• Article List
  • /
  • Using Principles of Periodisation to Reduce Workplace Stress
By Eric Said – Leader of Learning at PT National and Fitness Embassy Life Coach
on Monday, 22 February 2016
  • Life Coaching
  • Workplace Stress
  • Training Principles
  • Planning

A personal trainer’s duty of care moves beyond the gym setting, as we have a responsibility to support our clients to develop healthy lifestyle habits. This month we have seen a large number of clients who have reached a plateau in further achieving weight loss results and they don’t know why.

If your diet and exercise program are followed as prescribed by your trainer, then why is losing weight still a problem?

At PT National we integrate Principles of Periodisation commonly used in sports performance and apply these principles to the everyday client and create a hybrid model that also assesses the intensity level in which they live each day. 

This model highlights that… reducing stress is not just about time management, but more importantly about adjusting the intensity level in which you perform each daily and weekly task.

To clearly outline how this principle is applied we will use a client’s daily schedule that we consulted with during the week.  Below is an outline of his daily schedule:

6am – Wake up

10 km bike ride or 45 min gym session : 90% workload intensity

7:30am – train : computer work on train for personal project : 100% intensity

8:30am – work : blk coffee : daily work meetings : 80% intensity

12pm – lunch at office : 40 % intensity

12:30pm to 5:30pm – daily work tasks : 60% intensity

5:40pm – train : computer work on train for personal project : 90% intensity

7pm – Dinner : 20%

7:30pm to 11pm : work on personal project : 100% intensity



What we can gather from this daily schedule is that the client is predominantly working at an extremely high threshold throughout his entire day.  This may seem uncommon at first sight but we are finding more and more clients in similar situations. 

In essence, people are overtraining.  This term is commonly associated with exercise but when work is compounded with high intensity exercise the outcome may be toxic high cortisol levels and in turn adrenal overload.

The physiological response to high cortisol levels is an inflammatory effect on the body including symptoms such as water retention, weight gain, redness and increased body temperature.

No athlete, let alone everyday people can maintain this high level of intensity over extended periods of time, whether at work or at home and it can lead to injury when exercising or burnout at work.

This is a difficult concept to explain to a client who is so heavily immersed in their work and the challenge is to raise the idea that less may actually produce more.

6 week Work & Excercise mesocycles


A periodisation program is based on specificity and is compiled of microcycles, mesocycles and macrocycles.  The diagram illustrates 6-weekly microcycles with varying exercise and work intensity.  This pattern is undulating in appearance between each mesocycle with an inverse relationship adopted between work and exercise, acknowledging that it is not recommended to attempt to peak at both.  Therefore, as work intensity increases exercise intensity decreases.

Our client agreed to have the weekend free from any work on his project.  We agreed that every six weeks he will have a recovery weekend where he is to totally refrain from any work related tasks. 

The forthcoming two weeks will be a preparatory phase where he can further plan his project, develop resources, do further research and development and network with his team as they work on the project and he sits on the sideline and adopts a more managerial role.  During this week he increases his level of exercise to directly counter his reduced work load.

The following 1-2 weeks becomes the client’s performance or competition phase where he can get to work, and work within the project at high intensity.  During this block he will reduce his level of exercise to incidental activities such as bike riding, walking and activities with his family.  This is turn will reduce the risk of injury as his mind is totally committed to the project he is focused on.

The final week becomes a maintenance phase where he can check the work that was conducted during the performance phase and conduct a quality assurance check on this work.  This then becomes a de-load phase even though still moving forward on the project and maintaining a healthy balance with an exercise program.

However, one aspect to a periodisation program that is seldom discussed in a hybrid model such as this is the need to maintain momentum.  This is the role of the two-week de-load phase. 

Then the time returns for a weekend off-season in preparation for an increased devotion to his adjusted exercise program.

In summary, what can we gather from this information?

  • Sports principles can be applied to everyday life situations
  • Work and exercise must compliment each other to reduce the risk of injury
  • Prolonged levels of high intensity whether at work or the gym (or both) may lead to heightened cortisol levels and adrenal fatigue
  • Consult with your fitness professional about designing an exercise program that is designed in conjunction to your work commitments
  • Enhanced performance at work, exercise and weight loss can be achieved without burnout.


Article written by Eric Said – Leader of Learning at PT National and Fitness Embassy Life Coach.