One of the toughest questions for any coach or athlete to answer is “how do I structure my training week”.
With so many different facets of training to fit into your week and only 7 days to do it in, its bloody tough.
Sorry, but there is no magic answer to this question and it takes years to understand and work out. From a coaches perspective you need to develop a very close working relationship with your athlete to get this right.
Many years ago at a coaching course I attended the lecturer, a very well respected strength coach, who had worked with many elite athletes posed this question to the class. “How would you structure the week of an Olympic Track Cyclist. First thing we did was list all of the session we thought an elite track cyclist would need to complete in his training week/cycle on a white board. When then tried to allocate all of the session to specific days.
- Track Speed
- Speed Endurance
- Weights – Heavy
- Weights – Specific
- Technical work
- Plyometric work
- Rest day
We quickly realised there were not enough days in the week to fit in all the sessions. You may be saying to yourself right now, but there are only 10 plus sessions written above. Yes but if you start breaking it down a little further you will quickly see how hard it is to do. You can’t do a speed session after heavy weights, no plyometrics the day before speed, no endurance before starts. And on it goes. All these issues are valid with every athlete but more with a power based athlete as the neural system just doesn’t recover after some of these heavy explosive sessions. The neural system can take up to 48-72 hours to fully recover from a hard speed or explosive weights or plyometric session. This makes programming difficult. As you will either get nothing out of the season as the athlete will be so tired and have nothing in the tank or will more than likely end up injured as the neural system just won’t fire in the correct order to allow the athlete to perform at high intensity.
The need to identify strengths, weakness and priorities come into play. Do you need more speed at the expensive of recovery and they rest of your training week. This is where periodisation and correct programming is vital. What phase of the season are you in? When are the major races? Is it a world champs year or are you just trying to hit a new PB?
Periodisation allows you to map out your entire year and break it down into specific phases. General Prep, Pre Comp, Comp and a recovery phase.. The single periodisation will culminate around one main event. The double obviously around 2 major events. For most athletes trying to peak for a major event more the twice per year is pretty tough. This has been one of the issues with trials to make the Olympic teams. Many countries run there trials too close to major events forcing athletes to try and peak twice per year with very little gap in between.
Racing every weekend is not peaking. Peaking is working towards one major event. So if you race every weekend and are in a specific phase were you are working on speed or spin endurance, then you just have to race a little tired and put the times aside. Focus on a specific part of the race. getting your start right, the 3rd 100m in the 400m, the mid part of the 10km run finding your rhythm. The race day just becomes part of your training cycle. I am not a huge fan of racing every weekend when you have a major race coming up. But thats another blog.
I have started to add another very short cycle after early season racing. In between pre comp and comp. This is for 400/800 runners and we call it our lactic phase. 2-3 weeks of horrible grind work to build lactic buffering for the 400 and 800
There is know exact science with peaking. There are definitely some rules to follow but everyone will peak a little differently. Some athletes and coaches don’t like to do heavy weight training leading up to a major event. I always ran my best keeping my gym in my program. Ben Johnson, yes the infamous Canadian sprinter, was known to continue heavy squatting right up until race day. There was even wide spread rumours that he would heavy squat in the weight room before the race. Not sure I would recommend this though.
Periodisation and training phases are pretty complex and getting them right takes time and practice and plenty of mistakes along the way. Talk to other athletes and coaches and ask them about their training phases.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions and I will try and answer them for you.