In part I of this article I presented the EPTS 7 stage model (11) of long term planning and discussed the implications of training throughout the first four stages leading up to the end of the athletic career. As I discussed in part I, the purpose of long term planning in the initial stages is aimed at teaching young individuals how to coordinate their bodies, to establish functional movement patterns and to physically prepare them for the stresses of sport. As they move through the model, the focus shifts to increasing performance outcomes in the sport; ultimately, to win! As the athletic career draws to a close, the focal point shifts once again to a general fitness focus, to help integrate the individual into a healthy living program. The phase of training associated with this goal is known as the post competitive stage.
Post Competitive Stage
I believe that it is the role of the conditioning coaches and trainers to aid the athletes through this transitional period and recognize their ongoing physical and psychological needs. I am not completely exclusive in this belief. It has been written that former Soviet athletes were well taken care of in their retirement (5). Their coaches recognized the incredible changes these individuals were facing and aided them in reintegrating into more traditional lifestyles. In fact, many of these former athletes would go on to study sport science and take on roles as coaches themselves (5). The culture in the former Soviet Union at that time recognized the benefits of physical fitness at all stages of life. The EPTS multi-year model supports this belief and demonstrates sound practical guidelines to support positive ongoing health, lifestyle and performance outcomes.
- From a physical perspective, it may be necessary to correct any residual injuries or conditions. This is the time to reinforce joint balance and posture; the priority is placed on pain free living and the long term quality of life.
- Training becomes more general in nature with a high focus on health related goals. Performance goals often take a secondary role throughout this stage depending on the post athletic pursuits of the client.
- Motor control, joint stability and general strength form the dominant strength training focus.
- A large variety of flexibility techniques are available to reset length/tension relationships (self myofascial release, PNF techniques, long duration static stretching, active isolated techniques, neurogenic stretching, myofascial stretching)
- The fitness professional must also address the psychological associations with exercise aimed at achieving more general goals.
- The fitness professional must help the athlete find alternative means of achieving recognition, camaraderie and competition. They should be encouraged to take part in recreational sports and activities to meet this goal. For example, it is common practice for hockey players to get involved in golf following their athletic career. These recreational goals should be strongly considered when periodizing training throughout this stage.
- The fitness professional must appreciate the psychological shift of the athlete following retirement. Many of these athletes go from being idolized and mentored by thousands one day, to virtually forgotten about the next. This can give rise to feelings of isolation and rejection. This must be addressed as the highest priority in this stage.
- Lifestyle habits should be a high focus as these individuals are vulnerable to negative influences throughout this stage.
- Maintenance of high levels of athleticism and function should also be sought.
It is important to note that this process may necessitate the involvement of several coaches and fitness professionals. That is, strength and conditioning coaches may elect to refer clients and former athletes to other professionals that may be in a better position to aid these individuals over the long term. The critical point is, these individuals should be encouraged and guided in a direction that supports their ongoing involvement in fitness and active living. Coaches are encouraged to refer these individuals to other professionals that share this value and demonstrate the means to support their ongoing development in the latter stages of the process.
General Health and Fitness Stage
In an optimal world, all athletes would follow this model and progress from the post competitive stage directly into the general health and fitness stage. Unfortunately many of these individuals do not receive post competitive guidance and often elect not to pursue health and fitness interests at that time. They often return later in life seeking help for chronic debilitating injuries or frustrated with their declining health and fitness levels. For many others, this stage represents their starting point in the long term planning model. They may not have had a formal athletic background and may simply be seeking the general health benefits associated with a more active lifestyle. Regardless of the reasons, the fitness professional must formulate a long term plan to achieve the overall health, fitness and performance outcomes of the client.
Very little has been written about long term planning for these individuals. While the approach may be slightly different than that of the competitive athlete, the fitness professional should have a clear and definitive multi year plan for their general population clients. Optimal health and wellness requires a commitment to all aspects of one's life; physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual wellbeing. This is a delicate balance that takes time to cultivate. From this perspective, fitness professionals must be very careful to periodize in a manner that does not overwhelm the client with too much information at one time; spreading the focus too thin will compromise the outcomes in all areas.
The fitness professional must also recognize the client’s state of readiness in any of the above areas. For example, they may not be ready to address certain emotional issues that may be limiting specific outcomes. In these cases the coach should aim to focus on other areas that may present significant carryover to that goal. In the above example, perhaps the coach aims to address any nutritional deficiencies in an attempt to balance the biochemical processes of the body. Biochemical balance will present significant carryover to mental and emotional health and may increase the client’s state of readiness to tackle the emotional issues head on.
The fundamental starting point in this stage of the process is to establish injury potential and major health concerns. A program should then be developed to address these issues and get the person moving. Although the individual may be presenting other “high priority” areas such as nutritional intake or stress management, in my experience there is a strong somatopshychic influence on lifestyle adherence. That is, people are much more likely to commit to lifestyle modifications once they have begun “working out.” The biopsychological changes associated with exercise increases the adherence of lifestyle modifications (19).
For individuals progressing through the 7 stage model, this process is well underway following the post competitive stage. Their exercise programs have taken on a more general approach and they have found alternative activities to meet the competitive demand (i.e. recreational sports). The exercise programs can now be varied in a manner that prioritizes general health, function and performance with recognition of the varying stresses of daily life. Lifestyle issues such as nutrition, stress management, circadian health, recovery, emotional wellbeing and spiritual health can now be progressively prioritized on an individual basis.
- Training becomes more general in nature as the emphasis shifts towards general health and fitness.
- Establish a sound strength training program with a strong focus on any postural deviations and joint imbalances. Future programs should prioritize function and injury prevention while increasing general health and fitness.
- The coach should use a large variety of training principles and modes of activity to maintain interest and motivation.
- A large variety of strength, flexibility and energy system training modes and principles can be employed and periodized regularly. Speed and stretch shortening cycle training can also be used as a form of conditioning with more advanced clients.
- A strong effort should be made on the part of the coach to educate clients on the benefits of parasympathetic modes of exercise and activity such as traditional yoga, tai chi, qi-gong, long duration flowing flexibility sessions and meditation. Over stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system is associated with many health disorders such as adrenal fatigue and related disorders (15), digestive disorders (12), hypertension and atherosclerosis (14) amongst other things. The stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system has been shown to reverse the damaging affects of stress and contribute to greater overall physical, mental and emotional health (12, 13, 14).
- Lifestyle habits should be addressed in order of priority to achieve overall physical, mental and emotional health.
- Performance goals and training should be programmed on an individual basis with recognition of the risk to benefit ratio of these forms of training at this stage in the development process.
- Address any psychological and emotional issues surrounding exercise and lifestyle adherence.
Vitality Stage (65+)
At a certain stage in life, we all must face the inevitable effects of aging such as decreased physical and/or mental capacities. The chronological age associated with these changes is highly relative and can be strongly correlated to the overall health of the individual (16, 17, 18). A high focus should be placed on the individual nutrition and lifestyle needs with a priority placed on any specific health issues. Recognition of the psychological and emotional issues associated with the decline in physical capacities is imperative. The exercise specialist must demonstrate empathy and compassion in their dealings with individuals at this stage. However, they must also stress the importance of healthy living.
- For many aging adults, the decline in functional capacities often results in decreased motivation to exercise. The fitness professional must find fun and enticing ways to keep these individuals moving in an effort to maintain daily function as a sedentary lifestyle is associated with a more rapid decrease in functional capacities, independence and mortality (18).
- The physical training should now focus on daily function with an increase in joint control and stability, general strength, balance and coordination in everyday motor tasks.
- Posture has the tendency to decline with age. Therefore the exercise specialist should maintain adequate focus on these deviations in an effort to counter the effects of age related postural distortions.
- There should be an increased emphasis placed on recovery. As the challenges of maintaining function in daily life increases, it is critical to ensure that the training does not interfere with the individual’s ability to function.
- A major goal of the training in this stage of the process is to maintain the client’s independence. From a mental and emotional perspective, loss of independence can place tremendous stress on these individuals. The fitness professional should aim to prolong their independence via training methods and activities that support this goal.
- Training becomes narrower in nature. That is, there will be an increase in relative contraindications as the client ages. Therefore, the fitness professional will be more restricted in terms of exercise selection. These contraindications are highly relative to the individual, as there is no room for absolute contraindications at any stage in the process!
The EPTS multi year model is a method of long term planning that progresses an individual through all the developmental stages of life; from early childhood development to the maintenance of function in aging adults. The model and guidelines are presented in a manner that prioritizes the overall health and function of the individual throughout each phase. Early childhood development is focused on anaerobic forms of training with a high priority placed on strength, coordination, balance and flexibility. The latter stages of performance prioritize the specific demands of the sport with recognition of the dominant needs of the individual. The focus is on maintaining peak conditioning and sporting excellence.
Following the competitive career, there is an abrupt shift in focus from a fitness perspective. The performance dominant training is reduced in favour of a rehabilitational approach that addresses the training and competition induced injuries, and prioritizes pain free living. Once pain free function has been restored, general health and fitness training is integrated as a way of life. Recreational sports are pursued in an effort to meet the need for competition and maintain fitness. The focus on positive lifestyle habits increases as the individual progresses through this stage and into the vitality stage. The vitality stage is aimed at maintaining overall health and wellbeing. Balance, coordination, strength and function are prioritized in an effort to maintain an independent lifestyle.
Essentially, the model aims to optimize health, performance and vitality throughout one’s entire life.
“Health is my expected heaven.”
~ John Keats (1795–1821)
For those interested in more information on Mark Mancino’s approach to Program Design and Periodization, please visit kineticadvantage.com for upcoming seminar dates, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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