Periodisation can often appear complicated. For the uninitiated periodisation is the organization of training or an intervention to achieve a particular performance or characteristic within a given time frame. This makes sense for example when we plan out a return to play or prepare for an upcoming sports competition that falls on a specific date. We intuitively understand that we cannot prepare to return to competition without graduating the level of rehabilitation and performance training through a series of progressive steps.

Put more simply we look to organise the level of stress applied to the individual in order to create effective adaptation. And as the Goldilocks principle suggests, the stress needs to be ‘just right’. 

What does this entail? 

First we must understand the effect of the application of repeated stress on an individual. And we can do this by applying a Needs Analysis (we have discussed this in a previous discussion for those that want some greater reference). The basic questions that you have to answer are what is the stress that the individual needs to be able to tolerate to be successful in their task?  And what is the current level of stress that this individual can tolerate of the task? To do this we must understand the magnitude, volume and duration of that stress that the individual can currently tolerate and what is the timeline to achieve the desired capacity? 

This analysis provides an understanding of the specific features required whether that be distance to be run (such as marathon), the minutes of high intensity match play (field sports, combat sports) or the intensity that is required (speeds to be run/swam/cycled or weight lifted). Although we know that humans are not machines, using models taken from engineering give us some insight into the ability for structures to tolerate stress. Stress life curves provide an illustration that magnitude creates failure before repeated cycles of stress when it comes to failure rates. This makes sense in real terms when we think about a fracture from landing from a height. If you were to jump off a height of >3 metres and land on your feet once, the probability of a lower limb fracture is very high. If you contrast this if you are to jump off a 30cm height 10 times (effectively landing from 3 metres of total height), there is a lesser likelihood of a lower limb fracture. If you were to do this smaller jump 1000 times in a row, the likelihood of a fracture (stress fracture most likely) would markedly increase. What this highlights is that in order to organise our stress into adaptive units of intervention, our understanding of the magnitude of the tasks is extremely important to balance the volume that can be used to create change but not damage. That is get the stress ‘just right’.

In our next discussion we will discuss how you may choose to organise these adaptive units.