May 4, 2021 | Reverberating Science

Evolution of Training Periodization

Reproduced by Rodrigo Fava Neto

This content is a reproduction of parts of the scientific article entitled “Periodization Theory: Confronting an Inconvenient Truth”, which questions the prevailing paradigm of training periodization, and proposes an updated view.

The article was published in 2017, available in its entirety at the US National Library of Medicine, link at the bottom of the page. If you like the excerpts I transcribed here, I recommend reading them in full.

approx. 5 minutes reading

The evolution of the science of periodization begins in the science of stress. In the 1920s, Walter Cannon suggested that arousal can change an animal’s condition of internal stability, homeostasis, and this imbalance stimulates the secretion of adrenaline that triggers the “fight or flight” mechanism to face the challenge, suppress the disorder and return to normality.

A decade later, Hans Selye formulated the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS), a work that revolutionized the field of study. Selye’s central thesis was that all biological challenges were fought in a predictable way, progressing through the same sequential phases: first alarm, then resistance and, if the challenge was overwhelming, resulting in the same final product, exhaustion.

When the twentieth century entered its final quarter, our understanding of stress and its associated vocabulary – homeostasis, fight or flight, the adrenal gland, GAS – was shaped by these pioneers. Selye once remarked that he never considered applying his research to sporting domains. However, astute coaches quickly recognized its relevance. And the science of training periodization has incorporated homeostatic regulation and adaptation to stress as fundamental theories of human adaptation.

At the same time, however, a line of research more influenced by psychology was beginning to navigate its own evolutionary arc. As the century progressed and these paths were crossed, ideological conflicts inevitably arose.

Selye recognized late in life that he had long thought of stress as “a purely physiological and medical phenomenon.” In contrast, psychologists interpreted the stress response primarily as a cognitive event, directly emerging from “an incompatibility between individuals’ perceptions about the demands of the task and their perceptions of their resources to deal with them ”.

In 1988 Sterling and Eyer, embracing a multidisciplinary view, proposed the concept of allostasis, in which we maintain physiological stability by anticipating “needs” before they arise and mobilizing a wide variety of neurological, biological and immunological accommodations to address these emerging challenges.

The imperative is no longer to seek homeostatic permanence (“stability through constancy”), but to prevent and respond to emerging challenges by orchestrating coordinated compensations across the system at various levels (“stability through change”).  Selye imagined the biological stress as largely independent of the brain.  Allostasis, in contrast, firmly positions the brain as the master organ responsible for orchestrating all central and peripheral responses to the challenges posed.

The stressors of mechanical training serve as the primary stimulus, although they are not the only ones responsible for adaptations of physical conditioning. The stimuli are modified and filtered mainly by genetic inheritance, training history and nutritional status.

New emerging assessment technologies undoubtedly have the potential to inform planning practice, but they also present distractions and challenges. Chief among these challenges is our natural tendency to prioritize readily empirical metrics (such as weights, times, heart rates, speeds and distances), at the cost of lessening the emphasis on parameters that are not easily quantified (such as psycho-emotional state, cognitive load , belief and expectation).

The value of the training plan is inseparably intertwined with the set of perceptions, expectations, associations, doubts, concerns and confidences of the athlete implicitly linked to that plan.
These perceptions suggest that we should, for example, progressively cultivate an athlete’s understanding of the training plan, belief in the plan, ‘adherence’ to the plan and athletes’ ‘sense of purpose’, ‘sense of ownership’ and ‘sense of control’ associated with the plan.

link to the original article.

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