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Written by: Giselle Saati, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


“How about those Leafs last night!?” Nothing like a bit of sports chatter to begin the day at the office. I recall the passionate discussions about stats, plays, the trash-talk and the intimidation shoves amongst the players. This never ceases to entertain and raise our sense of belonging. Yet I wondered if any of my colleagues, especially my boss, truly understood the nature of training and performance for their favourite athletes. The notion of stimulus, fatigue, recovery, and adaptation is some abstract concept that doesn’t apply to their lives and those around them. We don’t hear much about what athletes do in their off-season unless there’s a scandal involved. The obvious reason is that it seems dull and uninspiring, however, it is crucial to the success of the athlete or team in the competition season. Just as athletes go through alternating periods of activity throughout the year, why hasn’t this concept of periodization infiltrated the corporate world?

My knee-jerk response to that question was capitalism, but I realized that it is far more complex than that. From my experience, professionals in the public sector work anywhere between 50 to 60 hours per week in Toronto. There are many socio-economic factors contributing to this: higher earnings, greater competition, and increased technology, to say the least. ¹ Sadly, humanity is not adapting at the same pace. What are the trade-offs? Lack of sleep, poor eating habits, insufficient time with our children or spouse, reduced sex-life, increased substance abuse, etc.

Burnout is a prevailing theme amongst employees and although everyone is aware of it, there is a very little movement towards dealing with it. My recommendation is periodization, which is a concept I pulled from my years in competitive sports. Periodization is the breaking down of an overall athletic training plan into distinct training periods. ² The purpose is to maximize the performance of the athlete(s) during competition and reduce potential injury and burnout. Research into periodization has advanced significantly over the years and has become almost like a fine art within each sport, yet much of it is still based on a fundamental principle pioneered by Hans Selye in 1956 called General Adaptation Syndrome (a.k.a. GAS), ³ illustrated in the diagram below:

Once the athlete is exposed to stress or stimulus, and for the sake of simplicity, we will assume that the stress or stimulus is appropriate, what naturally follows is fatigue, soreness, and stiffness. Depending on the magnitude of this stress, the fatigue response can last from several hours to a few weeks. The body then moves to the resistance phase, where it adapts to the stimulus and rises to a new level of performance, called the supercompensation phase. The intention is to make sure this cycle moves the athlete progressively upward. Excessive loading, monotonous training, overly varied training, insufficient sleep, anxiety, poor diet, and other personal problems can hinder this cycle, leading into the exhaustion phase see below:

Interestingly, what happens within organizations are what I like to call the “crash and burn” or “flatline”, and in some cases, both.

“Crash and burn” normally occur with new employees. They start off full of energy and ambition, anxious and eager to prove themselves, and stay late at work. After a few months, they are completely exhausted and either find a new job or just work steadily at a lower capacity. I have encountered many people in the corporate setting who said to me “I once was ambitious like you”. My question was always “what happened?” and I would get small stories that indicated a build-up of resentment and lack of hope. This brings me to “Flatline”, a term borrowed from the medical world to indicate no heartbeat or death. In the athletic world, it’s called a “plateau”. I see this a lot in large corporations such as banks, where employees have had next to no growth, they do the bare minimum at work, and every day feels like Groundhog Day.

It’s an athlete’s dream to be hitting new records and getting stronger every day, but unfortunately, it’s not the reality. Ask any professional athlete if they could train like Sylvester Stallone every day and they would probably roll their eyes or laugh. But what does periodization look like in the corporate world? Well like the athletic world, periodization must be customized to the individual athlete, the sport they are participating in and the team they belong to (perhaps even the country they belong to as well.) Every individual is different and the organization they belong to operates differently. Yet, Jordan B. Peterson has proposed an interesting philosophical version of periodization in his book “12 Rules for Life” through his writings about the Yin and Yang or the balance between chaos and order. Order representing, stability, security, predictability, and chaos is the opposite, which is vital to learning, discovery, and growth. He writes “You need to place one foot in what you have mastered and understood and the other in what you are currently exploring and mastering”.

In conclusion, individuals in a leadership or management position should incorporate some form of periodization to increase the efficiency and productivity of their colleagues. Over the course of my career, I’ve utilized various techniques to help professionals navigate between the hardships of everyday training and preparing for new challenges. From my experience, introducing some form of custom periodization enables management to address the intangible, seemingly inconsequential outcomes of emotional guilt experienced by professionals when taking a break, or taking the added pressure on themselves, to even overtraining and overworking. Effectively, this leads to similarly intangible results such as greater overall satisfaction and well-being in the workplace, greater willingness to contribute more time and effort, greater motivation to venture and take on new initiatives, and so on. For this reason, in short, individuals in a leadership or management position should incorporate some form of periodization to increase efficiency and productivity.

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Giselle Saati, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Giselle Saati is a performance consultant with over 10 years of experience in counseling and personal training. Her unique career path along with her academic background has enabled her to create the Fortitude platform that is unparalleled to any HR consultancy. She has a deep passion for helping individuals maximize their full potential and embodies the slogan "Strength of character and resoluteness that permits one to face adversity and suffering courageously."





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