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Cybernetic Periodization | Boddicker Performance

Filed under: Program Design

Cybernetic Periodization

by on Oct 15th, 2009

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In the past I have been the kind of person who wrote a program and stuck to it regardless of what else happened in my life, but over time I’ve begun to realize that this has been an error that has caused poor performance and unnecessary aches.  This was mainly because I became a robot who only saw the numbers–miles, split times, and training sessions–instead of really looking at improvements and overall health.  After six or seven years of similar antics, I now realize that this was a huge error.  As much as you’d like it to, your body cannot differentiate stressors.  It interprets a 15 mile long run very much like it would a sighting of an angry grizzly bear on the trail.  Stress from your realtionships, jobs, obligations, and training all pour into seperate sinks that ultimately end up in the same sewer system.  With different stressors, different obligations, and coping strategies, there is no way you can be confident in knowing the preparedness of an athlete’s biological system when programming months ahead of time.  In this light, traditional periodization schemes can be as limited as no periodization whatsoever.

In an effort to better accomodate these fluctuations of life stress, I have been using a form of organization known as “cybernetic periodization” almost exclusively with my athletes.

For those hearing the term “cybernetic periodization” for the first time, it is a method of training organization that takes into account the athletes current state and sensations of fatigue and heart rate variability measures coupled with commonly recorded concrete variables (spilts, volumes, etc) we are more effectively able to select appropriate training stressors.  If an athlete has a big proposal due at work due in 24 hours, he’s moving across the city, and his dog just ran away, it may not be the best time to load him up with a huge lactate tolerance session.

That said, however, there are certain times of the year where we really want to induce significant stress that are designed to interfere with performance in the short term only to improve them in the long term.  Often, I’ll program this higher volume and higher intensity in the middle four to six weeks of our precompetition phase.  I’m still not convinced that I need to stick hard and fast to an outline during a prescribed performance suppression phase entirely, and we’ll do some altering.

How are you organizing and writing your training weeks?


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  • Patrick Ward October 17, 2009

    This is great stuff Carson. Taking into account the athletes state on any given day is critical. Programs are just guidelines; they should not be written in stone. Things need to be adapted when needed. It is very much like Fleck and Kraemer’s daily undulating periodization approach, where you have the option to divert to a less stressful workout (or take the day off) if needed.


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