a greater cardiovascular effect on performance at competitions held at lower elevations.
Acclimatization requires an altitude exposure of more than 1 week. Staged ascents promote gradual and partial acclimatization when an individual resides at a moderate elevation before ascending to a higher elevation to reduce the adverse consequences of rapid ascent. The first stage of ascending should be greater than 3 days at a moderate altitude. Remaining at a moderate altitude for 3 to 7 days will reduce the symptoms and risk of altitude sickness. However, a time period of 6 to 12 days will improve athletic performance.
High-altitude illnesses can occur at elevations above 2500 m. Mild altitude illness can occur between 2000 and 2500 m.
Acute mountain sickness ( is commonly experienced by individuals 6 to 12 hours after ascending to elevations above 2500 m with the prevalence and severity increasing with higher altitudes. Symptoms include: headaches, nausea, dizziness, and sleep disturbance. Some risk factors may be a lack of previous acclimatization, history of migraines, age of 46 and above, or being a female. Symptoms typically resolve within 1 to 2 days with rest or with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin. If symptoms become severe, descend immediately or use supplemental oxygen.
High-altitude cerebral edema (HACE) is a more severe form of altitude illness. Symptoms include: truncal ataxia (loss of body control), decreased consciousness, mild fever, and coma. If a headache is poorly responding to NSAIDs, then this is an indication of acute mountain sickness progressing to (HACE).
High-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) presents with a loss of stamina, dyspnea, dry cough, cyanosis (bluish skin), or pink, frothy sputum (phlegm). The risk of HAPE increases with increased altitude and faster ascents. HAPE occurs when fluid accumulates in the lungs due to rapid altitude ascent or ascent accompanied by strenuous exercise. Untreated HAPE may result in death approximately 50% of the time.
Prevention of high-altitude illnesses involve acclimatization before exposure, slow ascent, and appropriate pharmaceuticals for the corresponding illness. For mild AMS, take a rest day or descend 500 to 1000 m if there is no improvement in symptoms. For severe AMS, descend immediately and use supplemental oxygen at 2 to 4 L per minute. A hyperbaric may also be used for severe AMS. AMS may be treated with NSAIDs or acetazolamine. For severe AMS, use an appropriate dosage of dexamethasone.
Descend immediately if symptoms of HACE or HAPE are experienced. Use supplemental oxygen at 2 to 4 L per minute or a hyperbaric bag. Consider dexamethasone for HACE and nifedipine for HAPE. Consult a physician for more information on which drugs to use.
Preparing for a competition in another country takes weeks in advance to properly adapt the body to new environmental conditions. There are a number of aspects to consider when travelling abroad such as the climate, elevation, pollution, accommodations, food, water, vaccinations, and emergency plans.
Travelling in another country entails eating a wide variety of exotic foods. Avoid risk of food contamination by avoiding tap water with ice, peeled fruits, shellfish, and buffet style meals. Bring a water filter or water purification tablets. It is recommended to eat foods that are similar to the foods you would eat at home. Scout potential restaurants nearby and determine what to items to pack if necessary.
Avoid high-fiber foods before competition and limit fat as well as protein intake prior to activity. Consume carbohydrates such as bread, rice, or pasta prior to competition. Eat a large meal at least 3 to 4 hours before the competition to allow for adequate digestion. A small snack will take approximately 1 hour to be properly digested.
Ensure the coaching staff, medical aids, and/or you yourself are familiar with the medical personnel at the facilities as well as the ambulance and emergency procedures. Apply for the appropriate travel insurance. Remember to pack any required medications and a small first-aid kit. For any acute sprains, immediately rest, apply ice, compress, and elevate the injured part. This is known as the R.I.C.E. method.
For colder environments, wear layers of clothing with the innermost layer being made out of lightweight polyester or polypropylene, the middle layer made out of polyester fleece or wool, and the outer layer as protection from the wind or rain. Use clothing vents and adjust insulation to reduce sweat accumulation. Only wear the outer layer if it is windy or rainy.
For warmer environments, wear breathable, lightweight materials and protect yourself from the sun with proper coverage by wearing a hat, sunglasses, long sleeves or a thin jacket. Bring sunscreen and proper footwear.