Pete McCall by Pete McCall

Summer RunThe weather is getting warmer, the sun is staying out later, and it’s more pleasant to spend time outdoors enjoying various recreational activities.  If you’re like me you may cringe a little bit during this time of year because in my experience when clients start picking up their favorite outdoor activities after a long winter indoors, more often than not they jump right back into their recreational pastime at the same intensity as when they left off in the fall.

Regardless of how much exercise clients did in the gym over the winter, as they transition back outdoors it is important to have a gradual progression of intensity because there is a difference between exercising in a controlled environment and outside.  For example, I once had a client who did indoor cycling classes two-to-three times a week and had an impressive level of cardiorespiratory fitness; however on her first outdoor ride of the spring she misjudged a turn and suffered a separated shoulder that set her training program back a few months. 

As the warm weather arrives, I coach clients to take it easy and gradually ease back into their favorite outdoor activity over the course of a few weeks as opposed to a few hours.  Many clients follow appropriate progressions to transition from indoor training to outdoor activity. When that happens they tend to enjoy a summer full of outdoor activities without any discomfort or over-use injuries.  Despite my best efforts, however, it seems as if there are always one or two who try to jump back into their favorite activity at full speed; these folks are the ones who develop strains or overuse injuries that can limit their physical activity over the rest of the spring and summer.  Maybe you have a couple of clients who follow this pattern.  If you want to help them or your class participants enjoy a summer full of outdoor activity there are some simple strategies to follow to help make that possible.

To help clients prepare for their favorite warm weather pastime I practice something I call “seasonal periodization.” Periodization is the science of adjusting the volume and intensity of an exercise program from periods of high intensity and low volume to time blocks of low intensity and high volume.  Periodization is mostly applied to athletes who need periods of high intensity to prepare for a competitive season followed by periods of low intensity to recover from the stresses of competition.  For many of our clients who enjoy outdoor activities like running, cycling, hiking, tennis or just playing with their kids the time between mid-April and late-September will be the most active and could be considered their “competitive season.” Therefore, we should be thinking about how we can structure our clients’ programs to adequately prepare them for the months they will be the most active.

There is no one, single right way to design an exercise program; the most important thing is to help a client identify a specific goal, then work backward to plan the steps necessary to reach that goal.  Developing a seasonal periodization plan for your clients requires having the rapport with them so that you know when they want to be the most active in their favorite recreational pastimes.  A client planning to help coach her daughter’s soccer team in the spring and enter three sprint triathlons and an obstacle course run in the summer may have a yearly periodization scheme for strength training based on the ACE Integrated Fitness Training® (ACE IFT®) model:

Yearly Training Plan for a Recreationally Active Client

Month(s) Training Phase (ACE IFT Model®) Training Outcome Training Variables
January Phase 1 – Stability and Mobility &
Phase 2 – Movement
Establish proximal stability, improve distal mobility and enhance movement efficiency.

Prepare body for higher intensity training phases.
Intensity – Bodyweight (BW); resistance tubing and Medicine Balls (MB)
Reps – 8-20
Sets – 1-3
Rest Interval – 30-60 sec.
February Transition from Phase 2 – Movement to Phase 3 – Load Training Develop muscular endurance and foundational strength with circuit training. Intensity – BW, tubing, MB, Free Weights (FW) 50-70% 1RM
Reps – 10-20
Sets – 1-4
Rest Interval – 30 – 60 sec.
March – April Phase 3 – Load Training Improve core strength and muscular force production in five foundational patterns of movement.

Maintain circuit training for cardiorespiratory benefit.
Intensity – FW 70-85% 1RM
Reps – 6-12
Sets – 1-4
Rest Interval – 30-90 sec.
May Phase 4 – Performance Improve leg power to enhance acceleration and stride frequency.

Continue circuit training for metabolic conditioning and anaerobic endurance.
Intensity – BW-plyometrics, FW 50-70% 1RM explosive lifts, medicine balls
Reps – 2-8
Sets – 2-6
Rest Interval – 30 sec. – 2 min.
June – September Phase 3 – Load Training and Phase 4 – Performance Maintain muscular strength and anaerobic endurance using high-intensity intervals with strength and power-based exercises. Alternate between strength and power training based on race and activity schedule. Intensity – BW-plyometrics, FW 65-90% 1RM, medicine balls
Reps – 2-12
Sets – 2-6
Rest Interval – 2 – 3 min. between circuits
October –November Phase 2 Movement and Phase 3 Load Training Race season is over. Reduce intensity of strength and power training, transition to lower intensity muscular endurance and bodyweight exercises. Intensity – BW, MB, FW 50-75% 1RM
Reps – 10-20
Sets – 2-4
Rest Interval – 30 – 90 sec.
December Phase 2 Movement With family and work commitments (many businesses end the fiscal year in December), this is a month to reduce intensity of workouts and emphasize consistency; circuit training with the TRX® system offers a great option for a training intensity change. Intensity – BW training on TRX® system
Reps – 8-15
Sets – 2-4
Rest Interval – 1-2 min. between circuits.

If you want to help your clients get the most enjoyment out of their summer months and learn more about how to develop periodized workout programs, you might want to take the ACE Sports Conditioning workshop.  Another option is to invest in one of our self-paced, study-at-home bundles that provide a full 2 years’ worth of CECs while teaching the principles of designing sports conditioning workouts.  Your clients will get results and stay engaged in their training programs throughout the summer because they will have the ability to pursue and enjoy their favorite recreational activities.

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