In the world of athletics, you’re always gearing up to peak. No matter the sport whether it’s soccer, tennis, golf, even bodybuilding. As an athlete you’re always in the process of recovering from, preparing for or actively competing in your sport.
We refer to this as Pre-season, In-season, and Off-season. Athletes, coaches, and the strength and conditioning professionals that train them all have a shared understanding that performance plateaus. However, the cyclical nature of the seasons allows for better performance, proper recovery, strength gains, and prolonged longevity of the athlete. In other words, there is a time and place for everything. You're not hitting the weights trying to set a new one rep max during the season, you're also not running your fastest times during offseason, or trying to lose an additional 20 lbs while you're in season.
With that in mind, why hasn't this idea transferred over into the realm of general fitness? While it's very tempting to get super technical here, I'll give it to you straight.
" TRAINING", ISN'T SEXY!
In our world of big box gyms and training studios, members pay the bills and members want what they believe is the " New HOT thing". Fitness is very similar to fashion in that way. Not only are the models typically your trainers but fads and trends also dictate the desires of your clientele.
Whether it's a new diet that a celebrity swears by or the 10-minute workout that will help you lose 10 lbs in 10 days, both will probably give you "Some" instant gratification or a quick bump in performance but as I've mentioned performance plateaus.
The only real way to reach your full potential and please don't be mistaken that is what you should be aiming for is to approach your goals with the mindset of an athlete. Now, I know what you're about to say "But I hate working out ". I'm going to let you in on a secret... NO ONE LIKES THE FEELING OF THEIR LUNGES BEING ON FIRE / or having to overcome a weight so heavy that they feel like they'll be crushed. That's right, that's not an enjoyable feeling for any warmblooded human being but it is a necessary one.
In addition, athletes don't simply workout they train. Everything they do serves a purpose. If the season dictates heavy lifting then they lift heavy, if the season dictates recovery they recover, if the season dictates heaving conditioning ... I think you get the point. So, how can this apply to the everyday person? Well, first you have to start seeing yourself as an everyday athlete. As you get older you don't stop needing to train, training is interwoven in the high- performing human experience.
That's right, you will forever train in some capacity. Now that doesn't mean you'll forever be with the trainer you're with today, or that you'll forever be in the cycling studio but you will and you should forever be fighting for an upper hand on aging.
With that being said how do we apply training cycles to the everyday athlete? What does that approach look like for say a 40 yr old woman that has never played a sport but wants to lose weight and live a healthier life? So the language around the cycling may differ but the principles remain the same
Age: 40 years old
BF: 34 %
Year Goal lose 20 lbs
Available training M/W/F 60 MINS
Timeline: 6 months
Cycle 1 (aka offseason ) Build Strength 8 Weeks
Cycle 2 ( aka preseason ) Increase Conditioning (aerobic /anaerobic capacity ) 8 Weeks
Cycle 3 (aka in season ) 4 Weeks Testing the performance gained from both of the above cycles ; 1 -2 weeks recovery time ( no specific time off but lighter training loads) ; 2 weeks Cycling back to the beginning if the goal hasn't been reached
As you can see from the example above the most important thing to take away here is that there is a time and place for everything. You can't prioritize getting stronger while simultaneously prioritizing conditioning and you can't test your strength before you've built it. This is where the Fitness industry fails. By not communicating this to clients, clients are left jumping from class to class and from workout to workout feeling like they've tried everything possible and nothing seems to work or stick. Because they are unknowingly undermining their own efforts by trying to prioritize everything at once.
As I mentioned before even this method will give you an initial bump in performance but performance plateaus. The only way to ensure better performance, proper recovery, strength gains, and prolonged longevity of the life long athlete is by properly introducing and progressing them through training cycles.