The development of an annual training plan, aimed at delivering peak performance for a particular competition or a group of competitions, is one of our most difficult tasks to get right. It involves taking all of the individual components of an event and spreading the training of each of these components into a long term plan.
Fitness with focus is the aim, but there are many components that contribute to fitness :-
Conditioning an athlete requires focus on :-
So what do we mean by each of these :-
Individual differences – Training has to be as specific as it can be, as all individuals react differently to training.
Adaptation – With a change of demand with training the body will, over time, adapt to cope with these stresses.
Overload – If we are going to improve, we have to do something different. Training must include work that exceeds that which is normally experienced.
Reversibility – Here we must understand that adaptations made from overload will be lost if the training isn’t maintained.
Specificity – The changes the body makes to overcome the stresses will be specific to the type of training the athlete is exposed to. So it's important that training has a specific focus to improve the elements needed in the relevant competition.
Progression – Training has to develop and increase as the individual's capacity for work is increased - do the same, get the same.
Variation – The training should vary over time. Training the same all the time will return a diminishing improvement and so training has to include variety, whilst covering relevant components of fitness
Recovery – One of the most important elements. This allows the body to replenish energy stores and repair / replace damaged tissue, in preparation for the next phase of training.
Long-term planning – Develop a structured and controlled development plan for individuals, allowing them to deliver on their long term goals.
The above makes up the principles of conditioning and are aimed at delivering increased performance. A managed development program will deliver improvements demonstrated in the diagram below. This is called the over-compensation model.
Developing all aspects required to improve fitness at the same time would be crazy. Time and energy would not allow it and the training required for some components, would interfere with the training required for others.
To overcome this we break the training into separate periods each of which will have separate goals and training methods. These different periods are designed to maximise the gains in the different components of performance.
This process is called Periodisation and can be characterised by changes in goals, training focus, volume and intensity over time. The time period can vary and is normally talked of as the Macro Cycle. This macro cycle is then broken down into several training phases :–
Recovery phase – Usually at the end of a cycle, but can also be seen as the start of the next macro cycle. This involves a break from any serious training, usually lasts about 3 – 6 weeks, consists of fun exercise and is focused on both physical and mental recovery.
Preparation phase – Low intensity training with high volume. So, slow aerobic work, long swims, runs or bike rides at a slow pace. The focus is on physical conditioning, technique and practising scenarios. It involves aerobic endurance, strength, technical and mental skills training. It forms the basis of all other training.
Pre-competition phase – Here there is an increase in intensity, with a decrease in volume. Normally a 4 – 8 week period with some possible pre-season competition. Can include some tactical and more specific technical and mental training. The rate of change in this period is dependent very much on how individuals respond to changes in intensity and therefore can tend to be more specific.
Competition phase – This phase sees a further increase in intensity, with a subsequent reduction in volume. The training intensity is more specific to the selected events. Some increased focus is also given to nutrition, recovery, warm-up and cool down routines for competitions.
All of the above is about conditioning the body in the right way to aid the structured and controlled development of individuals to deliver their goals.